Do Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Really Last 10 Years?

Now that you’ve replaced every bulb in your home with those twisty compact fluorescents, you can relax for a while, right? They last 10 years, so by the time you have to change another bulb, you’ll be ready to replace them with LEDs. Not so fast, says California utility PG&E, which insists that CFLs don’t last nearly as long as claimed. But our brighter brethren at Consumer Reports state that some of them really do, and they’ve got test results to prove it.

Consumer Reports flips the switch on the debate:

The Wall Street Journal reports that in California, compact fluorescent lightbulbs aren’t lasting as long as expected. Utilities like PG&E, which has subsidized consumer purchases of CFLs in the state, originally figured a bulb would last more than nine years, but based on experience has lowered that to about six. We’ve found in our past tests that some spiral CFLs were still shining brightly after 10,300 hours of use. That works out to 3 hours a day for 9.4 years.

Our latest CFL tests found that after cycling on (for 3 hours) and off (for 20 minutes) since early 2009, or 6,000 hours, brightness and warm-up times remained virtually the same as after 3,000 hours of testing. An outside lab has confirmed our result.

While PG&E may be bemoaning the miscalculation, our experts say that you’ll save money even if a CFL lasts 6,000 hours rather than the 10,000 the manufacturer claims. A typical incandescent lasts about 1,000 hours and costs 50 cents. You’d need six bulbs and spend about $42 on bulbs and electricity. Or you can buy one CFL and spend $12, electricity included.

Consumer Reports does point out that CFLs aren’t right for every lighting need, and also recommends that you keep your receipt when purchasing bulbs, just in case they really do cut out a few years early.

California utility says CFLs burning out faster than expected [Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. sufreak says:

    Nope, I’ve had many burn out on me. Still better than the previous

    • spazztastic says:

      Mostly what happens to mine is not that they burn out, but the glass somehow loosens up in the base, and simply won’t turn on one day.

      • wackydan says:

        Seen some last 10 years + and that was the old school expensive ones… though they didn’t get used all the time.

        I have a “100watt equivalent -23watt real” in my front lamp post. Works great in the cold, runs 8 hours a night for about 3 years before it needs a new one. Not bad at all.

        I did have a lot of problems with CFLs burning out when placed upside down in fixtures that are positioned that way… They don’t vent their heat from the base as efficiently and that shortens their life.

        For some, humidity in bathrooms are the death sentence.

  2. dolemite says:

    I had one last for 5 years. I used to leave the basement light on 24/7 so the pets had some light. And these things cost like $1 per bulb now…I’m not going to keep a receipt for $1!

    • Sidecutter says:

      This…the lights that are constantly on in my house, of which there are two, last at LEAST 3-5 years on one bulb, 24/7. The ones that go on and off repeatedly die faster.

    • ellemdee says:

      I have that problem/situation now that I have a cat that stays in the basement most of the time. I have tube fluorescent bulbs in the basement and I’ve only had to change 1-2 of them in the last 8 years since they were only on a few hours a week before, but I’m leaving them on a lot more now so I expect them to need more frequent replacement.

  3. FrugalFreak says:

    last way longer and save mucho money when you buy bulbs on sale for $1 like I did.

  4. mbz32190 says:

    CFL bulbs are so cheap now, even if they don’t last what they claim, they are still a good value.

    I have two no-name Lowe’s bulbs in outside fixtures (one enclosed, and one bulb “upside down” in another one), that are at least 4 years old, on for 5 hours a night, in freezing temperatures, and neither has died.

    I have changed almost all of them to CFL’S and only have had two “bad” ones…one was damaged when I bought it, and another name-brand bulb died in an enclosed fixture. I replaced it with a different brand and that one has yet to fail after 2 or 3 years.

    • dangermike says:

      More power efficient, yes. Better, not by a long shot. Between the long warm up time (which seems to get longer with age) and the flicker and the poor coloration of the light, CFL’s just don’t live up the quality of lighting achieved by the simple black body radiation of the standard incandescent bulb. Hopefully as LED’s creep in to replace CFL’s, the flicker and warm up issues will be resolved, along with another efficiency factor of 10 rolled into the power equations. And as OLED panels become more viable, CFL’s will become the wankel rotary engines of efficient lighting technology: an interesting exploration of ingenuity but ultimately a dead end without some extensive R&D.

