Green, Inc. (the NY Times Green blog) had a great interview with lighting designer Howard Brandston recently. His main point being that CFLs do not put out the same quality of light as incandescent, and when picking a lighting solution for your home or business, you need to view the system as a whole. Believe it or not, I agreed with him on most points.
As I mentioned in CFL Strategy, it doesn't always make sense to use CFLs, and when you do, you want to target lights that are on the longest amount of time. This helps with their lifespan (they don't like being switch on and off) and helps with the payback period. But like Mr. Brandston says, there are some situations where incandescents just work better.
The part I agree with him the most came at the very end of the interview where he says:
Control the amount of time you have the lights on, and you will do well. People leave the lights on all the time. We’ve got to get new habits. We’d be better off promoting occupancy sensors and dimming controls and recommending all dimmers be set to only provide 95 percent of the power to the light sources. Then we would be making real headway.
Basically, whether you choose to use CFLs or regular incandescents, control how you use them! When you don't need them on, flick the switch. A Negawatt (energy that is never used) is better than a more efficiently used KiloWatt!
If you have a lamp you keep on when you leave the house at night for security reasons, you could make that a CFL. If you have another lamp you use just for reading and you like incandescent light better, then don't use a CFL. You don't need an all or nothing approach! There is no one perfect solution in the marketplace yet, so all of us need to stay informed and make the best decisions for the solution that best fits our needs.
(If you want to stay informed and see an electricity cost breakdown, view my Lighting Cost Comparison blog!)