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my 2012 dimmable cfl adventure

I was reviewing my 2012 New Years resolutions to see how I did and post up an entry about it, and got to this one that was so complicated I figured it needed its own entry:

Replace the light bulbs we use a lot, like the ones in the living room, with CFLs

So we have these wall fixtures, and there were six 25 watt light bulbs, flame-tip so they look like candles, that we had on pretty much all the time. And they were ALWAYS burning out! Not at weird levels, just at the normal light bulb rate, but when you've got six it means you feel like you're replacing a light bulb kinda a lot.

Oh, and the lights are on a dimmer. So I was looking for dimmable, flame-tip CFLs to replace my 25 watt bulbs. They were not readily available, I had to order them online from 1000 bulbs. Cost: about $10 EACH. Wattage: 5W, for a "30 watt equivalent" bulb... hey that's cool it'll be brighter!

Well they weren't brighter. At all. Maybe because they were frosted white, and the previous light bulbs were clear, but the room was a lot dimmer.

AND we found out that for dimmable CFLs to work well and not flicker at dim levels, we had to have one incandescent bulb in the circuit. That's when Marc said he was horribly annoyed by "uneven lighting"... something he had never confessed before, and after five years of marriage you'd think stuff like this would have surfaced but when you commit to a person, you never really know what you're getting huh. Although even I had to admit that having this one bright, clear bulb in an array of these disappointing CFLs looked pretty hokey. After a very long time I did convince him that as long as the bright bulb was in the wall fixture behind where we'd normally sit, we'd live.

I ordered 12 light bulbs total when I did this big light bulb purchase. We lost the other six that we had in reserves. Seriously I have no idea where they are, somewhere in this house there's $60 worth of light bulbs but they were so precious I put them someplace special and now I have no idea what to do if one of these bulbs goes out or breaks (I already broke one). I realize that's a "me being dumb" rule, but it's also a risk you take when you have to special order bulbs and get a certain quantity for a discount.

I can now say the space is being lit by 50 watts instead of 150 watts, and we haven't had to replace a bulb all year and that's been nice. But I feel like the world of CFLs was not ready to light our living room, I went out on the cutting edge here and nothing good really happened. I love CFLs for everything else, for normal lights and lamps they're awesome. And I REALLY love them for photography, I have them in my light box I use for etsy and I can get the light I need without the fire hazard of 100 watt light bulbs. But the living room is just weird.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
"dimmable, flame-tip CFLs" -- I wouldn't have guessed that these actually existed!

I just upgraded our apartment from the 11W CFL left by the previous occupant to 23W CFLs... it made a big improvement! I think Germans just like really dim lighting.
Jan. 6th, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC)
I don't like dim lighting in rooms, and I'm a bit annoyed that according to EU regulations we can now only buy energy saving bulbs. They just seem to take forever to get light!
Jan. 6th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
I hate CFL bulbs. They have mercury in them, they have to "warm up" to full brightness, and their full brightness isn't anywhere near a regular light bulb. We put some LED lights in my husband's office, thinking they'd be cooler and more energy efficient than the regular bulbs in there before. Not so, and the "warm white" color temperature we got looks almost pink. Bleh.
Jan. 9th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
Should've posted before buying; I could've told you about the wonder of LED bulbs. They preserve everything that's good about CFLs while also having no flicker, no problem with dimmers, no startup delay, and incandescent-style color temperature. To boot, they are lower wattage per lumen than CFLs. Their lifespan is about three times as long as CFLs. You say you're cutting edge but actually you're behind the curve :(
Jan. 9th, 2013 03:05 pm (UTC)
egads man, weird LEDs are even harder to find than weird CFLs! I'm not sure it's fair to say I'm behind the curve if there isn't one. I'm sure they're great light bulbs, but Googling for a bit I found one bulb (Feit Electric BPEFF) that's a 150 lumen, medium-based, flame-tip LED, and it doesn't say it's dimmable, and I found plenty of other LEDs that say they are NOT dimmable so I don't want to make any assumptions (knowing what I know about LEDs, they would have to be special to dim properly). Also I'd feel a lot better with 200+ lumens, since the last time I spent a ton of money on fancy new light bulbs they didn't provide enough light.

I believe you that there's a better, more futuristic option... if you find me one I'll try it :)
Jan. 10th, 2013 05:39 am (UTC)
You're right about dimmable support; if it doesn't specifically mention it, then you can safely assume it doesn't support it. If you go on Amazon under Tools & Home Improvement and search for LED bulbs there should be a zillion bulbs to choose from. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing a few different flame-tipped chandelier bulbs. In my case I got all Philips brand bulbs, the AccentLED for my ceiling fans, the AmbientLED for the lamp in my bedroom, and the L-Prize bulb for all my regular 60W fixtures. I actually have a chandelier with non-flame-tipped incandescent bulbs that I haven't moved over to LEDs yet, but I want to. Pretty much everything else has been switched.

Definitely though, they are super cutting edge. Maybe a bit premature, even. They're super cool with long lifetimes and extremely low wattages, but you'll notice the prices are basically outrageous compared to CFL. I just really can't stand CFLs :-)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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