Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dimmable CFLS - Do They Work?

Awhile back I wrote that one of the problems in switching my home over to cfl light bulbs is that many of my switches are dimmers - and cfls and dimmers don't get along. When I first decided to undertake this project I had one light fixture in particular I couldn't wait to get my hands on - the ceiling fan in the spare bedroom. This is the room where I also have my office. It has a very nice, high quality ceiling fan, and my ex had installed a switch that allowed someone to control the fan and the light from the doorway - rather than using the pull switches. The problem was that this fixture had a milky white cover over a very low wattage incandescent bulb, which meant that this room was perpetually in a gloom. I know that my ex used this room as his bedroom after we separated, so maybe he liked the semi-darkness, but for me it was just too dim - especially as I was trying to use this area for office functions, which involved reading. Knowing that cfls appear brighter than their incandescent counterparts, I couldn't wait to pop in a 60 watt equivilant cfl and make this room a little more functional.

The first night I purchased a cfl, the very first thing I did was get out the step ladder to replace that pesky dim bulb, which turned out to be a 40 watt incandescent. That's when I discovered that cfls and certain light switches don't mix. The bulb perpetually flickered! It wouldn't completely turn off. This light switch isn't technically a dimmer, but it must run on similar technology. The trickle of a current still reaching the bulb was making it flicker. So much for saving electricity! Reluctantly I replaced the 40 watt bulb, but I didn't put the cover back on the fixture. I knew there must be dimmable bulbs out there somewhere....

Well, that was about 4 months ago. All this time that fixture has been open - the globe has been laying on a dresser, waiting to be replaced. Finally Saturday I was doing home projects and had the step ladder out and decided to put the globe back on. ...and wouldn't you know that it would be later that same day that I would find dimmable cfls??

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I spent some time at the home improvement stores this weekend. I had a couple of coupons and wanted to do some prep for the cold months ahead. While meandering through Home Depot, I swung by the light bulb aisle... where I seem to spend a lot of my time these days. There, on the shelves, calling me seductively, were dimmable cfls.

I had found dimmable cfls before online, but I have to be honest, the ones I found were by some no name company and looked a little fly-by-night or were so expensive I couldn't dream of buying them. These were among the regular cfl stock and clearly had DIMMABLE written across the front. They weren't cheap - while you could get a rebate on the regular 14 watt / 60 watt equivilent bulbs and get them for a $1, the dimmable ones were closer to $8. Not exactly giving them away, but not breaking my bank either. (Although I was trying to look them up for this post and found them on their website for $17.99!! Ouch!!)

I have had so much success with dropping my energy bills, I decided to give them a try. I brought one home and carefully removed it from the packaging. Not only do you not want these little guys to break, but if it didn't work, you can bet I was going to return it! I didn't have to worry about it though, it worked like a charm.

This will be a great room for making a difference on my electric bill. I am in there a lot, doing homework, bills, and writing these entries! Now what I will be interested in seening is how one will work on a traditional dimmer. You see, I didn't just buy one, I bought two. I have a second ceiling fan in my main bedroom - and this one has a standard slide dimmer. I'll be installing it this weekend and I will let you know how it goes!

Great photo by: even_steven


Budgets are Sexy said...

this is good to know - i've come across the same problem in the last year, so i just gave up.

but now it gives me another reason to go to Home Depot :) i love that store...probably because i am now old like my dad.

Dawn said...

Hey - I love Home Depot, and I am not old like your dad! :) Actually, I confess - I am a Lowe's gal. Really though, I all home improvement stores are good by me. I especially love the lighting department, I have a strange fascination with lighting fixtures.

Catie said...

This is so good to know! The room where I spend most of my time has a dimming light fixture with 3, count 'em, 3 light bulbs!

Home improvement stores make me happy......

Dawn said...

Home improvement stores offer so many possibilities!

I'll let you know how the bulb works out in my actual dimming fixture - I have to get the step ladder out again though, so it is a weekend project.

That One Caveman said...

As we've been finishing our basement, I've thought about putting a dimmer on the wall sconces in the theater area, but that would keep me from using CFLs. It's nice to know that they have ones that work in dimmers!

Unfortunately, the 800% premium for being dimmable is a deal breaker for me - and certainly not frugal. I guess I'll stick with simple 40 watt bulbs until technology catches up with my needs.

Dawn said...

The One Caveman - Well, normally I would agree with you. But, if I can cut my electrical bill in half (or more) then to me it is worth it. I have already saved enough to pay for those two dimmable bulbs. So... assuming these last as long as they say they will (which remains to be seen) I will be saving $20+ each month. That adds up in a hurry and makes up for the investment I pay today.