Saturday, February 28, 2009

CFLs - revisited

From time to time, I like to look through my old QSTs and read articles I missed; or re-read articles that that I may have glanced over too quickly the first time.

In this case, the November 2008 had an article about making your station "green". Now anything that pertains to "green" tends to make me groan. Don't get me wrong ..... I believe in conservation, using energy wisely, not wasting resources and being a good steward towards the planet. But, in accordance with my Catholic upbringing, I believe that the planet was created for us; and not we for the planet. Ecology as a religion is just not my thing.

All that notwithstanding, the article was interesting and useful; as it contained some interesting information about CFLs - compact fluorescent lights. I have started using them about 16 months ago - mainly in my kitchen. The lights in the kitchen are recessed indoor floods and they tended to have very short lifespans. I switched over to Philips CFLs and for the most part have been happy with them. They do not generate any RFI that I can detect. I can have my radio on and if someone turns on the kitchen lights, I am oblivious to it. I can't "hear" them on the K2, which is known throughout the Amateur Radio world for its fine receiver. In addition to them being "radio quiet" the CFLs have lived up to their reputation of being longer lived. I haven't had to change them since I installed them. 14 months may not seem very long to you; but regular incandescent floods were only lasting 4 months or so - so to me, it means a lot. The thing I don't like about them, though, is that they are very dim on start up. I can come downstairs in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning; and when I turn them on, it's just not the same. Regular incandescent bulbs come on at full brightness. These Philips CFLs take about three or four minutes to "warm up" to full output.

Getting back to the QST article, the author recommended GE CFLs as they are the only ones that do not come with an RFI warning printed on the package. So when I went grocery shopping today, I bought two 100 Watt equivalent GE CFLs. And sure enough, there is no RFI warning label on the package (although there is a warning that they have to be recycled properly as these little devils, like all CFLs, contain mercury). I decided to test the author's claims and installed them in the two ceiling fixtures that I have in my basement shack.

His claims are true. No RFI that these 52 year old ears can hear, anyway! BUT, the one big difference I noted was that when I turned these puppies on - they are BRIGHT !!!! I would say at least 90% of their normal operational brightness. No annoying dimness while waiting for them to "warm up". And to me that is a big deal!

I can heartily recommend GE CFLs. They are "radio quiet" and I like the light they put out. The two 100 Watt equivalent bulbs that I installed will use substantially less energy than just one 100 Watt incandescent bulb that I used to use. It might take me a bit of time to get used to their squirrely corkscrew shape, though.

Which brings me to another thought - just how far away are we from the next generation of home lighting - LED based "light bulbs"?

73 de Larry W2LJ


  1. Anonymous11:56 PM

    The time for LEDs is now! Turn in your CFLs and your incandescents too, of course, and buy LEDs. They’ve come down in price a lot. I get mine at or which seem to have the best prices on the web. Both offer full money-back guarantees on all their bulbs so you have nothing to lose and should try them.

    I’ve tried a lot of different LED lights to replace my CFLs and incandescents. My favorites are the PAR20 LED, the 36 LED VIVID C.Crane bulb, the Pharox, which is a fantastic replacement bulb because it looks just like a regular light bulb and has a soft, warm glow to the light.

    I’ve been trying the PAR30 and PAR38 LED bulbs to replace my brighter bulbs. They’re still more expensive than I want to pay but they are coming down in price all the time.

    The VIVID 36 LED bulb is less than $10 on eaglelight.

    The Pharox varies in price. I get it at eaglelight for only $36 - less than anywhere else on the web that I’ve found.

    Good luck with your LEDs and please share any LEDs that you try and like.

  2. Thanks for the post about the RF-quiet CFLs. I'm starting to switch over to them all over the house, and I'm glad to hear a recommendation for one particular brand as being good.

    Do you have any CFLs on dimmers? I know there are some issues with them, but I haven't really done much research into it yet.

  3. Dave,

    I don't have any dimmers in my house; and if I did I think I would rip them out. Dimmers operate by having a SCR or triac, chop the AC wave in order to dim the light - my experience has been that they are quite excellent noisemakers.

    73 de Larry W2LJ

  4. With regard to consumer LED lighting: the problem so far has been cost of manufacture; there wasn't a fabrication process that was cheap enough to make LED lighting cheaper than CFLs. However, I read an article recently in one of my many magazines (probably New Scientist, maybe Science News) that someone is in the process of developing a much cheaper fabrication technology for LEDs that should make consumer LED lighting a reality within a year or so.

    Almost all of our lighting in our house is CFL or ordinary fluorescent. In some rooms we have "wide spectrum" lighting because I have SAD and the bluer light seems to help with that. I've not noticed any RFI, but as I only operate in VHF and up so far it's less likely that I'd notice.