      • ginandjesus says:

        Actually, many of them are nearly instant now, or only take at most about 10-15 seconds to completely warm up. That’s a very small price to pay for the efficiency benefit. If you get the right brands, the warm white CFLs actually duplicate the appearance of incandescents pretty well.

        We have CFLs all over the house and they generally don’t flicker, or at most do so for 1-2 seconds when starting up. If you’re talking about coloration issues, you’ll hate LED bulbs. CFLs have come a long way and are almost indistinguishable in most cases.

        Not to mention – coloration, flicker, and warmup time are very insignificant issues when it comes to the energy savings and long bulb life.

  5. not-gonna-tell-ya says:

    Nope. I replaced all my bulbs a few years ago and have had about 10% burn out already. The worst offenders were the GE brand. They appeared to have some sort of defect in the ballast

    • kc2idf says:

      I haven’t had good luck with GE CFLs, unfortunately. Living in Schenectady as I do, there’s a tendency to have some brand loyalty (not that GE has had much loyalty to us), but nevermind.

      I have had the worst luck with Lights of America. I bought a bunch of them when I moved in 2003, and five of six burned out within the week. The remaining one was stable until it got physically broken last year during a renovation project.

      I’ve had the best luck with Sylvania and with whatever Home Depot is calling their house brand this week. I had a Sylvania that was going on 15 years of service until last month when it got broken.

      • flipflopju says:

        I’ve been using GE too with little success. Thanks for the tip on Sylvania. I have a burnt out GE bulb right now and was hesitating to buy the same brand again. I’ll have to head out to Home Depot once my current Snowpocolypse clears out.

      • code65536 says:

        Odd, I’ve had the exact opposite experience. Over the course of a few years, I have had only one GE bulb die on me. While 4 or 5 Sylvania bulbs have died. This discrepancy is even greater when you consider that I have about twice as many GE bulbs installed than Sylvania bulbs…

        I guess there’s a lot of luck and variability in all this…

    • Maximus Pectoralis says:

      I got a huge quantity of PAR30 flood lamp sized GE bulbs from Sams Club, on clearance for $2.50 per pack (for 3). Out of the 28 or so that I’ve used so far, I’ve had maybe 2 failures. The lamps do take some time to warm up but for less than 1/2 the price of halogen or standard incandescent PAR30 size I can’t really complain!

  6. Ouze says:

    I replaced every light in the house about 2 or 3 years ago, I haven’t had them last significantly longer then incandescent bulbs. I guess out of the dozen or so I’ve installed, at least half have been replaced in that timeframe. On top of that, they take a while to warm up and give colder light.

  7. consumerd says:

    As a CFL consumer I am going to say no… they burn out quite like regular light bulbs for me.

    • dangermike says:

      You might want to check the conditioning of your power lines.

      • phil says:

        And what could a typical electric utility customer do to fix power conditioning problems?

        • framitz says:

          Call the power company and report it. They actually appreciate it because it helps them identify and repair problems. In my experience they take it very seriously.

    • zzyzzx says:

      Mine burn out just the same as well. They probably do last a long time if you keep them on 24/7, but for places where I turn it on and off a lot I use regular incandescent bulbs.

    • kaleberg says:

      CFCs seem to last about as long as incandescent bulbs. Our house has a lot of tin can insert lamps, often with bulbs ganged on one switch. Judging from some of the comments here, a tin can housing with the bulb pointing downwards is probably the worst heat configuration. With the bulbs ganged their ballasts interfere when they turn on which seems to cut into ballast life. We still use them in a few places, but we’ve moved back to incandescent bulbs for the most part.

      (We do have a few lamps, but we either use the for reading when the other lights are off, or for atmospheric lighting when we entertain, so there is little to gain from CFCs there.)

  8. kc2idf says:

    I had one that was going on fifteen years, until someone knocked over the lamp about a month ago.

  9. quail says:

    Yes and no. Had some bulbs burn out on me after 1-1/2 years. Incandescent could have lasted that long. Do have one bulb that’s 8 years and counting.

    It should be noted that there are incandescent bulbs out in the real world that have lasted 100 years. Yep, they don’t make them like they used to.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      110 years:

      But remember – it’s a dim carbon filement bulb about as bright as a nightlight.

    • Altman says:

      They have lasted 100 years because they are on DC (direct current), not AC (alternating current). AC causes the filament to vibrate and eventually break after so many hours, but since DC is not workable for our power grid, AC it is!

