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5 ways to get the most out of CFLs

CFLs are 10 times more efficient than incandescent light bulbs and last many times longer. A CFL can last five to 10 years and save more than $30 in its lifetime.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with more energy-saving compact fluorescent lames, or CFLs for short, can save you money as well as energy. But you can’t just plug in any old CFL in any socket and expect the most return for your money. Follow these five tips for making the most of your CFLs and you’ll be basking in the glow of a new light and smiling every month when you see additional savings on your electric bill.

1. Check for rebates

Before you start buying up a bevy of CFLs, check for special savings and rebates. Sometimes retailers and utilities offers these savings, but you may have to hunt through a few websites to locate them. You can also go through www.energystar.gov for rebates and savings.

2. Every socket may not need a CFL

CFLs work better when they are on for longer than 15 minutes, partly due to the time it takes them to reach full output. So, they may not be the best bulbs for staircases where you flip them on and off within a few minutes.

3. It’s all about the shape

Believe it or not, the shape of the bulb plays a role in use — though sometimes more for aesthetic purposes than efficiency. The more familiar spiral bulbs are great for even light distribution and are popular in lamps. A-Line bulbs are rounded and good for areas with little bulb concealment. Globe bulbs look good in vanities. Indoor reflectors are great in recessed fixtures, while parabolic aluminized reflectors work best in outdoor flood lights and spot lights.

4. Light output and wattage means savings

The amount of light output (measured in lumens) can effect which wattage of bulb you use. You’ll save money by switching to CFLs where appropriate. A 5-watt CFL, which puts out 250 lumens, replaces a 25-watt incandescent bulb and can save up to $35 over the lifetime of the CFL (based on three hours of usage per day at 12 cents per kilowatt hour). This also means a 23-27 watt CFL can save up to $92 over its lifetime compared to the incandescent equivalent 100-watt bulb, with both putting out 1,600 lumens.

5. Actually, it’s all about the lumens

While “watts” and “wattage” get a lot of attention, the lumens are probably the key for picking the best CFL. Lumens refer to how much light a bulb emits. By purchasing a bulb with the right brightness and the least amount of wattage, you can save even more energy and money.

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