The lighting retrofit of my new house has begun! Instead of retrofitting the entire house all at once, my strategy is to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to replace incandescent bulbs as the incandescents burn out. This philosophy rests upon two underlying hypotheses (which are based on nothing more than my engineering intuition).
First, it is wasteful to throw out a perfectly good incandescent bulb that still has some life left in it. It seems wrong to gorge the landfill with working light bulbs for the sake of a few saved watts. Eventually all the conventional bulbs in my home will burn out anyway.
Second, I am assuming that the incandescent bulbs that burn out first are the ones that we use the most. Of course, bulb life is actually a function both of the total illuminated hours and the number of on-off cycles. So, my assumption is only partially accurate. Nonetheless, it makes no sense to use a $5 CFL to replace the $0.35 light bulb in my attic, given that I go up there at most maybe once per month. I fully expect the same incandescent bulb to be illuminating the attic when I sell this house. By contrast, I have already managed to burn out one of the bulbs in my home office. One that I replaced new a few months back when I moved in.
When I retrofitted my parents’ house with CFLs about 7 years ago, the only lamps on the market were those terrible in-line-tube compacts. They resemble what you might get if someone ripped an office fixture from the ceiling, put a U-bend in it, and slapped a socket fixture to the bottom. Those early CFLs did not even attempt to mimic the shape of conventional light bulbs, and the only place they worked aesthetically was under lamp shades (provided the shade was not designed to mount on a spherical bulb – in which care you were just out of luck).
Today, the choices are much more extensive. Below are some images of the assortment of CFLs available, juxtaposed against the conventional bulbs they replace. Listed in red are the rated wattages of each lamp to show the dramatic savings. Amazingly in addition to CFLs that actually look like conventional bulbs, one can buy fluorescent decor lights, vanity lamps, and flood lamps.
Just look how far we have come in the 21st Century.