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Just What is a CFL Anyway? August 30, 2010

Posted by bowmanlamps in compact fluorescent, lighting.
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It seems we’ve all heard of CFLs.  And we are told we should use them in order to save money, save energy and save the environment.  But what exactly are they?

CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp. (lamp, in lighting lingo, means light bulb to individuals outside the lighting industry.) A CFL is a small fluorescent light bulb that uses 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and can be screwed into a regular light socket. CFL light bulbs also last about 10 times longer than an incandescent light bulb.

Two main parts make up a CFL: a gas-filled tube and a magnetic or electronic ballast. An electric current is driven through the tube containing argon gas and a small amount of mercury vapor.  The resulting ultraviolet light (which we cannot see) excites a fluorescent coating inside the tube, giving off light which we can see.

Most CFLs today use electronic ballasts to regulate the current, helping to provide a steady glow. Older style CFLs use magnetic ballasts which often caused an annoying buzz or hum. 

CFLs are available in just about any style or shape, including the characteristic spiral, floodlights, globes, standard pear or A-shape, and chandelier bulbs. Bases include the tiny chandelier, the standard medium base, and the large mogul base.  There is also the snap-in GU24 base, which offers easy installation.

Light color is another CFL option, from warm white, to cool white to daylight white.  Generally, warm white – 2700K to 3000K – is most like the light of a standard incandescent.  CFLs in the area of 3500K to 4100K offer a whiter light. And for daylight white, choose a light bulb in the 5000K to 6500K range. The color temp is generally marked on a CFL package. Add to that the options of  primary colors, shatterproofing, and more, the options seem endless.

And it all begins with a small glass tube and ballast.  View different style of CFLs here.

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