CFLs improve as incandescent bulbs phase out


California is the first state in the union to ban the sale of 100 watt incandescent bulbs. In a few years, the popular 60 watt bulb will be gone too.

Though compact fluorescent light bulbs, also known as CFLs, are more energy efficient and last longer, they haven't been the light bulb of choice for many people. Some say it doesn't give off enough light and others say they can't just throw them away when they die out.

Consumer Reports' latest tests of more than 26 of the newest CFLs show the bulbs have improved.

"Some of the ones we tested this year use about 60 to 75 percent less mercury than ones we tested just three years ago," said said Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman of Consumer Reports.

Testers also found today's CFLs do a good job mimicking the light of incandescent bulbs.

"You want to check for the Energy Star logo," Kuperszmid-Lehrman said. "That means that the bulb has met strict standards for energy efficiency and durability, but also standards for color and brightness."

To get light that's like an incandescent bulb, check the label to make sure it has a color temperature of about 2700K, or Kelvins.

However, it's important to shop carefully.

"More Kelvins doesn't necessarily mean a brighter bulb," Kuperszmid-Lehrman said. "A bulb with 4000 or more Kelvin is actually going to have a bluer light, not necessarily a brighter light, and that may not be what you're looking for."

For table lamps, Consumer Reports says a good choice is the 60 watt equivalent EcoSmart bulbs from Home Depot. They cost about $6 for a four pack and their light is like a traditional incandescent bulb.

Consumer Reports says CFLs should always be recycled because even the new ones contain some mercury. Several stores now accept them, including Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe's and some Ace hardware stores.

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