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"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan



Recently a friend complained about the length of time it took some of her compact fluorescent light bulbs to come on. I said I didn't have this problem and inquired whether she had installed the bulbs in a dimmer or 3-way light socket. She indicated neither was the case.

An informal survey revealed that it seems the cooler the environment of the room (one of the CFL's was in an outside light), the longer the bulb took to come to full light. Others folks offered that the brand of the bulb may have something to do with the length of the delay.
(According to Alliant Energy, CFLs are sensitive to temperatures, especially extreme cold conditions.)

Also, older homes with fluctuating current often kills the CFL bulbs.

Over a three-year period beginning in 2012, all new bulbs will have to use 25 percent to 30 percent less energy for the same light output as today’s typical incandescent bulbs. The vast majority of bulbs now on the market that meet those standards are compact fluorescents, which use 70 percent less energy and last 6 to 10 times longer than incandescents. According to Wal-Mart, CFL's only account for 20 percent of their light bulb sales last year.

For those so inclined, you can calculate an estimated savings using CFL at the Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology (PATH) website. This site also recommends using Energy Star qualified bulbs to avoid the flicker or delay seen in older versions of the CFLs, including older Energy Star qualified bulbs. The Energy Star website also recommends buying bulbs marked "soft white 60" or "60 watt replacement" to achieve a more pleasing spectrum of light.

A company, Pure Spectrum, has developed a circuit technology for electronic ballast systems to address concerns of CFLs related to the delay, the hum and the color spectrum of the lighting, without reducing the energy efficiency of the product. The technology works with systems that already use a ballast system of fluorescents
, however are not targeted to compact fluorescents.

Ballasts are used to control the CFLs current and provide startup voltage and are either magnetic or solid-state electronic. Some CFLs, especially older versions, utilize "preheat lamp starters" to ionize the gas to begin the illumination process. This causes a significant delay before the light illuminates. Then, there are rapid start ballasts that provide a slight delay of one second or less and the instant start ballasts that start without delay by using a high jolt of voltage to start, which reduces the life of the bulb.

Enough of ballasts! Which bulbs turn on with the least delay? It depends on the base. The four-pin base used with dimmers and the two-pin bases are the ones with preheat starting and no delay. Unfortunately, most household consumers are replacing incandescents with CFLs with screw-in bases. Which leads us back to buying the most current version of Energy Star qualified bulb you can find and not expecting them to illuminate without delay in areas of extreme cold.

See also "What to Do If a Compact Fluorescent Breaks" from the EPA.



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