Dimmable Compact Flourescent (CF) bulb test

IMG_2467.JPGThis past weekend I decided to take the plunge and replace the bulbs in our recessed lighting in the kitchen with dimmable CF bulbs. We had been using these huge honkin 150watt floodlamps, which were great for getting a tan, but didn’t handle the constant vibration of folks walking around upstairs very well, not to mention chewing up gobs of power when running.
I hadn’t actually seen dimmable CF bulbs in action, so I was curious how well they’d work. Flourescent lights can’t take the same electrical route that dimmable incandescents can (if you lower the voltage in a flourescent light, the ballast that regulates the power into the bulb can’t pass enough power to make the bulb actually light up.
I saw the dimmable bulbs in our of our regular visits to Target, and picked up a handful.
Our lightswitch has one of those little sliding tabs next to the switch that lets you adjust the brightness. I installed all the bulbs, flicked the switch on, and lo!
But would it dim?
The answer is… “Sorta”. The dimmer switch does in fact lower the light level coming from the bulbs, but not in the range the older bulbs could do. I’d say we can get a 25% reduction in light output from the bulbs before they go out.
All in all, this is just fine. We can’t have that sort of glowing nice ‘1/3rd’ light mode that is handy post-dinner (we can sort of do that by turning out most of the ceiling lights and just going with one lamp over the stove), but the dimmer is handy for taking the lights from “bright enough to do real kitchen work” down to “comfortable to live in day to day”.
So why is this relevant? Well, aside from the bit that the 5 bulbs now in the ceiling use as much power as only one of the old bulbs did, apparently the new energy bill that just came through congress is mandating that all incandescent bulbs be off the market by 2012. (If that link fails you, see the article on Slashdot and the same on Engadget).
According to the article:

The new energy bill signed this week makes it official. When 2012 hits, stores can no longer sell the cheap but inefficient incandescent light bulbs that are fixtures in most homes.

Personally, I’ve already switched all our bulbs to CFL’s, and we have a lot of them (an off the cuff count puts it at about 30 for our 4br house). We’ve been here 2.5 years, and I was just trying to think of the last time I had to replace a CFL that had gone out. I think it was once, using a very old bulb we had brought from the old house, but I hadn’t until now replaced the ceiling lights in the kitchen yet.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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5 thoughts on “Dimmable Compact Flourescent (CF) bulb test

  1. I’ve got a bunch of CFLs in service here, but I really, really, really hope to be getting rid of them soon and replacing them with full-spectrum LED “bulbs.” CFLs are more energy-efficient than incandescents, but they’re actually a pretty nasty technology, as can be quickly discerned by reading the instructions on how to handle matters if one of the things ever breaks open on you. (When step one is “open the window and flee the room immediately,” that’s a bad sign.)

  2. We’re replacing standards with CFLs as the standards die. Not sure what’s we’ll do about the floods in several rooms, though. The only CFLs we’ve had to replace are the ones outside, which are often on 24/7.
    I’m looking forward to dimable CFLs. That would be a big improvement.

  3. @Dr_Mem
    Yah, I’m totally on board with full spectrum LED’s. The barrier right now is cost. While they are more efficient, better spectrum, and even lower consumption power-wise, their price point is far too high for general deployment.
    A 5 watt 60LED bulb from Amazon will run you about $30, compared to a 15watt CFL bulb that will be around $5.
    But I bet we’ll get there soon.

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