How to Screw in a CFL Bulb Safely

Reposting a very useful comment from Paul Ronco from Fredericksburg VA:

[T]he correct way to screw in, as well as remove, a CFL is by grasping it on the white plastic base with your fingertips and carefully twisting. This is why CFLs have extended white plastic bases that go beyond the actual metallic connector, whereas incandescents do not. It is never a good idea to attempt to install or remove a CFL by grasping the glass itself and twisting. If you overdo it or if the bulb is just a little stuck, the glass can easily break at its base because the tubes themselves are so thin.

Thanks, Paul!

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7 Responses to How to Screw in a CFL Bulb Safely

  1. Dale Petty March 25, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    We began switching to CFLs several years ago, but they’ve been terribly unreliable. Except for one circle light which lasted about 8 years, all the CFLs go in about a year. I’ve heard that if you don’t leave them on for at least 15 minutes, they fail prematurely. We’re very good about turning off lights we aren’t using and often turn on a light to find something in a dark room and then turn it off a minute or two later. Are we causing our lights to fail prematurely? What is the optimum “on time” in terms of bulb life and energy use?

  2. Sherilyn March 25, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    We’re ardent environmentalists and tried CFs many years ago and again recently. Despite all the hype over them and their recent improvements, we still cannot use them. In lamps with covers or shades, the spirals are longer than the old bulbs and you cannot fit the globes and covers back on. We gave a whole pack away because of this. Also, we just purchased some GE Energy Smart A19 enclosed spiral bulbs for a vanity light and replaced them all at the same time. They may not flicker, but they do take at least 5 minutes to come on and when they are fully lit, they buzz like the old fluorescents used to. This never stops and is loud enough that it can give a headache after a while. Has anybody ever done studies about the EMFs on these compared to traditional lighting? If I need light to go downstairs or out to the garage at night,or even to the bathroom, it is NOT SAFE to use these because they are so dim when they first turn on. By the time they are fully lit, most times I could have already had a traditional light back off after a quick use. I have even researched the more expensive LED lighting and so far this isn’t really feasible to replace 60 to 100 Watt household utility lighting; they are mostly recommended for night lights and low voltage accent lighting and work very nicely in some flashlights.

    So for now, I’ll continue to use the traditional bulbs until greater strides are made in CFLs as our environmental health and safety concerns by far outweigh the energy and monetary savings CFLs come with.

    Thanks for your TGL columns–keep them coming!

  3. Sheryl March 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Dale — as I understand it, CFLs do tend to burn out earlier if you turn them on and off a lot. Here’s what Popular Mechanics has to say on the subject:

    “CFLs do not fare well when flicked on and off repeatedly, so they’ll last much longer if turned on for several hours — instead of minutes — at a time.”

    But obviously it’s a waste of energy to leave bulbs on if you don’t need the light. So maybe the answer is to use CFLs only in locations where you need the light on for extended periods.

    CFLs also fail earlier when used in recessed “cans.”

    You can find more information here:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/how_your_house_works/4299370.html

  4. Sheryl March 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    Sherilyn, there’s no reason you should have to settle for a CFL that takes 5 minutes to turn on. There are bulbs that turn on in less than 30 seconds. Maybe you need to try again with newer bulbs. The technology has improved a lot. That isn’t to say quality doesn’t vary — it does. So it’s important to get a better brand (which won’t necessarily be the cheapest). See my latest post for more on brands: http://thisgreenblog.com/2009/03/best-cfls.html

    Another thing to know — spiral CFLs come on faster than other types.

  5. Anonymous July 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    RE screwing in a CFL: the white base contains the ballast circuitry, which is what's susceptible to rapid on/off cycling and shortened bulb life. The base isn't specifically designed as a means for screwing them in. Many times you just can't reach into the fixture that far. I don't think twisting the glass should be a problem unless you use excessive torque.

  6. sprambots April 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Here is a $20, 10,000 hr, LED, 60 watt (equivalent) light bulb http://www.phillyrambots.com/?page_id=246

    These bulbs do not require any special disposal, they carry no radiation or environmentally unfriendly chemicals, they do not heat up, they have a plastic casing so they do not break, and they plug into all of your current devices.

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