Building a Better Light Bulb

Energy Star Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

I hate to say it but, Compact Fluorescent Lights are not the end-all and be-all of home lighting choices. However, CFL's are much more efficient and long-lived than regular incandescent bulbs and have become reasonably priced. Yet not everyone loves the light quality of compact fluorescents. So, how do you find a CFL with good color and light output?

Both the New York Times and Popular Mechanics have recently run reviews of commonly available compact fluorescent bulbs. The New York Times review was conducted by a panel of NYT staff members and appears to be largely a subjective judgment of light quality. The Popular Mechanics CFL review included both a subjective review of light quality and tests for lamp brightness, wattage and color temperature. In both reviews the N:Vision Soft White compact fluorescent bulbs ranked well among the competition.

After reading the reviews of compact fluorescent bulbs it becomes obvious that choosing the 'best' is very subjective. Very simply, CFL's look different and produce a different light than traditional incandescents and halogen bulbs. Some people hate the difference, some don't notice and others prefer the light from fluorescent bulbs. Of course, natural daylight is the best source of light for our eyes as we evolved with sunlight. My preference is for a bright white with a Color Temperature that is closer to blue than yellow.

Thanks to demand manufacturers are rapidly improving lighting efficiency and color rendering. While compact fluorescents are the most cost-effective and energy efficient lights today LED or another technology may overtake them in a few years. In the meantime, using the best CFL's available today will save you money and emit less CO2 (at the power plant) until someone builds a better lightbulb.

More Reading:

New York Times Light Bulb Ratings

Popular Mechanics CFL Lab Test

Popular Mechanics CFL Test Results - 1 page .pdf

Color Temperature

CFL Bulb Recycling Programs