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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are a simple way to reduce energy costs and help the environment. And now switching over is much easier.


Available in a range of shapes and sizes, CFLs can be used in standard light fixtures and replace just about any incandescent bulb. Along with providing the same quality of light as traditional bulbs, CFLs use less power and last up to 10 times longer. This guide explains key terms you’ll run across when shopping for bulbs and answers frequently asked questions.

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Key Terms

Colour Temperature

Colour temperature refers to how light appears when looking directly at an illuminated bulb. White light is described as being warm or cool. Warm is associated with the typical incandescent bulb, while cool is closer to natural daylight. Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins (K).

Kelvin (K)

Kelvins are used to measure the colour temperature of a light source. Traditionally, light falls into three categories:

  • Warm White – 2700K; this soft, yellowish colour range is associated with incandescent bulbs and produces a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere normally found in homes
  • Cool White – 4100K; this is normally associated with office or school environments
  • Daylight – 5000K; this is normally associated with hospital settings


A lumen is a unit of measurement used to describe how much light is contained in a certain area. Lumens represent the amount of light being created by a bulb.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are CFLs worth the higher price?

CFL bulbs are best viewed as an investment for the household. On average they use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, which saves you money on electricity and replacement costs. It is estimated that one CFL can save you up to $77 over the course of the bulb’s life (savings vary depending on wattage and energy costs; $77 is the estimated savings of a 23W CFL vs. 100W incandescent at $0.10 per kWh over the course of the bulb’s life).

Can I use CFLs in my regular light fixtures?

CFL bulbs now come in a variety of sizes and wattages and are completely compatible with regular light sockets. There are even CFLs specially designed to work with dimmers and three-way switches. Consult packaging for details.

How do I choose the right wattage?

CFL bulbs run cooler than incandescent bulbs and as a result, they will not surpass the thermal restrictions of the light fixture. The chart below compares the wattage needed by both incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light.

20 watts 5 watts
40 watts 10 watts
60 watts 15 watts
100 watts 26 - 29 watts
150 watts 38 - 42 watts

Do CFLs contain mercury?

CFLs do contain a very small amount of mercury (roughly 4 milligrams), however they do not pose any harm to people under normal conditions.

How do I dispose of a burned-out CFL?

Because of their mercury content, CFL bulbs should be treated as hazardous materials and can not be thrown in with household garbage. Many municipalities have specific CFL collection programs. Contact your municipality to find out about local disposal options. There may also be other initiatives in your region outside the municipal programs.

How do I clean up and dispose of a broken CFL?

For complete disposal information, please refer to Health Canada’s website.

Can CFLs be used outdoors?

Many CFL bulbs can be used outdoors in an enclosed fixture. Check the CFL’s package to make sure it is approved for outdoor use. Provided the light fixture is not exposed to the elements and is free of rain or snow, a CFL can be used in temperatures as low as -15ºC (5ºF).

How does a CFL work?

A CFL bulb contains a powder that allows it to glow brighter at a lower wattage. As a result, a 26W CFL bulb can replace a 100W incandescent bulb.