Compact Flourescent Lamps (CFLs)

For a given light output, CFLs use 20 to 33 percent of the power of equivalent incandescent bulbs, making them a more energy efficient option.

How CFLs work

CFLs work much like standard fluorescent lamps. They consist of two parts: a gas-filled tube, and a magnetic or electronic ballast. The gas in the tube glows with ultraviolet light when electricity from the ballast flows through it. This in turn excites a white phosphor coating on the inside of the tube, which emits visible light throughout the surface of the tube.

How long do they last?

The average life of a CFL is between 8 and 15 times that of incandescents.

CFLs typically have a rated lifespan of between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, whereas incandescent lamps are usually manufactured to have a lifespan of 750 hours or 1,000 hours

The life of a CFL is significantly shorter if it is frequently turned on and off.
In the case of a 5-minute on/off cycle the lifespan of a CFL can be up to 85% shorter, reducing its lifespan to "close to that of incandescent light bulbs"

The US Energy Star program suggests that fluorescent lamps be left on when leaving a room for less than 15 minutes to mitigate this problem.

Mercury content

CFLs, like all fluorescent lamps, contain small amounts of mercury as vapor inside the glass tubing. Most CFLs contain 3 – 5 mg per bulb, with some brands containing as little as 1 mg.

Because mercury is poisonous, even these small amounts are a concern for landfills and waste incinerators where the mercury from lamps may be released and contribute to air and water pollution.

SOURCE: WWF South Africa