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More and more I see these compact fluorescent bulbs in traditional worklights, probably because the price has come down a lot — but it strikes me as funny to see ’em in places where the big lights are common. For custom shop applications, tool guys often wire up the fluorescents in a modular array of several bulbs;  just twist loose the ones you don’t need right now, and tighten them back up when you need more light.

There’s nothing wrong with putting a compact fluorescent in the traditional “cage worklight on an extension cord” — it just looks out of place to me.

Thanks to for the great CC-licensed photo.

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19 Responses to Compact Fluorescents

  1. Patrick says:

    It looks out of place, but if you’ve ever started a fire with an incandescent or had a hot one shatter when it came in contact with something cold, you understand why they’re nice. 🙂

  2. Toolaremia says:

    Heck, I put one of the early CFDs in my “cage” worklight more than a decade ago. It was expensive, had a huge magnetic ballast, and didn’t really fit well in the cage. But it gave out lots of light and NO heat! Biggest advantage was dropping it while on didn’t guarantee a blown filament! That used to piss me off.

    Now I use a modern electronic ballast CFD with a nice warm glow. Puts out 100W of light for 23W and still doesn’t get hot or break easily when dropped. In fact, most of the 100W incandescents in my shop have been replaced by 150W-equivalent CFD’s. More light with less power!

  3. Lee says:

    I’m still a little hesitant to use these in the house. I bought a few last year and put them in a couple of lamps. A few weeks later, while eating dinner, I smelled something burning. I walked into the hallway, and one of the lamps I had put a CFL in was pouring out black smoke. Turns out that the PVC — or whatever kind of plastic it’s made from — base of the CFL had started burning. Granted, this probably isn’t a common occurrence, but I’ve stopped using them in the house. Who knows what might have happened if I hadn’t been home when it caught fire.

  4. cb says:

    remember to clean up properly after breaking a CFL.


  5. BC says:

    @cb: In my area that means sweeping it up and bagging it with the rest of the trash. We have fluorescent lamp collection once a year around here, and I have too much crap already to be storing busted light bulbs.

    I use them everywhere in the house because wifey has an awful habit of leaving every light on even if she’s not in the room. The only downer I have found is that they still take ~30 sec to fully light up. No biggie if you’re going to be working in an area for a while, but if you need to just make a quick run to the basement, the light can be pretty dim for that important time you’re hauling tail down the steps.

    And, by the way, some of the ones that are sold at a big box, you know, the one owned by the guy who also has a racing team, absolutely suck. If you breathe on them wrong, they quit working. Thusly, I wouldn’t recommend getting your CFLs there. I get mine at the place with the orange awnings.

  6. Lee:

    Was the bulb that started burning UL listed? If it was you should probably contact UL and tell them about it. I think they’d be interested, the whole point of their existence is making sure stuff is safe, and if they let companies abuse their rating their credibility is shot.

    If it was listed:

    I’m not saying that they don’t make mistakes at UL, but more than likely the company that manufactured the bulb you had certified one product and sold something different.

  7. ian says:

    I tend to stray away from using the CFL’s in my work lights. Despite the cage around the bulb, I tend to break them with some frequency which seems to pretty quickly undermines cost savings and environmental efficiency since the CFL’s having a larger initial environmental impact.

  8. ChrisW says:

    I use work lights which are designed solely for CFL’s. The lights are brighter because they have a reflector, are much slimmer, and you can drop them without breaking them because both ends of the bulb are cushioned.

  9. jim says:

    Having burned myself more than once on the back metal reflector of my drop light, using a cool CF in place of the hot incandescent is a win. Knock on wood, I haven’t broken the glass in either type yet (although I’ve lost a lot of filaments by bumping the old incandescents). The one I’m thinking about now is the cordless, rechargable LED array work light. No heat, won’t break if dropped, no cord to block the creeper’s wheels. Anybody know how good they are?

  10. Barri says:

    I think my Bro has a couple of snap-on led lamps. Very very bright and i think one is magnetic so it can just stick to the hood or panels. They are pretty cool.

  11. David Bryan says:

    There are lots of counterfeit UL labels on products. If you google “counterfeit ul listing” you’ll get lots of information about how to spot them. Underwriters Laboratories has a toll-free number, 877-854-3577, you can call to consult them directly about suspect products.
    A CFL failure like Lee describes is certainly unusual, but it is the kind of thing that’ll scare you off of a product. I’ve never used non-dimming CFL’s in dimmed fixtures, and I don’t know what they’ll do, but that might cause a failure like this. It could just be a defective CFL.
    I like CFL’s for a lot of reasons, I use them in worklights and around the house, but I’ve got a tiny little rechargeable LED worklight I got at the Harbor Freight store around the corner from my house that I’m really happy with, and I’d recommend them to anybody.

  12. bidwell says:

    Work light? I have gone over full time to using my led head lamp.

  13. tmib_seattle says:

    Ah yes, the ever increasing popularity of the CFL bulb. I anticipate in a few years we’re going to start hearing about all the problems caused by excessive amounts of mercury draingin out of our landfills.

    My local power company just sent every one of their customers a big box of these (I received 23 assorted CFL bulbs.) They included a sheet of info, one small section of which contained instructions for bagging up broken bulbs and taking them to the local hazardous waste collection facility.

    So out of all the power company’s customers, how many do you think will actually do that, vs. how many will just pitch them in the trash?

    I’ve heard there’s legislation proposed to make standard light bulbs illegal, forcing everyone to switch to CFLs. Amazing the kind of stupidity that politicians will jump on in the name of “energy savings”.

  14. Zathrus says:

    @tmib_seattle: For the vast majority of Americans that don’t get most of their power from hydro, the amount of mercury in a CFL is significantly less than the amount of mercury pumped into the atmosphere from burning coal for the lifetime of the bulb.

    Oh, and that legislation has already passed (December 2007). Beginning in 2012 the old incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014. CFLs are not mandated, but a more efficient bulb is (which could be CFL, LED, energy efficient incandescent, or something else). Australia is phasing them out completely in 2010. The EU is now looking at phasing them out as well.

    BTW, anyone who has an Ikea nearby already has a place to recycle CFLs. They take them, along with batteries of all kinds and most other kinds of recyclables.

  15. ScaryFast says:

    The main reason I love compact fluorescent lights is because they don’t put out nearly as much heat as incandescent lights. For example, in my bathroom I’d like a lot of light but big incandescent lights are like a miniature sun a foot above my head. CFL’s are much cooler so I can put a super bright bulb in there without getting baked in the process.

  16. paganwonder says:

    Our local Ace Hardware recycles CFL’s, and any excuse to enter a hardware store is good enough for me!

  17. jeff says:

    I have a couple huge CFLs in my garage but am rethinking that decision since it takes them forever to turn on when it’s cold out. I haven’t seen any cold version CFLs yet.

  18. Coach James says:

    I like to use fluorescent bulbs but I have three light fixtures in which the bulbs only last a few months at best. Not sure why but I did read somewhere if the frequency of your current fluctuates by a certain degree the bulbs will burn out much faster.

  19. David Moisan says:

    I bought a CFL worklight at the orange store a few years ago. Two bulbs about 35W each and you can switch them both individually. Bright bright bright! My rule for any lighting is, if I can’t burn my retinas (I’m visually impaired), it’s not bright enough!

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