In the interests of doing my small part to prevent global warming, I’ve been attempting to replace all the incandescent lights in my house with compact fluorescents. The new versions are quite attractive, looking only slightly different from incandescents.
But every time I’ve installed a new light, I’ve been a bit disappointed. Most of them claim to consume only 15 watts, while producing the same luminescence as a 60-watt bulb. But when I turn on the new light, it always seems a little dimmer. What’s going on?
Since I have a three-bulb fixture in my kitchen, I decided to do a little experiment. I put a 40-watt incandescent bulb in one, a 15-watt CF in another, and a 60-watt incandescent in the third. I turned on the fixture, and voilÃ , not only was the CF dimmer than the 60-watter, it was dimmer than the 40-watter. I ran to get my digital camera to document this blatant example of false advertising. But when I took the picture, I was surprised at what I saw: on my camera’s preview screen, the CF bulb now appeared to be the brightest. What’s up with that? Then I looked up at the fixture and saw that it appeared brightest to the naked eye as well. Did my eyes deceive me before? Or…
AHA! Of course — the problem must be that CF lights take a minute or two to warm up. I turned off the lights for 5 minutes to let them cool down, then quickly flipped the switch on and snapped a photo. Here are the results:
The lights are in the following order, from left to right: 60-watt incandescent, 15-watt CF, and 40-watt incandescent. When warm, the CF appears to be the brightest. But when cold, the 60-watter is brighter (I confirmed this using the info pane in Photoshop, and I encourage you to do the same if you don’t believe me).
One other thing in the incandescent bulb’s favor: more even light — notice that the entire shade is illuminated, whereas for the CF bulb, there’s much less light at the top. Overall, incandescent might have a slight edge over CF, but at 1/4 the energy consumption, I’d say the difference is worth it.
One plea to the CF manufacturers: can you please start making 40- and 100-watt equivalent bulbs? And how about bulbs that are the exact dimensions of incandescant bulbs? I still have some fixtures that the CF bulbs don’t fit in.
A final suggestion — you might want to make a note on the label that the lights take a couple minutes to attain full brightness. That way, customers won’t be disappointed with they first turn on the lights.