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Compact fluorescent lights come down in proce, work better

August 05, 1998

Dennis ShawBy Dennis Shaw

I feel like I'm in a cartoon where a light bulb has suddenly gone on in my head, showing that I've had a great idea. And I'm tempted to say something trite, like "now I've seen the light."

Both of those would be appropriate now, for I have seen the light - the compact fluorescent light, or CF.

It's been a long time coming. Years ago I bought a CF bulb at the Channel store on Northern Avenue, and that 's been closed for a long time. The bulb cost about $25, but it was supposed to last for a long time and use far less energy to operate, so it would pay for itself over time.

There were only two problems with it. First, it didn't seem to me to provide as much light as a regular incandescent bulb. Second, my cat knocked over the lamp and broke the bulb. So that was the end of that experiment.

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But I've kept reading that CF's have come down in price and work better, so I decided to try again. This time I went to Lowe's on Wesel Boulevard, where I found quite a selection of CF bulbs, in many styles, some of them as small as an incandescent bulb. They're a lot cheaper now, too.

This time I bought a 20-watt Sylvania CF, for $10.94. The package said it would produce more light than a 75-watt incandescent, so I decided to do a comparison. I bought a package of four of those for $1.25 - much cheaper.

The savings were to come later, however.

For one thing, the incandescent bulbs are supposed to last for 750 hours each, while the CF bulb claims it will burn for 10,000 hours. Still, the incandescents come out cheaper.

The big advantage for the CF's is in the amount of energy they use.

Incandescents waste 90 percent of the power they consume creating heat, unlike CF's. So a CF uses only one quarter as much energy as an incandescent, and, over the life of a bulb, saves $55 in energy costs.

That's also good for the environment because it reduces air pollution. One estimate says that if everyone switched to CF's, it would be the equivalent of removing 10 million cars from the road.

However, I still was worried that my new CF wouldn't produce enough light, so I staged my comparison test. Putting two lamps with different bulbs side by side in a dark room, I turned on one, then the other, several times.

At first I thought the CF wasn't as bright. But then I found it was just as easy to read with the CF. In fact, there was less glare on the magazine page, so I figured there was as much light, it was just a bit different.

Soon I preferred the light produced by the CF.

But the best was yet to come! Standing in front of a mirror, it occurred to me that I look better in the CF light.

One of the ads for CF's confirmed my impression.

"The light has a rosy, golden tone that allows rooms and people to look their best," it said.

All right! Never mind saving money and preventing air pollution. This bulb makes me look good. Or at least as good as possible, considering what I've got to work with.

That clinched it. I'm switching to CF's. When my friends ask me for suggestions for my Christmas list, now I know what to ask for. They might be getting CF's from me, too.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722, or call 301-842-3863.

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