Compact fluorescent light bulbs are great for energy savings, but their other stated benefit–lasting longer than incandescent bulbs–often doesn’t live up to the half-decade advertised on the package. Sometimes that’s the user’s own fault, for using bulbs in a way that diminishes their lifespans.
Use with a dimmer switch – there are bulbs designed for use with dimmer switches. If yours doesn’t specifically state that it is one, use it somewhere else. Same goes for motion detectors, photocells, and electronic timers.
Enclosed fixtures. Fluorescent bulbs are more sensitive to trapped heat than incandescents, even though they don’t get as hot. Only use bulbs designed for that kind of thing in recessed or enclosed fixtures.
Turning them on and off frequently. It might save a little energy, but turning lights on for less than 15 minutes at a time shortens bulb life.
Moisture and cold. Using a long-life, low-power bulb outside seems like a good idea, but make sure that the bulb you use is rated for the great outdoors in the temperature zone where you live.
If you’re a subscriber to our benevolent siblings, Consumer Reports, you can check out their ratings of light bulbs obtained through long-term use and objectively pitting one bulb against another. Neat.
Using a CFL in the wrong way can shorten its claimed life [Consumer Reports]