CFLs: The Verdict From Popular Mechanics

by , 04/12/07

Popular Mechanics CFL Test, CFL’s, Compact Fluorescent Lights, Energy Efficient lighting, CFL’s vs. Incadescents

Our friends at Popular Mechanics have recently run a lab test on an array of the increasingly popular and oh-so-efficient compact fluorescent bulb. We’ve highlighted the advantages of these bulbs before, and have heard some critics’ aversion to their spiral form, light quality, price, and other factors. But according to the study, the CFLs currently on the market not only proved to be light years (pun intended) ahead of their incandescent counterparts in terms of efficiency, but all seven of the tested bulbs proved to produce better quality, clearer, more pleasingly-colored light. This should conclusively prove that CFLs aren’t just great for your wallet, but for your newly decorated living room as well. Read the whole article from Popular Mechanics here.

CFL Article at Popular Mechanics >

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  1. Anders Hoveland March 14, 2013 at 7:17 am

    “Better quality light” ??
    The light from CFLs is absolutely ugly. Not only does it have an annoying pink glow, but it also makes all the colors in the room look off and greyish.

    Just imagine if the government mandated that we all had to use ugly beige paint inside all our homes!

    I also have skin sensitivity issues to CFLs. No one is talking about all the UV radiation they leak out. Those pushing their “green” agenda try to downplay all the negetives.

  2. valerio-vinaccia October 25, 2009 at 10:59 am

    The European community has took the decision to eliminate the incandescent light bulbs, is the right way. Moreover this decision has stimulated the industry to update products with new LED technology.
    My office is working from a couple of years designing new Led Lamps for Pulsar Italian brand, here you can see the first results:

    One of the new lamps, the Pulsar LED Lamp “Bob” have been awarded and selected for the “Design and Design” Award.

  3. erika May 30, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I agree with Royale. Believing that the CFL is the best choice around we are potencially creating a bigger problem. How many of the average consumer even knows that the CFL has mercury on them
    ? Your average consumer will not be worried about disposing the bulb correctly, and thus the problem is real. Be careful whith what you preach to others to use, the solution is becomming a bigger issue to handle than the original problem.

  4. Lale May 15, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    @ mypooreyes

    I’ve read that the whining some CFLs make is dependent on the quality of the bulb, and for some it’s even a sign that they’ve lived their lifespan and need to be recycled.

    On other comments:

    Not all CFLs are spirals. Energy Star offers CFLs that look almost exactly like conventional bulbs (excluding the ballast on the bottom).

    As far as the mercury goes, I think that educational programs that will foster the psychology where recycling light bulbs is a given will eliminate the dangers from mercury. There is also the possibility (unless excluded for reasons I don’t know) that development of CFL technology will evolve past the use of mercury and other exotic materials. LEDs might also be a possibility, but for for now what we’ve got is CFLs for a greener alternative.

  5. J April 26, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Also…there are several programs being intitiated for recycling CFLs (in fact, the larger T type fluorescents are already recycled in most commerical buildings quite successfully). The question is if lazy consumers can be trusted to actually recycle them.

  6. J April 26, 2007 at 8:54 am

    LEDs have their own set of problem. Thus far, no LED technology is even close to reaching the same kind of output or efficiency that CFLS or HID sources have. Secondly, LEDs can get very hot, the most powerful LEDs need special heat sinks and therefore are harder to install in fixtures. Thirdly, even the most recent LED sources still sap lots of electricty (because it takes so many LEDs to reach the same light output as other traditional sources) For example the lighting research center had made a room set up with all LED fixtures, and this room was tiny (like 5’x7′) and those LEDs were sucking up over 700 watts at one point. And thats not even a real sized room. LEDs are great in high contrast applications….but not suited to light our houses.

  7. royalestel April 17, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Look, I’m no expert, but a cursory review of the MSDS information on mercury shows it to be a very deadly element. I don’t think we as a whole are thinking through this CFL idea. If the average house has 45 bulbs and they’re all replaced, then the average house would have 225mg (45 x 5mg) of mercury in their house. The OSHA rate for mercury is 0.1mg per cubic meter. So if you break a bulb, and you standing near it, you are potentially exposed to 50 times the safe rate.

