What is the Best CFL? Followup

Bad CFL Bulbs

Bad CFL Bulbs

Last year, I posted on my lighting upgrade in my home.  I changed out over 100 incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs for recessed cans, chandeliers, outdoor fixtures and lamps.  Unfortunately, I had immediate negative results from several bulbs that came out of the box DOA.  I was able to exchange them at the store but now wonder if they recycled the bad bulbs or just threw them away!

After about 3 months of use, I had several more of the CFL bulbs fail.  Now that I have been using them for over a year, I have a whole box full of dead CFL bulbs and several dead bulbs that are still in fixtures that need replacing.  This is very disappointing performance and in some cases, the CFLs had a much shorter life than incandescents in the same duty cycle!

The most disappointing performance was from the recessed can light bulbs.  Several of the bulbs lasted less than 3 months.  I spoke with a lighting engineer with a major manufacturer and he confirmed that most of the current CFL bulbs designed for recessed cans have trouble with the ballasts overheating and failing prematurely.  My complaint here is that they shouldn't sell a CFL designed for canned lights, if they know there are design issues with using them in recessed lighting applications.

Now I need to make a decision about recycling vs. returning them to the manufacturers.  I have several options for recycling in my community including city recycling and Home Depot.  I don't have the receipts for the bulbs but I could try sending them back to the manufacturer hoping for a refund.  However, I won't know if they will be properly recycled or just dumped in a landfill.

For reference, here are the manufacturers of the bulbs I've tried:

Lights of America - indoor recessed bulbs, standard fixture bulbs and chandelier-style bulbs
Phillips - indoor recessed bulbs (I have chandelier style bulbs but none of the Phillips brand have failed)

By far, the LIghts of America brand bulbs have been the most prone to failure.  Per my previous post, if you decide to upgrade recessed and chandelier lighting, I would recommend skipping CFLs and going straight to LED bulbs.  However, if you do proceed with CFLs for this application, stay away from the Lights of America brand.  They just don't hold up.  Make sure you save your receipts and cut out the UPC symbols and save them as well.  Also, try to find "Energy Saver" branded bulbs.  According to several sources, they must provide a two year warranty on the bulbs as one of the requirements for the branding.

I hope this is helpful for reference if you are planning a residential lighting upgrade.  Is anyone else having the same issues with CFLs?  If so, let us know!

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We have had this problem for years in our house. We began writing on the base of each bulb the date of purchase and retailer, helping us better track the service life of each. We have had some success with getting replacements for premature failure just on the basis of the info we had recorded on the bulb. However, we've gotten lax about returning them and now have a box of spent bulbs just like yours. For what its worth, I'm confident that Home Depot has procedures in place that ensure proper disposal.
I have had similar bad experience with Lights of America (made in China - I believe). Many early failures of various fixtures. I am impressed that you replaced 100 light bulbs. But I can't imagine a home that needs than many! Our modest 2 bedroom home has a total of 24 light fixtures - including 5 40 Watt T8 fluorescent fixtures in the basement work space, 4 15 Watt CFL light cans in the kitchen and 7 15 Watt circular fluorescent ceiling fixtures, 2 300 Watt dimmable halogens, 1 7 Watt LED lamp (basement stairs) and a few actual screw base CFL lights.
Always look for the UL symbol on the CFL package. UL listed bulbs comply with basic safety standards.
Thanks for the comments Janice. I live in Atlanta, the home of Home Depot, so I'm hoping to talk to someone responsible for their recycling program for comment. I'll post if I do connect with them. It's interesting to hear that others are experiencing the same problem yet you don't see much online. I had a Mapawatt fan named Earl email us directly. He had a great suggestion so I'm posting his comments below: Hi Guys, I do maintenance in a school system and had similar situation. Manufacturer suggested putting standard CFL's in all my cans, voila no more burnouts. They have more circulation and run cooler and still give off plenty of light. I used 4100 Kelvin in all my cans and trophy cases. Try it, you'll like it. Earl Earl, I hope this is ok with you. - P
Hi Guy, I'll be the first to tell anyone that I have too much house. I have a big family but we could fit in a smaller space. Since I don't see me being able to downsize any time soon for various reasons, I'm doing the best I can by making what I have more efficient. One of the most disappointing aspects is not having a flat, contiguous piece of roof facing south. I could only fit two solar hot water collectors but no PV for me. Once the kids are out of college, I'll downsize and pick my property for its adapatability to renewable energy systems and efficiency! -P
Hi Donna, I checked and the can bulbs have both an "FCc" logo and a "UL" logo on them. However, I only saw the "FCc" logo on the Lights of America chandelier bulbs. Hmm. I thought any electric-powered device for sale has to be UL listed? I don't think UL has anything referencing safety if not disposed of properly. (i.e., mercury content) -P
I just added three more chandelier bulbs to the box this morning. I installed some of the EcoSmart bulbs from Home Depot. We'll see how they perform!

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