Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, are a twist on traditional fluorescent technology. CFLs use the same technology as a linear fluorescent, but it’s compacted into a smaller bulb.
CFLs first came onto the market in the 1980s as a replacement for incandescent light bulbs. They have a much longer life span than incandescent light bulbs and can use up to 85% less energy. CFLs are not quite as popular today because of the influx of LEDs in the market.
Common shapes of compact fluorescent lamps
Compact fluorescent light bulbs can look very different, depending on their application and use. The difference between the CFLs depends on the ballast. A compact fluorescent, like all fluorescents, receives voltage from a ballast in order to work. There are two types of CFLs: a non-integrated ballast CFL and an integrated ballast CFL.
Let’s start with a non-integrated ballast compact fluorescent. We typically call this technology a “plug-in”. This means you purchase the ballast separate from the lamp, like a linear fluorescent.
There are two different types of compact fluorescent lamps with a non-integrated ballast: a bi-pin (or 2-pin) and quad-pin (or 4-pin). A bi-pin compact fluorescent has two pins in its base and typically has a lower wattage. A quad-pin compact fluorescent has four pins in its base and typically has a higher wattage.
An integrated ballast compact fluorescent is meant to replace incandescent and halogen lamps. Since incandescent and halogen lamps do not run off of a ballast, the ballast for these CFLs is included (or integrated) into the bulb.
The ballast is one reason why it took so long to create a compact fluorescent lamp. It was easy to make the fluorescent tube smaller. Compacting the ballast was difficult, especially when the ballast is integrated into the lamp itself.
Where to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
Compact fluorescents are more versatile than standard light bulbs on color temperature. Some CFLs offer up to 6500K (that’s a blue color temperature), so you will typically find them in settings like hospitals or airports.
- Recessed cans: A lot of people don’t like the way CFLs look. The phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind!” is appropriate here. Using compact fluorescents in recessed cans is a great way to save energy. And a bonus, you don’t have to look at them every day.
- Concealed fixtures: Again because of the shape, CFLs are often used in fixtures where you can’t see the light bulb. Many property managers will use CFLs in apartment complexes.
Before you buy CFLs, there are a few things to consider. Like linear fluorescents, CFLs will change in color over time. You also have to wait 10-30 seconds for them to warm up to maximum brightness.
Should I recycle compact fluorescent light bulbs?
Even though compact fluorescent lamps save a lot of energy, they still use fluorescent technology, so unlike LEDs, they must be recycled. That's because they contain mercury. When mercury is released in a landfill, it can have negative effects on the environment. Regency Lighting has recycling boxes ready for you to buy.
Questions about compact fluorescent light bulbs
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