postheadericon CFLs – How to choose and lose

Living Green Hawaii | Which Light Bulb Is Right?

cfl light bulbsHow to choose “watt” bulb to buy? It’s becoming a real issue for green living as the options have grown.
CFLs are available in different sizes to fit your fixtures and allow for ample air flow. Note that not all CFLs are designed to be used in damp or wet locations, so read the manufacturer’s label. Look for “Energy Saving” or “Energy Saver” on the package.

Labels To Look For When Going Green

The ENERGY STAR® logo means the product has met strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and the Department of Energy.  Go to: EnergyStar Interactive Guide for a cool CLF interactive selection guide.

The UL® mark on the package or bulb indicates that the product has passed rigorous safety testing by Underwriters Laboratories.

Spiral Bulbs

The spiral CFL is the most popular CFL available. It’s ice cream cone shape helps distribute light evenly in all directions and is best used in desk, floor and shade lamps as well as swing-arm lamps, wall lights and sconces that allow ample air flow. Spiral bulbs also are available in a mini size.

Specialty Bulbs


For aesthetic reasons, choose A-line CFLs for light fixtures where the bulb will be exposed, such as ceiling fan light fixtures.


Globe-style CFLs work best for vanity mirrors, bathroom light fixtures and some ceiling fan light fixtures where you would like an attractive display of this type of CFL.


This bullet-shaped CFL bulb offers a stylish look for chandeliers, specialty decorative lamps and some ceiling fan light fixtures.


Downlight cans can be replaced with reflector CFLs. Reflector CFLs work in uplight can, track lighting & accent lighting fixtures. Choose CFLs that do not protrude from the fixture as this can cause glare.

Some 3-way bulbs closely resemble spiral bulbs and are available in different shapes, such as A-line and circle-line. Use them in desk, floor and shade lamps as well as swing-arm lamps, wall lights and sconces that allow ample air flow and use a three-way switch.


CFLs with the dimmer feature are available in spiral and reflector shapes with the word “dimmable” on the CFL or packaging. Manufacturers continue to add new shapes each year, so check with your retailer for updates. Be sure to only use dimmable CFLs in fixtures that have the dimmer control feature.

CFL Disposal | Going Green

Small traces of mercury—5 milligrams or about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen—are present in CFLs and are only released if the CFL breaks. Handle CFL bulbs with care and always screw & unscrew the lamp by it’s base, not the glass.  If a CFL breaks follow the clean up recommendations below:

  • Open a window & leave the room for at least 15 mins.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner.
  • Wear rubber gloves.
  • Scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff cardboard or paper.
  • Wipe area with a wet paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
  • Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up glass and powder.
  • Place all material in a plastic bag and seal it.

In Hawaii, Home Depot and Lowes accept used or broken CFLs for recycling.  Place used bulb in a plastic bag and take to any Home Depot or Lowes store.

Waste Management, the nation’s largest waste and recycling company, has a recycling kit for CFLs.  Mail-in recycling kits for CFL can be purchased, filled with expired CFLs and placed in the mail. The website Think Green From Home explains step-by-step how to recycle CFLs, and will even provide you with a confirmation of recycling via e-mail.

Each CFL Recycling Kit is priced at $16.95, and can hold up to 15 CFLs. The kits come complete with a re-sealableVaporLok bag and a prepaid reutrn shipping label.

For more information on mercury and CFL disposal, go to

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