Compact fluorescent light bulbs rank high on Monique Tilford's holiday gift list. Tilford, deputy director of the consumer group Center for New American Dream, is giving a package of CFLs to an elderly aunt and including an offer to install them for her.
''If you replace an incandescent bulb with a CFL, you're directly helping the environment,'' Tilford says.
According to the Department of Energy and EPA's Energy Star website, Energy Star CFL bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, save about $30 or more in electricity over each bulb's lifetime, and produce about 75 percent less heat. The bulbs range from about $3.50 to $6, depending on wattage and style.
''I have CFLs throughout my home,'' Tilford says.
In my own home I have replaced several incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. In general, I have been pleased with the effect and the potential savings.
However, some of the CFLs appear dimmer than incandescent bulbs. Tilford has had a similar experience and recommends using CFLs of at least 25 to 30 watts to create a brighter light.
Llama Money (http://www.llamamoney.com/), a personal finance blogger, recommends this formula for replacing standard bulbs with CFLs. ''Replacing a 100-watt bulb with a 13-watt CFL won't give off the same light. You'll need a 23-watt CFL,'' Llama Money said in her blog:
Tilford offers these tips about CFL bulbs:
• Consider your needs and options. CFLs now accommodate three-way lights, dimmer functions and even antique fixtures. ''If you said no to CFLs a few years ago, try again,'' Tilford says.
• Pick your shade. CFLs -- which once cast harsh lights like those in a hospital or an office -- are available in different shades, including a soft white. Unlike earlier versions, CFLs no longer hum or flicker.
• Select a knowledgeable vendor with a large stock. As a shopper, Tilford prefers http://www.1000bulbs.com/.
This is from my latest column in the home & design section of the Miami Herald.
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