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How Much Money Can You Save by Switching to Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (Cfls)?

I learned the art of frugality from a Depression Era survivor. Join me in learning how to live on less. Save money, have fun, and be secure.

Today's CFL's come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.

Today's CFL's come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.

This is the most popular design of a CFL since the mid-1990s. Patents expired at that time, allowing wide dissemination of this form.

This is the most popular design of a CFL since the mid-1990s. Patents expired at that time, allowing wide dissemination of this form.

Energy Savings

Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, are the latest innovation in lighting, proving to save consumers a lot of money over the older-style incandescent light bulb. The evidence of this amazing money-saving move can be demonstrated by looking more closely at the cumulative effects of their usage. I set out to compare my personal usage with that predicted by my power company using a calculator on the company's website.

Philips CFL bulb from the 1980's

Philips CFL bulb from the 1980's

The Power Totals

In August of 2008, I decided to begin adding CFL bulbs every month and to replace the incandescent bulbs. On my budget, I planned to replace one or two bulbs per month. Since some of the bulbs were different types of CFL lights, their prices differed. In June of 2010, I finished replacing all of the incandescents and was able to compare the savings for one month, July 2008 (no CFLs) and July 2010 (all CFLs).

I paid $253.53 on electricity in July 2008 versus $192.83 in July 2010. That was a difference of $60.70. For my family, July 2008 was warmer and the AC was used more than July 2010. The thermostat was set the same, but there were a few more days of AC usage in 2008.

My Home Lighting

For the sake of argument, let's say that $45 of the difference above in savings was due to less usage of the air conditioning in 2010 versus 2008. That big old compressor that drives your refrigeration unit (my system is an Energy Star), still takes a fair amount of power. According to my power company, I was averaging about $5 per day on AC. In fact, $130 was estimated to be the amount attributed to cooling for July 2010, so that averaged out to slightly less than $5.00 a day. This would result in a calculation of about 9 more assumed days of AC usage in July 2008, and that is in the ballpark of our experience (referenced bills). That means that there are about $15 of unexplained savings for 2010 over 2008.

Our usage was static for everything else. The oven, refrigerator, garage door, stove, dishwater, and water heater were all used the same way. So by my way of thinking, the house power for lighting was the welcomed change in power usage. I had no modifications to the home that would impact power usage.

My Power Usage Versus the Rate Calculator

Now let's compare my experience for one month with what the rate calculator on the power company's website predicted my savings would be per year with compact fluorescent light bulbs. The nice thing about the calculator is it breaks your home down into rooms, number of bulbs, savings per room, and total savings. Our home has 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a small living room, a small kitchen, closets, and a garage.

After entering the pertinent info for all of these rooms I totaled my expected fluorescent light bulb savings and it came out to be $121.95 per year. If I divide that by 12 months, I get $10.16 per month savings attributed to the use of CFL twists (bulbs). So the difference between my calculation from power bills and the rate calculator (which doesn't use an individual's actual monthly power consumption) is $4.84—and that can be explained because the $10.16 is an average. Summer months in the Southwest require more power. For this rough estimating procedure, I would say the calculators are good and should be used and trusted, and will be one more reason for you to buy CFLs.

Aside - I paid on average $4 per spiral compact fluorescent. I have 40 bulbs at my house, so my total expenditure on CFLs was $160. Had I changed all of my incandescents with fluorescent light bulbs at once, it would have taken 1 year 4 months to pay for themselves in savings. The rest of the 8-8 1/2 year life expectancy of the CFLs would have generated pure power savings.

Energy Comparisons

Use the chart to compare brightness and three different wattages.

Lumens (Brightness) LED Watts CFL Watts Incandescent Watts

  1. 400 – 500 6 – 7W 8 – 12W 40W
  2. 650 – 850 7 – 10W 13 – 18W 60W
  3. 1000 – 1400 12 – 13W 18 – 22W 75W
  4. 1450-1700+ 14 – 20W 23 – 30W 100W
  5. 2700+ 25 – 28W 30 – 55W 150W
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Dengarden

Some Interesting Facts

It is estimated that CFL bulbs will save up to 75% of the energy use of an incandescent light bulb (conserving electricity in the house). My energy supplier recommends using a 1:4 rule. That is, if your compact fluorescent lamp is rated to use 15 watts of power to supply the same amount of light as an incandescent, the incandescent would use about 60 watts of power, so it is about the same as a 60 watt incandescent bulb.

Another way of saying this is: Seek a compact fluorescent bulb that will use 1/4 the power (wattage) of your current incandescent bulb. I have seen compact fluorescent lights rated at as low as 13 watts and equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent. This gives you an idea of how much light to expect from a CFL (sometimes referred to as a compact light bulb).

Though I may not be happy with the occasional rate change, I do think that power companies are doing a good job of trying to inform the public about ways to save on power, and I know they are heavily promoting the use of compact fluorescent lamps and also the elimination of old refrigerators.


