Walmart Wants You To Use Power-Saving Bulbs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs can save tons of energy and cut your electric bill by significant percentage, but most Americans don’t really like them. Our father, an electrician, forced us to adopt these bulbs at an early age, so we’re used to them and even buy them ourselves now, but most Americans don’t have a miserly father to tell them what to do. Enter Walmart. Walmart? From the New York Times:

    But now Wal-Mart Stores, the giant discount retailer, is determined to push them into at least 100 million homes. And its ambitions extend even further, spurred by a sweeping commitment from its chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., to reduce energy use across the country, a move that could also improve Wal-Mart’s appeal to the more affluent consumers the chain must win over to keep growing in the United States.

Lest we remind you, compact fluorescent bulbs “use 75 percent less electricity, last 10 times longer, produce 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and save consumers $30 over the life of each bulb.” If Walmart is successful, they’ll save Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoid the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes. Yikes. —MEGHANN MARCO

Power-Sipping Bulbs Get Backing From Wal-Mart [New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Kangarara says:

    Too bad they give off such an unholy light that makes me physically ill. I’m afraid I’m holding out for the LEDs (which I believe don’t have the mercury/safe disposal problem, no?)

  2. etinterrapax says:

    I don’t mind them, but they often don’t fit enclosed light fixtures. And when I finally found one that did, I join Kangarara in the sick-inducing light complaint. I don’t know why, but it’s only true of our kitchen, not the living room, where I have two installed.

    We can’t use them in the bedrooms because they won’t work with the dimmer. Still so many problems. But we don’t use those upstairs lights much anyhow. I just like the dimmer in the baby’s room. I can check on him without turning on any bright lights.

  3. d0x says:

    LED’s have no issues when disposing, they use way less electricity then any bulb and they are brighter in every way despite them being incredible small.

    I recently got an LED Mag Lite…its equal to about 3 regular Mag Lites of the same size, uses less wattage and lasts 100x longer. Im up for the switch right along with you.

  4. Kat says:

    Spell check, Meghann. Fluorescent.

  5. MissPinkKate says:

    I, too, hate the icky yellow light produced by fluorescent bulbs. I’ll switch once GE makes a Reveal line.

  6. Hoss says:

    Come on Walmart — you want to sell these bulbs to 100 million homes (whats that, a billion bulbs) because it will save energy? Has nuttin to do with profit margins, huh?

    Like we say — we wuz born at night, but not last night…

  7. KevinQ says:

    For those who don’t like the light, you might consider another variety or brand. They have different color temperatures, and you might like a different color better.

    Also, all fluorescent lights flicker. In most of them, they flicker so fast you can’t even tell. The better the quality, the less likely you are to notice the flicker. But that might also be what’s causing your nausea.

    I used to work in lighting, and here’s what I know:
    – CF has great energy savings, but limited uses.
    – CF is not good in areas where you’re doing close detail work, or a lot of computer stuff, because of the aforementioned flicker.
    – CF is great in big open spaces, and in areas where you tend to leave lights on a lot: entryways, outside fixtures, hallways, kitchens, living rooms and family rooms.
    – CF is crap for mood lighting, unless the mood you’re going for is “hyperactive retail.” Consider adding halogen lighting to those rooms where you want some atmosphere. Screw-in halogen give you about 10% more light per watt over regular tungsten lighting, and are safer than standard bulbs.

    I’ve got CF in about half of the fixtures in my house, and screw-base halogen in the rest.


  8. Hoss says:

    I find them to be great for outdoor fixtures which tend to be on for long periods. Aside from energy use, they last a long time which saves a few trips up the step ladder.

  9. Chris says:

    Fluorescent bulbs last something like 10 times as long as old-fashioned bulbs. So WM is going to sell 1/10th as many bulbs. Sure, they’re about 4 times as expensive, but they’re not coming out ahead on this one.

    This is either a public relations move, or (gasp!) an attempt to actually be socially responsible.

  10. I think that most of us are on the edge of the general population in terms of discerning tastes (I personally use CF whenever I can and when it makes sense) but I applaud wal-mart for carrying these prominently. If a couple million people who otherwise wouldn’t use CF start using CF, then we can cut down on a lot of energy use. It’s better than nothing!

  11. Hoss says:

    Chris, I can’t dispute what youre saying. But the article does say that they are trying to attract a more educated customer-base (read: “more affluent”) which is part of the motive. Walmart is a profit machine — nothing wrong with that — just makes be ill when they put a spin on it.

  12. Meg Marco says: That’s actually what I get for trusting spell check.

  13. ronaldscott says:

    There are certain times when use of the third person plural pronoun so often used when a blog as aspirations to journalism really kind of breaks down.

    “Our father?” You make it sound like you guys are all one big happy family.

    Seriously, it’s okay to say “me” and “I”.

  14. Sudonum says:

    Like Kevin Q said look for a light with a CRI rating of around 3000 kelvin. That is the “temperature” of the color and it is nearly the same temperature of a regular incandescent light. I also use screw-in halogens. They run around $2.50 per bulb. Not as efficient as fluorescent but I like them because they can be dimmed, unlike most compact fluorescent bulbs. As to Walmarts motivation, I’m not sure and I don’t care. However I don’t think that their average customer is going to spend a few extra bucks to buy these.

