Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Shine In Tests

Hybrid bulbs, the kind being made by Deposition Sciences Inc., are too expensive to pay for themselves at the moment, says an editor at Consumer Reports magazine, which put compact fluorescent bulbs to the test for its October issue.

Hybrids are small light bulbs that are coated with a complex material and then placed inside bigger glass shells shaped like the common incandescent bulbs. Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman, deputy home editor at the magazine, tells Robert Siegel Consumer Reports tested a Philips Halogena, a hybrid bulb, which claims 30-percent energy savings. She says the bulb did perform as advertised, but was too expensive.

"We paid $9 for two bulbs," she says. "So even with 30-percent savings in terms of energy, these bulbs are never going to pay for themselves."

Kuperszmid-Lehrman also says the bulbs were far less efficient than either compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs.

She says that with the price of compact fluorescents falling dramatically, consumers can expect significant savings with the bulbs. Some of the magazine's "best buys" cost about $1.50 a bulb, saving consumers about $56 over the bulb's life.

"Long term, they are a much better deal," she says.

Kuperszmid-Lehrman says that compact fluorescents are also lasting longer, giving them a significant edge over other bulbs.

"These incandescent bulbs last about 900-1,000 hours. And all of the [compact fluorescent] bulbs we had in our ratings were still burning brightly after 3,000 hours," she says.

Consumers, however, have complained that the bulbs are toxic and have said the light they emit is not aesthetically pleasing. Kuperszmid-Lehrman downplays those concerns.

She says complaints about toxicity are overblown and though compact fluorescents contain mercury, levels are insignificant. She notes that newer bulbs have become closer to traditional bulbs in the quality of light they emit.

"You have to know how to find a CFL with that same light quality," she says. "If you look for a CFL that's 2700k, that is pretty close to an incandescent bulb."

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