  • Save incandescents to use in rooms where they are used shortly and infrequently.
  • Power company websites also translate compact fluorescent bulb savings in power to the proportionate decrease in carbon emission.
  • All CFL bulbs have at least a two-year warranty.
  • If CFL bulbs save 75% on energy, think of the savings in the United States if all incandescent bulbs were replaced!
  • The average CFL bulb has a life of 9–10 years!
Comparison of compact fluorescent light bulbs with 105W, 36W und 11W

Comparison of compact fluorescent light bulbs with 105W, 36W und 11W

CFL Usage and Living Green


A CFL bulb contains a minute amount of mercury. Though this amount is very small, the disposal of large numbers of CFL bulbs in land fills could have adverse affects. Look for recycle centers in your area that take a CFL light. Many cites for Household Hazardous Waste will accept them. When a CFL is turned in to recycle, the mercury is harvested and the glass portion and threaded part (referred to as ballast) is recycled or placed in a landfill. Also, will lead you to recycle centers in your area.


First step:
Requiring less power to produce the same light, CFLs don't get as hot as other types of bulbs. However, they may burn out which can cause an increase in heat
above their normal temp at the point in time when they flash/burn. This is true of bulbs with pins or bulbs with a screw-in bottom.

Second step:
By the ballast, hold the bulb softly. Don't grab the glass. You will see the ballast at the bottom of the bulb; it's plastic and holds the electronics that
feed the CFL. Pulling the bulb on the glass can cause it to shatter, or you may dislocate the glass from the plastic ballast. Neither situations is good. If you have the screw in type, simply unscrew as you have with older incandescents.

Third step:
Firmly pulling up and being gentle, lift until the bulb comes out. You will feel a release when it is out. If the CFL has pins you may think at first that it
is stuck. Keep applying pressure up on the ballast and wiggle it slowly. A back and forth motion will eventually release the pins. Obviously, you shouldn't wiggle the pins back and forth so much that they snap. A little movement back and forth should release the bulb. If you have the screw type base, simply unscrew the bulb.

Fourth step:
Grabbing the ballast, insert the new bulb. You will be lining up the metal pins at a 90 degree angle to the ballast and holes. Apply a gentle pressure, pushing the pins into place. If you have the screw type, simply screw the CFL in as you would an incandescent bulb.


If you break a CFL bulb, you should use a cloth or paper towel to pick up the pieces. Small pieces can be retrieved with masking tape or the like. Anything you use to capture the pieces (including the paper or cloth) should be put in a sealable plastic bag and then thrown away.

Dual spectrum compact fluorescent grow light. Actual length is about 40cm -

Dual spectrum compact fluorescent grow light. Actual length is about 40cm -


An incandescent light bulb is is a source of electric light that works by incandescence (a general term for heat-driven light emissions). An electric current passes through a thin filament, heating it to a temperature that produces light. The enclosing glass bulb contains either a vacuum or an inert gas to prevent the filament from burning up while a compact fluorescent lamp is a gas-filled tube (containing a tiny amount of mercury and also called bulb or burner) and a magnetic or electronic ballast. CFLs are an economical way of providing home light.

The price has come down to the point that any lower middle class family and up can afford them. The payback is quick, and the impact on national energy usage and carbon footprint is huge. Energy efficient lighting can make a huge dent in our electric power consumption.


G.E.Miller, LED vs. CFL Costs: The financial Crossover Point Has Arrived, April 29, 2018, 4 of 2006

Jason Steele, Money Crashers Technology, 2011, Incandescent Versus Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) - Energy Savings Worth the Cost?

Holly Johnson, December 13, 2017, The Simple Dollar, Electricity and Fuel, National Labs, U.S. Department of Energy, Traditional, Energy Efficient Incandescent, Halogen, Traditional CFL, LED

Brown, Bill, April 3, 2022, Hunker, How to Change Out CFL Plug-in Light Bulbs,

CFL Retrofit

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 John R Wilsdon


John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on November 05, 2017:

Suresh, thanks for the question.

CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power, and last eight to fifteen times longer. A CFL has a higher purchase price than an incandescent lamp, but can save over five times its purchase price in electricity costs over the lamp's lifetime.

At 20 cents per kilowatt hour, the lifetime electricity cost of a CFL is $28. If an incandescent bulb can last as long as a CFl, at a 10,000 hour life, incandescent bulbs will use around 600 kilowatt hours of electricity, which will cost $120.

suresh on December 28, 2011:

what is difference energy consuption between the cfl and incancedent lamp

Ameer on September 15, 2011:

it's good information. it helps me lot.

john000 on May 13, 2011:

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I have an article about LEDs at

eLightSpot from Enid on May 13, 2011:

Great study, thanks for providing this information. Have you though about doing a hub on LED lights?

kelly on October 13, 2010:

you should have more information on the topics and should explain their working also

bujju on July 31, 2010:

nice detail study you have done. Let me also switch over to CFL.

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