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CFL lighting help

CFL bulbs burned out early

We are sorry to hear that your CFLs have burned out earlier than anticipated. Please contact the CFL manufacturer at 1-866-535-5656.

For information about how to get the most from your CFLs, please review our CFL Bulb Care guidelines.

How do I get the most from my CFLs?

According to ENERGY STAR®, the following will help you get the most out of your CFLs:

  • When screwing in your CFL hold it by the ballast (the plastic part), not the glass tubing.
  • Turning a CFL on and off frequently can shorten its life. To maximize the life of your CFL, keep them on for 15 minutes or longer at a time.
  • If using a CFL in an area of high humidity, such as a bathroom, control the humidity in the room by running the ventilating fan during and 15 minutes after a shower or bath.
  • Use only bulbs labeled as three-way in three-way sockets.
  • The majority of photocells, motion sensors and electric timers are not designed to work with CFLs. Always check for compatibility.
  • CFLs are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so place your CFLs in open fixtures indoors.
  • Protect bulbs from the elements by placing them inside enclosed fixtures outdoors. For colder climates, look at the packaging for optimal operating temperatures.

What do you do when your CFL has reached the end of its life

The EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact fluorescent light bulbs. The EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste agency directly, or visit the EPA CFL recyling page or earth911.org to identify local recycling options.

What do I do if a CFL bulb is broken?

Please do not be alarmed. According to the EPA and Underwriters Laboratory the following steps are recommended for CFL clean up and reflect best practices for cleaning up a broken CFL. Keep in mind that a CFL contains a very small amount of mercury — an average of 4 milligrams. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury.    

Before cleanup

  1. Have people and pets leave the room.
  2. Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  3. Shut off the central forced air heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
  4. Collect materials (i.e. stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels and a glass jar with a lid) needed to clean up the broken bulb.

During cleanup

  1. Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  2. Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After cleanup

  1. Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be properly disposed. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  2. For several hours, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the HVAC system shut off.

I was told that I could not use CFLs in my home because I have "60-degree wiring" (where new homes have 90-degree wiring and CFLs are fine). Is that true?

According to ENERGY STAR, in this instance, using CFLs in your house would actually be preferable to using incandescent bulbs. "60-degree C" refers to the temperature (in Celsius) up to which the insulation around your household wiring will protect the wire safely. If the temperature exceeds that, the insulation becomes brittle and there is a danger of electrical shorts and fire. Around light fixtures, this can be an issue since incandescent light bulbs generate a lot of heat. It's also an issue if a circuit in your house is overloaded, since drawing an excess of electricity will cause the wire itself to heat up. Since CFLs are cooler than ordinary light bulbs, and draw less electrical current, they are perfectly fine to use with older 60-degree C wiring.

Warning!

If the wiring has already been exposed to excessive temperatures or electrical currents, the insulation is already damaged! While CFLs do nothing to harm the wire if it is still intact, they cannot undo damage that has already occurred. If the insulation around your wiring has already failed, it should be replaced.

Are CFLs safe to use with dimmers and digital timers?

According to ENERGY STAR, while CFLs can be used with mechanical timers, electronic or digital timers may cause interference with the electronic ballast, and can adversely affect product performance. CFLs used on electronic or digital timers that aren't made for CFLs will fail far before their rated lifetime. Look for timers that are specifically made to work with CFLs.

How is the rated life of a CFL calculated?

According to the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), the rated life of a CFL is determined by operating a large sample of lamps for 3 hours on and 20 minutes off cycle and determining the median time until failure.

I have heard that CFLs can overheat and smoke -- should I be worried? Why would this happen? Are these bulbs a fire hazard?

Information from Energy Star.

 

 

 

 

Are CFL bulbs okay to mail?

According to the U.S. Postal Service, the amount of mercury in an average CFL does not approach the quantity that requires it to be transported as a hazardous material under Department of Transportation regulations and CFLs can be mailed through the U.S. Postal Service.

Furthermore, the Postal Service partners with companies, agencies and organizations in ongoing pilot mail-back programs to safely recycle and properly dispose of small electronics, compact fluorescent lamps and discarded or expired pharmaceuticals. These programs use USPS' national infrastructure, create customer convenience and find new, innovative uses for the mail. If CFL bulbs were not able to be safely transported through the mail, then this service would also not be available for expired bulbs.

Do CFL bulbs contain mercury?

CFL bulbs do contain a very small amount of mercury and, thus, should be disposed of properly.

What should I do with a CFL when it burns out?

The EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact fluorescent light bulbs. The EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste agency directly, or visit the EPA CFL recycling page or www.earth911.org to identify local recycling options.

What does a burned-out CFL look like?

Burnt CFL
Burned-out CFL

CFLs may or may not burn out in the same way you are used to incandescent bulbs burning out. Just like an incandescent, it is possible to find that the CFL simply stops working while other times there are visible signs that the bulb has failed.

All of the bulbs offered by LG&E and KU are approved by UL, the familiar Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., and are safety tested and approved for use in U.S. homes. "People expect to see the bright flash and to hear the popping like a traditional incandescent bulb, but the burn out of a CFL is different. The light dims over time and might produce a more dramatic pop, emit a distinct odor, and maybe even release some smoke," said John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager, Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

In some cases, Drengenberg said that the plastic at the base of a CFL can turn black, but further states that this is also normal in most cases, as safety standards require the use of special flame retardant plastics in the base that do not burn or drop particles.

"CFLs are one of the products that we regularly test and investigate to specific UL requirements for electrical safety, fire and shock hazards," he said. "Any popping sounds or smoke that a consumer might see when a CFL burns out means that the bulb's end-of-life mechanism worked as it should have."

Why is recycling CFLs important?

CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the light bulb by its base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket. If a CFL breaks in your home, follow the EPA's cleanup recommendations. Be sure to properly dispose of your old CFLs.

What precautions should I take when using CFLs in my home?

CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the light bulb by its base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket. If a CFL breaks in your home, follow the EPA's cleanup recommendations. Be sure to properly dispose of your old CFLs.

Questions about CFL bulbs?

LG&E and KU-distributed CFL bulbs are warranted to be free from defects for two years.

To contact the manufacturer E-Long International, please call 1-866-535-5656.

For all other bulbs, please call the manufacturer number on the base of the bulb.