  15. juri squared says:

    Let me tell you, CF bulbs are awesome in spots where it’s hard to change the light bulb, like our stairwell (where the ceiling is higher than any of our ladders reach). We don’t have to worry about that light for a couple years yet!

    They’re also helpful in light fixtures that are difficult to take apart, for the same reason.

    The only thing that annoys me are the bulbs that take a while to warm up – not useful in places like hallways where you want light fast.

  16. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I have a house full of them. The color temperature doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore (they’ve moved away from the old “cool white” color to something warmer).

    About the only objection I have is that they can take about 60 seconds to reach full brightness, so they’re not entirely practical for closets or places where you need full light instantly.

    I’ve had mixed results on life expectancy. I’ve had a lot more of them fail on me in a year and a half than I should have. I blame it on cheap overseas production. But then, you can buy a four-pack now for $7.95..they used to be $7.95 each ten years ago.

    But hey, it’s the same amount of light for one quarter of the electricity.

  17. nweaver says:

    a: I like em. You can get them for $4 for a 4-pack of 100-W equivelents in Costco in CA (normally $8, but PG&E kicks in $4). Most of them in our house are now compact flourescents.

    b: Ikea has some nice lower-wattage (60W equivelents) with diffuser covers.

    c: Don’t hold out for LEDs if you don’t like the flicker. Compact flourescent bulbs flicker at 120 Hz, on both the up and down of 60Hz AC current. LEDs flicker at 60 Hz (only the +V part of the cycle are they illuminated).

    d: LEDs are also no better on the light color, as a “white” LED is really an ultraviolet LED with a flourescent coating. Just like a compact flourescent is a UV gas-arc lamp with a flourescent coating in the tube.

  18. nweaver says:

    Also, Wal*Mart has gotten religion on one point: Global warming will F@#)(* up the poorer more than the wealthy, and Wal*Mart can’t sell to the wealthy to save Sam Walton’s life.

  19. cuyahoga says:

    Like jurijuri mentioned they take a bit of time to “warm up” which is why they aren’t so great in places that you don’t keep the lights on for longer periods of times (closets and bathrooms for example). This causes them to burn out more quickly.

  20. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    I have the same complaint as dwayne. The warm-up time sucks, and I’ve found that even once they reach their full brightness, CFLs that are sold as replacements for 100w incandescents are not as bright as a standard 100w incandescent; a CFL that puts out more light than a “100w replacement” is large enough that it doesn’t fit in many fixtures.

    As another example, I bought some CFLs that were “40-watt replacements” for spherical globe bulbs commonly found in bathroom fixtures, and they weren’t nearly as bright as the bulbs they replaced, either.

  21. tshomeprojects says:

    I installed some of these bulbs in my home and have been having minor problems when they are installed in lamps that include a dimmer switch. Is this common?

  22. FLConsumer says:

    CFLs vary widely from brand to brand. The cheapie brands are just that, with matching performance. I’ve been running CFLs for the past 10 or so years and had no complaints. There’s a wide variety of color temperatures available now, flicker is not an issue (they cycle at 20,000Hz rather than 60Hz of old). Warm-up times also vary by brand as well. Compared to regular incandescents, they actually have better color rendering. Still not as good as halogen or metal halide, but quite worthwhile. I rather like the clean non-sickly-yellow light I get from the CFLs.

    I’m currently playing with metal halides. I love their crisp white light, but they’re a bit “cold” for indoor lighting without some color correction.

    Oh yeah, saving money on the electric bill (2x the savings in FL, once in the electricity used, 2nd time is in the air conditioning needed to take away the heat from the bulbs).

  23. mrbenning says:

    “Fluorescent bulbs last something like 10 times as long as old-fashioned bulbs. So WM is going to sell 1/10th as many bulbs. Sure, they’re about 4 times as expensive, but they’re not coming out ahead on this one.”

    They’re probably only concerned with immediate profit margins, in which case, they’re still coming out on top. Not to mention a lifetime of fluorescent adopters that will return to Wal-Mart every few years to replace their lights.

    After this lighting deal, I’m sure they’ll go back to focusing on cheap televisions or 2 dollar dvds.

  24. viriiman says:

    Just my .002 cents, IKEA does have good deals on the florescent tubes. Im my area, they’re a better deal then WalMart.

  25. My biggest complaint about flourescent lights are they a HUGE source of migraines for myself, and now my daughter. I suffer from about 3 migraines a day and am on 4 different medications because of them. 1 medication is a high blood pressure medication that makes my blood pressure so low, it’s lower than my 11 year old daughter. I’m also on a medication I take 2, twice daily with anorexia as a side effect. I’ve lost over 35 pounds in the last 6 months and still losing. Those are just the meds I take to prevent the migraine. Then I’ve got the 2 meds I take when the migraine strikes. Because my landlord refuses to let me switch out my bulbs, and the way the light is designed, I’d have to put all new lighting in to get something other than flourescent lighting in. That doesn’t include when I go shopping in Wal-Mart or some other store that does use those dreaded bulbs, or when my daughter comes home from school complaining of a migraine because of the lights at school. I wish those damn things had never been created. I hate them with a passion.

