Q: Please tell me which energy-saving lightbulbs to buy. We've tried many different ones, but they either don't give enough light to read by or make the room too yellow. How do we buy a CFL bulb that equals a 100-watt incandescent? Maureen Wood, via e-mail
A: You're not alone! I've had several letters asking this question. The world of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is confusing because wattages and packaging information seem to vary among manufacturers. Here are some fast facts to help you choose the right bulbs for your home -- and the planet.
The colour of light
Compact fluorescents are now available in a variety of colours to suit different applications. The colour is determined by the kelvin temperature (see chart below). A lower kelvin temperature means the light will be warmer, or slightly yellowish, while higher kelvin temperatures mean a cooler colour of light that's slightly bluish.
Wattage the amount of energy used by a bulb
Lumen the amount of light emitted by a bulb
Kelvin the temperature of a colour
Warm light light with a yellowish cast
Cool light light with a bluish cast
Compact fluorescent stats
• CFLs use 75 per cent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.
• The long lifespan of compact fluorescents -- five to 13 years -- means they enter the waste stream less often.
• CFLs cost more upfront than incandescents, but you'll recoup the funds since they last longer and you save on your electricity bill.
• CFLs have come quite a long way since the first flickering bluelight twister bulbs introduced a few years ago. Now you can buy a compact fluorescent for almost any lighting application, including recessed fixtures, lamps, trilights, chandeliers and outdoor fixtures.
What watt is what?
CFL bulb standard incandescent
9-11 W CFL bulb = 40 W Standard incandescent
13-15 CFL bulb = W 60 W Standard incandescent
18-22 W CFL bulb = 75 W Standard incandescent
23-29 W CFL bulb = 100 W Standard incandescent
38-42 W CFL bulb = 150 W Standard incandescent
CFLs & mercury
CFLs contain low levels of mercury. So when they do burn out, it's important to dispose of them properly; don't throw them in the trash. Check with your municipality for information on recycling. Or bring them to your local IKEA store. The Swedish furniture giant -- always a champion of environmental causes -- now offers free recycling.
Halogens: another bright idea
Many people -- especially designers -- still feel that the light emitted by CFLs isn't up to par. Another sticking point: there are only a few CFLs on the market that are compatible with dimmer switches. Halogen bulbs that are designed to fit standard sockets, like General Electric Edison, General Electric Reveal Halogen and Philips Halogená, are good alternatives. I'm a big fan of halogens. They're up to 10 per cent brighter than incandescents and last up to three times longer -- not quite the lifespan of CFLs, but still better than incandescents. They provide crisp, bright light -- whites appear whiter and colours more vibrant -- and they're dimmable, too.