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CFLs tested to see what shines brightest

October 1, 2009 12:50:55 AM PDT
Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, now come in different designs that work on just about any light fixture. We teamed up with Consumer Reports to test out which brands shine the brightest.Randy Aubrecht really wanted to install CFLs throughout his home when it was being built, but he needed dimmable bulbs for certain fixtures.

"We wanted to put them in the kitchen, but they didn't have them so we couldn't do that," he said.

But today's CFLs are different.

Dimmable ones are now available, and so are CFLs you can use in three-way lamps. There are also new designs for chandeliers and candelabras.

Consumer Reports tested 43 CFLs to find which work best for different fixtures.

"You should look for an Energy Star-qualified CFL because ones we tested that were not Energy Star-qualified didn't do so well," said Jim Nanni from Consumer Reports.

For example, when Consumer Reports tested an Ikea porch bulb that does not carry the Energy Star, five of the 10 bulbs burned out before 3,000 hours, which most CFLs easily meet.

CFLs are not ideal for every light fixture.

"They're not good for staircases or other locations where you need instant light because they don't reach full brightness right away," Nanni said.

When it comes to dimmable CFLs, Consumer Reports doesn't have great news for homeowners. The dimmable CFLs tested just go out rather than actually dimming like a regular bulb.

For table and floor lamps, as well as light fixtures, Consumer Reports recommends the EcoSmart Spiral CFLs from Home Depot. For track lights, as well as recessed ceiling lights, testers recommend Home Depot's EcoSmart Indoor Reflectors.

Consumer Reports says be aware that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so they will need to be recycled, not thrown in the trash.

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