If you’re going to experiment with compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, here’s a terrific tip from reader Bob Davis: Take good notes.
“Most CFL’s have a good warranty that is easily and quickly honored by the (manufacturer), especially with bulbs from Home Depot and other mainline (manufacturers),” he said in an email. “Here is what I do when I buy a CFL:
“1.Write the purchase date on the bulb base with a Sharpie.
“2. Save the paperwork with the warranty info and write the purchase date it.
“3. The common thermal receipts will fade, so scan and copy if possible.
“4. File away in your CFL-lighting file.”
Davis was among a handful of readers who offered solid advice, based on their own experiences, after last week’s column about CFLs. Davis agreed with the main point of that column – CFLs often don’t last as long as advertised – but he said that your CFLs will last a little longer if you spend a little more for higher quality. And,with proper documentation, you can make a claim if they fail early.
If you’ve researched CFLs online, you know that some users say their CFLs last for years – and they will proudly share the math showing how much money they’ve saved.
I told Davis I’d wondered how accurate some of those calculations could be. I mean, who saves paperwork on light bulbs, anyway? Now I know.
CFLs don’t like to be turned on and off frequently, as I wrote last week. Even the top makers say that can dramatically cut bulb life. They don’t handle heat well, so they don’t last as long when installed with the globe below the base, especially in a small fixture with a closed top trapping the heat.
Another thing: “If you take hot showers, you’re really going to put a water damage strain … on the bulb as well, and there is no telling when it will go,” emailed James Marshall, who works for a lighting distributor.
He also suggested that, if a CFL fails, make sure the socket is OK. Look for rust, which could be a problem. Make sure the bulb is seated firmly. Check the wires to the socket to make sure they’re not loose.
Several readers, including Marshall, suggested going to a lighting store instead of a home center to buy CFLs. Buy quality bulbs and ask lots of questions about where and how to use them. Generally, CFLs last longest in open fixtures with plenty of air circulation, in spots where they’re not turned on and off too often.
That might be, say, a table lamp that’s used for hours each evening.
But maybe not just any table lamp. Davis said he discovered that inexpensive CFLs as they’re warming up can sometimes interfere with television remote controls. “It took me several weeks to figure out why my wife’s TV remote would stop working sporadically.”