Kathryn Lance: ‘Your column about the evangelicals and the scientists today made me realize something – perhaps you have noticed it too. Despite the intractable war and the threat of yet another, there does seem to be a new feeling in the air, a feeling of hope, that all is not yet lost . . . all since the Dems took back Congress. I think that until that happened, I had never been so in despair of the future, not even in the sixties during Vietnam. Who knows? Maybe we may yet manage to save the planet.’

☞ Wouldn’t that be nice?


Ken Doran: ‘Better LED bulbs are in the research pipeline. From EE Times: ‘The reported efficiency is about 11.5 times higher than conventional incandescent lamps that deliver 13 lumens/W and 1.7 times higher than widely used fluorescent lamps, Nichia said.’)’

☞ A delivery date is not estimated, but they will surely be on sale by the time your CFLs need replacing ten years from now.


John Seiffer: ‘LED lights have many benefits, but the cost is not low enough yet to make them a good replacement for CFLs or even regular bulbs. In fact, the technology is different enough that it’s more efficient not to try and make them fit in a regular bulb socket. And the quality/directionality of the light is such that its best uses are designs that take those differences into account (since the color can be tightly controlled, LEDs work great for aquariums to highlight the colors of the fish). The price is still too high for most uses. That is changing rapidly but for the moment LEDs make sense where the other benefits (besides energy savings) are worth the cost. Such as: Places where changing a bulb is expensive (nuclear reactors come to mind). Also, where the lack of heat makes for additional savings (supermarket refrigeration units). They also have the benefit that turning them on and off does not shorten their life (as it does with fluorescents). They are also very durable (even can be made water proof). And some people just like the high tech look. Here’s a company that designs/sells LEDs that are built to take advantage of their differences.’


Wib Smith: ‘Here is the answer from Don Klipstein, the expert I wrote to about hazards from my CFLs. I have taken my cheap fluorescents out of my recessed ceiling lamps, some of which are charred. I will try a UL rated CFL and check it periodically.’

You are talking about compact fluorescents with integral ballasts (screw-in compact fluorescents).

As for brightness:

Brightness is decreased when the tubing, or coolest substantial portion thereof, is at a temperature that is much different from optimum in either direction. In most indoor applications, this makes little difference, with exception of dimming from overheating being more likely when base down in an enclosed fixture.

As for burnouts and fire hazards:

Base down is better. Compact fluorescents easily produce 50% more convected and conducted heat (and less infrared) than an incandescent of the same wattage, although normally less heat than an incandescent of the same rated light output.

Less widely considered is that compact fluorescents tolerate heat less well than incandescents do, and worse still when the ballast is built-in (which is the case in screw-base ones). When a compact fluorescent is operated base-up, heat from the tubing heats the ballast. This gets worse in downlights such as recessed ceiling fixtures since those can accumulate heat in their upper regions.

In fact, it is recommended to use in recessed ceiling fixtures no compact fluorescents not specifically rated for that use. These include Philips SLS ones that are not dimmable and of wattage up to 23 watts (and not their 25 watt one).

Overheating of the ballast is supposed to do no worse than shorten its life or cause very early burnout. If the compact fluorescent is UL listed (most that are not dollar store junkers are), they have supposedly passed testing to assure reasonable safety from starting a fire if used as directed – supposedly including use in a recessed ceiling fixture unless the packaging or any instruction insert says not to do so.

However, I have the impression that a lot of things barely pass UL testing by the skin of their teeth because the design was cost-minimized as much as possible to the penny without flunking.

And I have heard of some somewhat scary CFL failures, often when used in recessed ceiling fixtures, including a couple with holes melted in their ballast housings and a few with charred plastic. Thankfully there is a voluntary standard (which at least some dollar store junkers violate) for the plastic ballast housing to be made of flame-retardant grade plastic.

Some other scary CFL failures (also disproportionately base-up and probably heavily in recessed ceiling fixtures) is from a particular electronic component (rectification filter capacitor) bursting or cracking and leaking fluid. The anecdotes of that coming my way mainly did so mainly 1.5-4 years ago, so I suspect problems in that area are largely solved.

The only anecdote I have received of a compact fluorescent outright catching fire is for one of what I consider a “dollar store junker” “brand” that was involved in a safety recall for using non-flame-retardant type plastic for the ballast housing.

There are also ballastless compact fluorescents with pin bases so as to plug into associated special sockets. These tend to be more reliable and safer, since the ballast is separate from the “bulb” and likely not as impacted by heat from the bulb.


Gary Diehl: ‘I prefer the balanced approach. I use conventional bulbs for outdoor lights (for some reason CFLs do not seem to be able to handle the weather extremes of Kansas well). I long ago remodeled to use conventional fluorescents in my workshop and kitchen where I really value a lot of light. Everywhere else I use CFLs except for the two locations in my home where changing a light bulb is a nightmare. In these spots I bit the bullet and paid for the convenience of LED bulbs which according to the numbers should last 40 plus years! While I hope I live long enough to change the LED bulbs one more time, the thought of never having to stand on a ten foot ladder precariously balanced on a stairway riser again is also pretty compelling.’

☞ What if you put little mittens on the outdoor CFLs in the winter? No? Okay.


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