What are CFLs?

Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are small, coiled versions of fluorescent tubes, a technology that dates to the 1800s. While incandescent bulbs produce light by heating a tungsten filament, CFLs send an electrical charge through gas vapor, making the tube glow. Thanks to an integrated ballast (the part that controls current), new ENERGY STAR certified CFLs are flicker free and work in any standard socket—which makes them an easy, low-cost option.

CFLs for Home and Business

ENERGY STAR certified CFLs give you high-quality, affordable, efficient lighting both indoors and out. For home and business, they’re used anywhere you’d find an incandescent: downlights, track lights, lamps and sconces, task lights, outdoor floods, and driveways. Modern CFLs also offer a broad choice of colors on the Kelvin scale, from warm to cool.

  • Low out-of-pocket cost
  • Variety and quality: wide choice of color, no flicker, no buzz

Spiral CFLs

In addition to standard spirals, CFLs come in dimmable and three-way versions (typically in soft-white light). All three look alike, so check the box to make sure you’re buying the right one for your fixture. Spiral CFLs fit almost anywhere you use an incandescent, though for tight spots you may need a smaller “A-style” bulb. Tip: Dimmable CFLs give more consistent soft-white light than incandescent bulbs.

Decorative CFLs

Decorative CFLs house their spiral coils in a variety of coverings. Globes are ideal for bathroom vanities and pendants. Candelabras are used in chandeliers, ceiling fans, sconces, and covered outdoor lights. A-style bulbs can be used wherever you’d find a traditional incandescent (and for any spot where a spiral may not fit). Tip: Because they’re encapsulated, decorative CFLs take a few seconds to reach full brightness.

Post and Reflector CFLs

Reflector CFLs give off even, directional light indoors—perfect for track or downlights. For use in recessed lighting, make sure the packaging reads “suitable for enclosed fixtures.” Outdoor reflectors are bigger and should be labeled “damp location approved.” Also designed for rain and snow, post-style CFLs are ideal for porch lamps and driveway lights. Tip: Check with the manufacturer to see if outdoor CFLs will work with your timers, photocells, and motion sensors.