Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) really can save you money and reduce waste. They use two thirds less energy than incandescent bulbs, and when used properly can last ten times as long. According to the EPA, replacing an incandescent bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL can save you $40 in energy costs over the life of that bulb. But if you’re still a little unsure about making the switch, you’re not alone.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) really can save you money and reduce waste. They use two thirds less energy than incandescent bulbs, and when used properly can last ten times as long. According to the EPA, replacing an incandescent bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL can save you $40 in energy costs over the life of that bulb. But if you’re still a little unsure about making the switch, you’re not alone. Many consumers are wary of the mercury CFLs contain. But the mercury in one bulb is only about 4 milligrams, a fraction of the amount found in old thermometers and thermostats, and there’s no mercury exposure unless the bulb is broken.


Things to know:      


CFLs now come in a variety of colors — they need not look like harsh office lighting.


Switching CFLs on and off constantly will shorten their lifespan, possibly negating any money-saving effect. CFLs operate best when they are left on for at least 15 minutes each time.


CFLs are not all designed the same. Read the packaging carefully to be sure you’re buying the right bulb for the job. Be especially careful if you’re buying one for outdoor use, to use with a dimmer switch, or to place in a ceiling fan. These applications all need special bulbs.


It is possible for CFLs to interfere with television or wireless signals, but this is quite unusual. If you suspect this is happening, try swapping out the bulb with an incandescent.


When CFLs reach the end of their life, they should be disposed of as hazardous waste if at all possible (like paint and batteries). Check with your local waste management facility.


If you break a CFL, don’t panic — you don’t need to call a Hazmat team. But don’t vacuum up the broken pieces. Ventilate the room and use rubber gloves to put the broken pieces into a sealed plastic bag. Wipe the area with a damp paper towel. Put the used towel in the plastic bag, and then put the bag into an outdoor trashcan until you can dispose of it as hazardous waste. Continue to ventilate the area as long as possible.