You know CFLs use 70-75% less energy than regular old incandescent light bulbs, and that they last many times longer. You've even browsed through our collection of 10 hot new CFLs, which include options for many diverse fixtures (candelabras, sconces, flood settings, over-bulb lamp shades and more) and applications (3-way lamps, dimmers, bug deterrents and outdoors).
But you still are afraid your home, your sacred sanctuary, will come out looking like a bank waiting room or OR. You're not alone. When the New York Times conducted a panel recently to evaluate different popular CFLs, the reception from those with a designer's eye was harsh. Testers said they hated many of the offerings; thought they cast sickly glows; rendered complexions like those of the embalmed; lacked the warm, firelike quality of incandescents; and were unsuitable for attractive interiors.
Although more efficient bulbs will be mandated due to the most recent federal energy bill (beginning in 2012, all new bulbs will have to use 25 to 30 percent less energy for the same light output as todays typical incandescent bulbs), sales of CFLs have not been as brisk as greens would like. Wal-Mart reports that the energy efficient bulbs still account for less than 20 percent of bulb sales.
But the Times also learned that several of the tested CFLs performed quite well. The n:vision TCP Home Soft White, for example, was deemed a warm pleasant light. The TCP Spring Light/Soft White was almost warmer than incandescent, one person said. And the MaxLite SpiraMax was generally liked, considered pretty good and clean.
Another thing the Times learned is that switching out the lamp shade makes a huge difference in lighting quality. In once case, swapping a fabric shade for an opaque cardboard light greatly changed the look and feel in the room. So don't just give up on CFLs right away. Try mixing and matching shades and fixtures. You don't have to rush out and change every single bulb in your house at once. Get one or two bulbs, and give them a try.
Also, the Times discovered that mixing some CFLs in a room with other options (such as the more-efficient-than-standard halogens) for task lighting or accents can really enliven a space, while still saving you money on your electricity bills.
Given the recent energy bill, it's no surprise that lighting manufacturers are working overtime to bring out more attractive efficient bulbs, from CFLs that will likely be even more pleasing, to improved halogens and even energy-sipping incandescents, not to mention LEDs, which many believe will soon be the future. Don't worry, going green won't leave us in the dark.
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