    If millions of people get these bulbs, then millions of people will throw them away, most not even realizing the dangerous elements inside the bulbs. How much mercury would leech into the water table then?

    And what is the energy cost of recycling the mercury from the bulbs, as the bulbs cannot be safely disposed of? Is any energy actually saved in the life cycle of the bulbs over CFLs?

    Spreading CFLs is creating a new, very large market for mercury. This is a terrible direction to go after the great reductions in commercial mercury use in the 1990s. Mercury waste reduced almost ten-fold from 1991-1994.

    Considering all these factors, I believe incandescents, though less energy efficient at the house, are far better for the environment than CFLs over the life cycle of the bulbs. Heck, at least I don’t have to worry about one of my kids having mental problems from a broken incandescent.

    I think if we all exercise our patience muscles a little, we will see the superior LED technology take over at an affordable price. They use far fewer amounts of exotic materials than CFLs or incandescents, they use far less electricity, last as long or longer than CFLs, and are practically indestructable. Please consider some of these factors before promoting or switching to CFLs.


  8. Pedro V April 14, 2007 at 6:20 am

    Sorry the osra links dont work …
    For reference check the OSRAM Catalog site
    and go to
    Compact Fluorescent Lamps/Energy saving lamps – with Electronic Ballast and start checking there ( DULUX models and the U ugly shapped the VARIO …
    Sorry for this newbie mistake…

  9. Pedro V April 14, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Why do CFL have the spiral form in the US ??? It’s weird since I used to the european type which also has a spriral some types ( like this one from IKEA.Uk site
    … but in a horizontal way… – Have to warn that prices in UK are more expensive than mainland Europe… or a hidden way more inside the old light bulbs shape…
    Like these\bg-other\

    My appartment has all CFL ( and one Halogen modern chandelier that my wife loved – so no choice there :D)
    From those from IKea to GU10 type lamps( I don’t know if thats the same refence inUS) also CFL ( )

    The Uggliest ones on our side of the Atlantic are the ones with U shaped CFL 😀 like these VARIO CFL Lamps from OSRAM ( SIemens unit)


  10. Eric W. April 13, 2007 at 10:24 am


    There are dimmable CFLs. They are more expensive, but you can also get a modular dimmable CFL ( that lets you replace the lamp when it burns out but keep the more expensive dimming ballast.

    39 dimmable CFLs are found in a search on

  11. Linda Byam April 13, 2007 at 9:13 am

    OK, OK. It’s CFL, not CLF. I knew that.

  12. Linda Byam April 13, 2007 at 9:11 am

    I think CLFs are great; my main problem with them is that they don’t work with dimmer switches, of which I have several in the house. Why not? When will they work with dimmers? Do I have to give up the dimmers to get energy efficiency? Or am I missing something?

  13. PaulS. April 13, 2007 at 2:49 am

    I looked through the Popular Mechanics article and found it to be a bit light on information. It’s essentially a comparison of seven screw-in type compact fluorescent bulbs, with measurements of brightness (measured in lumens or lux) , color temperature, and subjective comments of perceived qualities. They never mentioned color rendering index CRI ( nor was there any in-depth evaluation as to how these lamps would appear in homes or workplaces by actually installing them in these places.

    I like Osram Sylvania’s website pages that explain some basics of lighting:

    and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s site has this to tell you about full spectrum lighting:

    In my experience, fluorescent lighting can be very good or it can really be awful, and it depends greatly on the visual environment in which these lamps are used. The best fluorescents that I have seen have been the ones with high CRI ratings. At the same time I recognize that the characteristics of lighting we choose depends greatly on the subjective response we want to feel in a given location, and that may not necessarily require a high CRI rating.

  14. mypooreyes April 12, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    The thing that annoys me about some CFs is that they make a whining sound. My hearing is a bit sensitive to those sort of things.

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