1. CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs) save energy two ways: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program estimates that Energy-Star-qualified CFLs use up to 75% less home energy than their incandescent counterparts. They can last as long as 10 times longer than conventional light bulbs and often come with partial-time warranties (you are guaranteed, for example, that the bulb will last at least 2 years or longer).

Since lighting can amount to between 15 and 20% of the average electric bill, using bulbs that require much less energy will show up on your utility bill. To see real savings, the Energy Star program suggests that you replace your 5 “busiest” light bulbs with CFLs.

This might include lighting fixtures in the bathroom, kitchen, family room, your porch light or security lights (if you burn them all night). Watch for the “busy” use patterns in your house and replace the light bulbs that always seem to be turned on—or left on.

Energy Star points out that the real savings in terms of the environment happen outside your home. Using just one CFL in every home in the U.S., Energy Star asserts, saves greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to the emissions of 800,000 cars. Recapturing cleaner air, plus your own personal savings, are excellent reasons to use CFLs.

2. CFLs can do the things conventional incandescent light bulbs can do: CFLs are relatively new technology, meeting challenges one at a time, so you may still have a brief wait before you see CFLs that respond to all you needs and wants. Rest assured, however, that technology is moving quickly to answer consumer concerns.

How about an outdoor-quality CFL? Coming along nicely, thank you—including yellow bug-lights. What about three-way CFLs—already on the shelf. Manufacturers of CFLs are well aware that consumers want keep their favorite fixtures and need as wide a variety of choices as they have in incandescent bulbs. If you don’t see what you want, ask your retailer—probably your CFLs are already on order.

3. You don’t have to hide funny-looking bulbs under shades any more: One of the strongest objections to CFLs has been aesthetic—the light’s okay, but the bulbs look so techy. Picture a flame-tipped, soft-white bulb that fits the small receptacles of your chandelier—and reach out to take it off the store shelf! Use it with a dimmer switch? You bet! The variety of covered CFLs is expanding rapidly in response to consumer demand.

4. It’s easy to get the same amount of light from a CFL as an incandescent: After years of counting 60-75-100-150, consumers find the new wattage numbers confusing: how much light can you expect from a “13-watt” CFL? (Even the most penny-pinching of landlords used 25-watt bulbs in the hall.) Surprisingly, a 13-watt CFL produces the same light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

To determine the amount of light from incandescent bulbs and CFLs, you need only change the number you read. The amount of light you see, as opposed to the energy used, is expressed in “lumens,” from the Latin word for “light.” You can find the lumens generated by both kinds of lights printed on the packages—quick and easy.

5. CFL light looks just like . . . light! The old put-down of fluorescent lights—see great, look awful—is definitely a things of the past. CFLs have been engineered to produce warm light, soft, diffused light, and enhanced-spectrum light that resembles daylight. Put an enhanced-spectrum incandescent bulb into one lamp, and put a comparable CFL into another—you will find it very difficult to tell which is which without peeking under the shades.

Long-lasting, energy-saving CFLs are a great way to save money and energy while enhancing the look of your home. It’s time to get acquainted with CFLs.

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