CFL light bulbs – give a little, get a lot

February 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

For the past several years, compact fluorescent light bulbs, like many of the mainstays on the green building scene, have offered buyers the delayed return phenomenon: compared to the alternatives, they cost more upfront, but the savings that consumers will reap in operating costs will compensate for the upfront premium many, many times over. It’s always been true that using CFLs or other efficient light bulbs rather than traditional incandescent bulbs is a smart economic choice in the long run. But in the last year or two, some CFL prices have dropped so low that they’re nearly comparable to incandescents in upfront costs.

Walmart.com is selling a 3-pack of 13-watt, soft-light CFL bulbs for $4.92. That works out to $1.64 per bulb. (A 13-watt CFL puts off light roughly equivalent to the 60-watt incandescent bulbs you may be used to.)  Brighter, 20-watt bulbs (the rough equivalent of a 75-watt incandescent) are going for $5.92 for 3, or $1.97 per bulb.

Homedepot.com, meanwhile, is selling a 4-pack of 14-watt, soft-light CFLs for $5.85 ($1.46 per bulb). A 4-pack of 23-watt bulbs (roughly equivalent to 100-watt incandescents) goes for $8.97.

If you are used to getting your light bulbs in bulk along with other supplies, chances are good that your supplier now offers CFLs. Talk with them about pricing, and keep in mind the low prices available from the big box retailers.

However, also remember that inexpensive CFLs, as with most products, often come with trade-offs. Anecdotally, some CFLs tend to burn out much sooner than would be expected. Some consumers find their light less bright or less pleasant than they are used to. Therefore, in future posts we’ll be identifying the CFL bulbs with the best light, the longest life and other quality measures – with an eye toward affordability.

Questions? Comments? Get in touch with us – leave a comment or contact us.

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