Facts About Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Facts About
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are a popular
choice to replace inefficient light bulbs, which will be
phased out in 2014. CFLs use about a quarter of the
energy of a regular incandescent bulb. A 13-watt (W)
CFL produces the same high-quality light as a typical
60-W incandescent bulb and saves 47 W per hour of
Fluorescent lights have been around for a long time, and
CFLs are a simple variation on the traditional fluorescent
tube. CFL technology has improved over the years. CFLs
are quick to turn on, they contain little mercury, they do
not flicker, and those designed to dim perform well.
FACT – CFLs are not just spirals. They are now
available in various shapes, colours and specialties. You
can find covered, reflector and chandelier CFLs wherever
you buy light bulbs. For specific applications, dimmable
and tri-light CFLs are also available.
FACT – CFLs are safe. As with any electrical product
sold in Canada, CFLs must meet specific requirements for
electrical safety, fire and shock hazard. Any CFL that carries
the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters
Laboratories (UL) safety certification mark on the package
or bulb has passed these tests. In 2009, CSA published a
new standard that addresses burn-out issues reported in
older CFLs.
FACT – CFLs are cost-effective. Lighting accounts for
up to 11 percent of a home’s electricity use, so replacing
incandescent bulbs with new, efficient CFLs can make
a big difference. If you consider the cost of energy and
the cost of replacement, CFLs are the cheapest source of
lighting on the market today, even with a higher initial
cost than that of incandescent bulbs.
FACT – CFLs require careful handling and
disposal. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed
within the glass tubing – an amount equivalent to the tip
of a ball-point pen. There is no risk to your health when
the light bulb remains unbroken. Covered or shatterproof CFLs, which are more resistant to breakage, are also
On February 26, 2011, the Government of Canada
announced plans to ban mercury in some products
and restrict the amount in others, such as light bulbs.
Improved product labelling will provide information on
how much mercury is in bulbs and how to safely dispose
of them.
As with batteries, paint, computers and other products
that contain hazardous elements, you should not throw
CFLs in the garbage. Environment Canada is working
on a regulation that will require manufacturers and
importers to establish recycling programs for mercurycontaining bulbs. Meanwhile, many municipalities across
Canada already have recovery programs that handle
hazardous items. As well, some retailers – such as
The Home Depot, IKEA, London Drugs and RONA –
are accepting burned-out CFLs in their recycling
programs. This prevents even the small amounts
of mercury in CFLs from accumulating in our
Moreover, proper clean up and disposal minimizes
any risk of mercury contamination from a broken
CFL. Refer to Health Canada’s fact sheet for clean-up
FACT – The effects of CFLs on home heating
costs are small. While incandescent bulbs give
off heat, CFLs give off very little. The effect on
heating costs varies across Canada, depending on
the climate, type of home heating fuel, heating
system efficiency and other factors. Any additional
heating cost is usually offset by the energy savings
from using CFLs. In the summer months, inefficient
incandescent bulbs force your cooling system to
use more energy, which increases electricity costs.
Most homeowners and tenants will save money and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by switching to
energy-efficient lighting.
FACT – Ultraviolet (UV) emissions from CFLs
are not a likely health risk. As with traditional
incandescent bulbs, CFLs emit UV radiation. Most
scientific evidence to date shows that UV radiation
levels from fluorescent light sources are not a
safety concern for most of the population. It is
recommended that you stay at least 30 centimetres
(about 1 foot) away from an uncovered CFL and limit
close exposure to three consecutive hours.
A small number of Canadians have health disorders
or skin conditions that make them sensitive to UV
rays. Health Canada suggests that you minimize
these potential effects by buying CFLs that are
marked as “low UV,” buying covered CFLs, using
shades in lighting fixtures to act as filters or
increasing physical distance from the light source.
Key links
Compact Fluorescent Lamps
(including frequently asked questions)
Natural Resources Canada
The Safety of Compact Fluorescent Lamps
(including clean-up procedures) – Health Canada
Mercury and the Environment – Environment
Proposed Regulation of Mercury-containing
Products in Canada – Environment Canada
For information regarding reproduction rights, contact
Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) at
613- 996-6886 or at [email protected]
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2012
Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency
Leading Canadians to Energy Efficiency at Home,
at Work and on the Road