dimmable CFLs: not for romantic dinners

Imagine, lowering the glaring overhead light, in an attempt to create a more moody, romantic ambiance. Bright light..fading… medium…fading…out! What happened?

That’s my experience with the 15W dimmable flood bulb that replaced the 65W bulb over the dining table.

It had been the lone Watt-hog in the house.

(We had switched almost all the other bulbs in the house to CFLs, decreasing the total wattage by at least 2/3. I need to do a cost analysis to know the financial savings, but at least from a consumption perspective, the impact is obvious. By the way, our behavior is conservation-oriented, so we turn on what we need, turn off what we don’t. However, I do need to learn more about the most efficient on/off strategy. For a future post.)

Back to the dining table. A few weeks ago, I took advantage of a city-sponsored (significant) discount to buy a 15W dimmable bulb.

How does it work?

  • On Full light: great. When we turn it on, we put it up to full, which was recommended on my utility flyer. (Warm it up before turning it down.)  It takes a couple of minutes to warm up; once it’s on, it gives off a nice light.
  • At Medium light: fine. After it has warmed up, it dims nicely.
  • At Lowest light: it doesn’t. As I lower the dimmer to a qualitative “low” — about last 15%–, it just turns off.

Is it a good idea?

  • Having a good idea of light usage is one of the most important features of implementing energy-saving measures. So, for example, in addition to enjoying meals, I want to be able to use the dining table for other activities that require good lighting, like sewing. Therefore, I’m happy with our decision to install this bulb. We have other lights to create a low light atmosphere at the dining table.
  • Cost of the bulb, of course, is a factor, too. I got mine for a very low price, but may not have paid $12-$14 for one. A good rule of thumb is to pick the lights that you use the most to consider for replacement with a lower-energy bulb, since that will have the biggest impact on your energy usage and electricity bill.

EXTRA: bulb coupons from GE; don’t forget you must dispose of old CFLs responsibly, go to http://earth911.com/ to find a recycling place near you.

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2 Responses to dimmable CFLs: not for romantic dinners

  1. Eileen says:

    Hey Wako,

    We have a lot of dimmable lights at our house, and we got dimmable CFL’s as well. Our experience is that at lower settings, the bulbs tend to flicker (super annoying!), and in general, the lights are not quite as bright as regular incandescents, and they also give a cold, pinkish cast to everything. Also, we’ve had 2 burn out already.

    Still, we’re switching out incandescents and replacing with CFL’s as they burn out. Now I wish they had CFL’s that could go in halogen lighting, which our house came with a lot of.

  2. wako says:

    I’ve heard about the flickering, but haven’t experienced it myself. I guess we’re the guinea pigs still these days. Hopefully the technology continues to improve. Especially of LEDs, which are lower wattage and less toxic, I believe. There might be some options for you with your halogen bulbs.

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