By September 9, 2013 Read More →

Are Compact Fluorescent Bulbs A Fire Hazard?

Fluorescent-BulbsProper illumination is a must in our lives wherever we go. It is an essential tool in making our daily lives run smoothly. But how would you feel when you notice that your bulbs manifest burn marks and melted plastic in its base? Normally, this can be quite dangerous if you are using cheap and substandard quality bulbs like incandescent bulbs. However, if you see these manifestations in compact fluorescent bulbs, this is something that should not be considered as a hazard. I understand why your eyebrows are raising at this moment. What causes the melted plastic and the burn marks then? Why am I claiming that these aren’t signs of being a fire hazard? Read on.

Firstly, let me explain how a CFL bulb works and how it’s got the said marks. Normally, the plastic base or ballast of a CFL is Underwriters Laboratory or UL certified, which is the company that studies and evaluates plastics, particularly its flammability aspect. Any plastic bases that are UL certified can safely be of purpose during the entire lifetime of the bulb; from its first day of operation until it is no longer useful. Now, what causes the burn marks? To find it out, let’s learn how a CFL works. Basically, CFLs use electricity to emit light. Once you switch it on, electricity is transmitted from that switch to the bulb passing through the glass tubing. The tubing is filled with gases, which, when excited by electricity, produces ultraviolet radiation. It then comes in contact with the phosphorus lining of the glass that eventually produces light. When the ballast overheats, bulbs tend to burn out. A component called Voltage Dependent Resister or VDR shuts off the circuit and generates a small amount of heat and smoke. Those burn marks that you see in the bulb are actually the signs that heat and smoke are escaping out of it as VDR does its thing of shutting it down when overheating occurs. You see such burn on the base because it’s near the glass coil, which is directly connected to the ballasts. This scenario makes John Drengenberg, manager of the consumer affairs of UL, say that the burn marks are never an indication of the CFL being a fire hazard. In fact, it’s pretty normal to see this mark because its base is designed in such a way to prevent fire.

There is no doubt that CFLs are one of the best choices of bulbs in the market and its capacity of being able to emit good lighting even at low wattage makes it even more popular than its incandescent counterpart. Now, that you have understood how it works, let’s see the benefits and the drawbacks of using CFLs at home and in your office.


  • CFLs are energy-efficient – Research shows that CFLs only consume 85 percent lesser energy than incandescent bulbs and are known for its emission of lower amount of heat. This characteristic is very much the opposite of incandescent bulbs since the latter is known for its consumption of 90% energy and emission of 20% energy to lighting and the rest is for heating. This is one reason that incandescent bulbs tend to overheat easily and cause burns to very fragile skin like children.
  • CFLs are long lasting – Unlike its other counterparts; compact fluorescent bulbs are long lasting, helping you save on the maintenance costs of your lighting utilities at home. This means that you won’t have to change your bulb as often and you could keep at bay from health issues related to bad lighting. Although incandescent bulbs are cheap, they tend to have very short span of time, which can add up to unnecessary costs in the future.


  • CFLs are costly – There is no doubt that compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but given of its durability, efficiency, and maintenance issues, this bulb is worth of its price. Take note: a 15 watt CFL can produce as much light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb. Furthermore, imagine how much you can save on your electricity bill and maintenance costs on CFLs.
  • CFLs don’t turn ON immediately – There are a few seconds gap when turning ON a CLF, but it isn’t really noticeable, particularly if you are too anxious to wait for the light to fully operate.
  • CFLs aren’t dimmable – While some lighting fixtures are easily dimmable, CFLs are not. Aside from that, you couldn’t buy an add-on lighting fixture that might make it dimmable. Nevertheless, manufacturers are doing their best to come up with better solutions to be at par with the competition. Of course, they shouldn’t forget, LED bulbs are somehow leading the race in this niche.
  • CFLs and its horrible effects to the environment and to our health – If you are into green items and you patronize CFLs, you should probably know by now that these bulbs have mercury content in its glass covers. It is a very toxic chemical and manufacturers use it in its vapor form to convert electrical energy to radiant energy. Because of this, it is imperative that you take proper precautions when cleaning broken CFLs.

How to buy a good CFL

If you really are into CFLs and you would like the best kind out of your purchase, remember that bulbs, like CFLs, come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit your varying lighting needs. Hence, it is important that you consider these factors in buying a light bulb:


Spiral – also known as twister bulbs, spiral bulbs are excellent for areas that need even illumination. These are also best when hidden, making it great for table and floor lamps, ceiling fixtures and fans, and as wall sconces.

A-line – it is characterized with a roundish cover that is reminiscent to incandescent bulb. It is best used without any concealment like table and floor lamps, pendant fixtures, ceiling fans, and even for outdoor lighting fixtures.

Globe – the light got its name for its spheroid shape. It is best used in indoor areas as bathroom lighting and vanity fixtures. It is also best recommended to use in pendant fixtures.

Indoor reflector bulb – this type of bulb provide focused lighting, making it best for recessed type of illumination. It is best used for ceiling fan lighting, recessed cans, and track lighting.

PAR or Parabolic Aluminized Reflectors – this is a special type of bulb as it is commonly used during floods and emergency cases.

Tripe tube bulb – because of its compact size and tubes, it is best for more focused and close lighting such as reading lamps.

Lighting Controls

Dimmable CFLs – as mentioned above, dimmable CFLs are not as great as dimmable incandescent, but manufacturers are working to achieve this goal. On the one hand, the current dimmable CFLs in the market let you save almost 20% when you use the dimmer switch.

Three way CFLs – it got its name for the different levels of lighting produced. It could progress from a lower intensity to a higher intensity, depending on your lighting preference.

Compact fluorescent lights may not be perfect, but it sure has the potential to illuminate your home effectively minus the worries of having to change it constantly. Think of its pros and cons wisely before shopping for CFLs today. Finally, research and learn more about the purpose of each CFL bulb to make sure that you obtain your desired illuminating needs.

Posted in: cfl, Energy, Green Home, Tips

About the Author:

A senior writer and editor of The Green Guide and a father of 3 kids (1 girl and 2 boys). Rob's special interests include geography, enviroment study and hiking. Rob has traveled to over 100 places in 30 different countries in the past three years. His exotic and fun experiences will be talked in his new book which is going to be published soon.

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