  26. georget99 says:

    “Fluorescent bulbs last something like 10 times as long as old-fashioned bulbs. So WM is going to sell 1/10th as many bulbs. Sure, they’re about 4 times as expensive, but they’re not coming out ahead on this one.”

    So the economics of lighting have changed. Yes, incandescents may be more profitable, but like typewriters and 8 track tapes, they are not going to be the money maker they have been.

    Wal-Mart could put up flogs by consumers that have gone blind from CF’s, and optometrists that have had to triple their staffs due to them, but they have decided to do what any smart business does — sell them.

  27. nweaver says:


    Those are big flouerescent tubes, right? In the kitchen & bathroom? In many cases, thats part of the building code, from the 70s (back when you only had real tube florescent bulbs)

    Compact Flourescents are much less flickery.

  28. Mr. Gunn says:

    I recently switched over to CFL in all my fixtures and I’ve been happy with them. I expected a institutional-looking flickering light at first, but they’ve apparently got those two things worked out now. Also, they make them in a couple different sizes so they fit every fixture I’ve put them in. There’s a half-second delay before they turn on if the room is cold or if they’ve been off for a while, but not so much that it’s bothersome or even noticeable once you get used to it. Also, they get about 25% brighter over the first 15-20 seconds that they’re on, but other than that they’re just like normal incandescents. If you haven’t tried them in the past year or two, you should take another look, because it seems like they’ve gotten to the point where they actually are usable as a general purpose light.

    The disadvantage is that I tend to not be as diligent about turning them off when I leave the room.

  29. “CF is crap for mood lighting, unless the mood you’re going for is “hyperactive retail.””

    You can now get them as low as 40W equivalent, and you can get them with different colored “tubes” on them, ranging from different shades of white to “party bulbs” like red and green and even blacklight.

    We have a 40W-equiv in a fixture where even the 60W-equiv was CLEARLY too much light, and I think it passes for moodlighting. (Also, for mood lighting, you really need LAMPSHADES, no matter what kind of bulb you’re using, to soften and diffuse the light. Don’t hate on the bulbs!)

    I picked up the 40W and the spectrum-of-white-and-colors at Menard’s (not a lighting or greenie specialty store), which is a regional chain sort of like a Home Depot, but cheaper and way trippier.

  30. alicetheowl says:

    My husband and I have been using fluorescent bulbs for several years, now. We were living with roommates, and our electric bill one month topped $150. We looked up a number of ways to cut it, and that included putting in the fluorescent bulbs wherever we could. The following month, our electric bill was halved. We’ve used them habitually ever since, and the electricity bill for our current place has never been more than $30/month.

  31. Sudonum says:

    Most compact fluorescent bulbs will not accept dimmers. It should state right on the package whether the CF is dimmable. And dimmables are usually more expensive. It is not a function of the bulb, but rather the ballast the bulb itself connected to. Most of the newer CF’s are one piece, ballast and lamp, which is a shame really, since the ballasts last longer than the lamps.
    Where I have a lamp that I want to dim, or be able to use as “mood” lighting I will usually use a halogen. They can be dimmed, are good for around 2000 hours, and use about 2/3 of the energy of an incandescent bulb. They do produce more heat.

  32. I’m all about Halogen. Screw the world! Pat Roberston says it will be all over soon, anyway.

  33. I still have some CF i bought 10 years ago with the replacement bulbs!! Remember back when kids? The ballast was the expensive part and you can swap out the bulbs. Wacky.

    I use them in as many places as I can. I’ve started finding some to use for the recessed lighting in my kitchen and bathroom.

    I have an old dog and have to leave a few lights on all the time so she can see in the house (you do not want to wake up to hearing your animal fall down the steps because she misjudged it due to failing eyesight – trust me). The CF bulbs last like a year a pop it seems.

    But we save money on light bulbs and spend it on the HDTV in 1080i.

  34. snowferret says:

    Wow, a megacorp using its powers for good instead of evil! Can it be?

  35. Demingite says:

    Another question: Must there be 450,000 new homes? Why not fewer than that?

  36. brilliantmistake says:

    I’ve used CF for years without any problems besides the previously mentioned warm-up times. I switched apartments several times, and each time I move in I remove the incandescent bulbs from the ceiling and wall fixtures, save them in a box, and put in CF. When I move out, I take the CFs out and put the old incandescent bulbs back in. Some of the CFs have lasted for years and through several moves.

    I also really appreciated the lower heat of CFs when I lived in Phoenix. Of course, a complete switch to CFs or LCDs will deprive future generations of the thrill of Easy Bake ovens.

  37. marvinlzinn says:

    I also read that Australia was making fluorescent bulbs by law. NO ONE in any government or business has any right to do this! I don’t care if they are free forever, I will never bring one into my house. Fluorescent light can ruin my eyes, more likely to require glasses much more. (Proven practice.)

    This is similar to new law about toilets. They use less water, claiming to save money. If I have a toilet like that, I flush twice each time – to avoid plugging which costs a lot more to fix than the water does.