I have long wondered if the value of the CFL in savings paid for it in initial cost. Since these bulbs can often run $1.36 a bulb (at your local Sam's Club), and a comparable incandescent is ~$0.35 each.
We are reasonably sure that the environmental savings is there, but the environment and my wallet need to be friends, so let's compare.
According to an article on “The Simple Dollar,” running a CFL for 30,000 hrs. costs approximately $144 less than running an incandescent for that same amount of time.
So CFL wins hands down when direct costs are considered. However, there may be some indirect costs to consider.
Let’s learn a little bit about the CFL bulb.
Not all CFL bulbs are created for the same use. There are certain instances where you would need to purchase specially rated bulbs (which probably cost more, although I am unsure at the moment), or change the way your light fixture works (also costly). Another thing to consider is that CFLs (even the dimming ones) do not dim “pretty”—the lighting can seem harsh, and flickering is also observed.
Regular CFL bulbs should not be used in fixtures containing:
- Motion sensors
- Wall sconces
- Recessed lighting
Most of these will shorten the life of the bulb, and past experience included, that shortened life span is 3 months of use in a fixture with a dimmer vs. 5 years for a CFL in a regular light fixture. Also, CFLs do not like to be “right side up” in fixtures. It makes them run hotter for whatever reason.
Apparently, there are some other issues with CFLs, such as disposal of broken and worn out ones. You must take them somewhere that accepts these mercury filled lights. In addition, when a CFL dies, it can sometimes go out smoking. There is also a possibility of fire due to non-flame retardant plastic on the bottom casing of certain bulbs.
In short, CFLs are a great idea if you purchase the right ones for your current fixtures, and they are encased in flame retardant plastic on the bottom.
I cannot end this article properly without stating my personal usage/stance on this subject. I use CFLs (purchased in bulk from Sam's Club) in most of my fixtures. However, I use regular incandescent bulbs in my lights with dimmers.