  10. Jevia says:

    The only ones I’ve had to change over the last 1-2 years have been when I mistakenly put one in a light fixture with a dimmer. Still have to use regular bulbs for those.

    • Southern says:

      They make dimmable CFL’s, but the cost is higher for them.

      • AD8BC says:

        And they absolutely suck at dimming. The ones I try won’t dim below 25% making them bad for accent and scene lighting, and they don’t dim evenly among bulbs on the same switch.

        As my dimming lights burn out (98% of my home) I am replacing them with dimmable LEDs from Home Depot, which are much more expensive but (say that) they should last 20 years…

        Until someone figures out how to make them cheap.

    • kriswone says:

      they make CFL for dimmers now. they have them in most stores (wal-mart, lowes, home depot, value home center, bargain outlet)

  11. IphtashuFitz says:

    I’ve had a fairly significant number of CFL’s purchased from different sources all burn out on me in less than a year. And I seriously doubt it’s due to power line problems since I have a LOT of assorted electrical equipment that shows no similar problems, and my condo is only about 20 years old. I’ve seen some of the wiring during renovations and it seems up to current code. I don’t suffer brownouts. My only conclusion is that either I have exceedingly bad luck with the purchase of CFL’s or they simply don’t last anywhere near as long as all the claims.

  12. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    They vary by brand and type. The worst are the expensive “Specialty” bulbs – thiose with candelabra bases, or the ones with a glass envelope hiding the spiral tube inside. As far as brand, I have found “Bright Effects” to be the worst.

  13. npage148 says:

    Been using them exclusively for over 5 years. I think I’ve had one go bad. I’ve broken my fair share though

  14. Red Cat Linux says:

    The ones in my hallway fixtures are the ones I first installed when I replaced the fixtures, more than 5 years ago. The ones outside, subjected to extremes of cold/heat and moisture only seem to last 1-3 years.

    For some reason, the one over my favorite reading spot in the living room lasts about the same as the outdoor bulbs. All of them have far outlived their incandescent counterparts.

    The only non-CFL bulb that has outlived the CFLs is in the back yard flood. It’s been there for 13 years.

  15. Big Mama Pain says:

    The interesting tricky thing being a renter, is having to take all the bulbs with you when you move-I never would have done that before with incandescent. It’s the only way you can get the full benefit of spending the extra money on the bulbs, if you move every couple of years.

    • pplrppl says:

      When I rented I used to find 60, 75, and 100W bulbs in apartments. I’d move in and replace the 100s and 75s with 60s, I’d replace the 60s with 40s, I even used some 25w incandescents back in the day.

      When I moved out of the apartment I put the 75W and 100W bulbs back and any 60W bulbs that looked used. Making sure each room had at least one bulb, two if it was a larger room.

      Eventually that changed when I started buying fluorescents and the last apartment I moved out of I was taking my fluorescents and leaving the apartment full of incandescents (mostly 60W).

      I’m in a house now so I don’t expect to have to take bulbs with me again but I have tons of 13W fluorescent that I replaced with 9w fluorescents when I moved in. I’ll have spare bulbs for years to come as I keep buying 9w bulbs to replace 13w bulbs.

      There are plenty of rooms in the house now that have 4 to 8 sockets and I have half of the bulbs unscrewed just sitting there as spare bulbs. Eventually some years down the road I’ll run out of those 13W spares I inherited but it won’t be any time soon.

  16. kriswone says:

    PG&E, who were publicly called out for price fixing, scamming, saying they didn’t have enough electricity when they were outputting twice the demand? yeah i gonna go ahead and say that all CFL will last twenty years minimum.

    I went to wal-mart and got a package of 10 CFL’s @ 13 watts each for $7.50

  17. Hungry Dog says:

    I have a large handful of these things that burn out within the first couple years. Some of these burn out under a year. I should really save my receipts and get replacements.

    • Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

      My office has track lighting, 9 cans. Three years ago I switched to CFLs, I used a mixture of regular swirl type and the fancy ones meant for track fixtures. They all burned out between year 1 and 2 (no different from the bulbs before them). Now a couple of the replacements have burned out too. Part of the track is at almost 12 feet, I’m thinking of getting LEDs now, it sucks to get out the big ladder to change the darn things.

  18. TVGenius says:

    My entire house is CFLs, and I probably change 2 a year at most.

  19. tinmanx says:

    The CFLs get too hot and burn out after a couple of months when it’s inside my ceiling light. I switched back to the old fashion bulbs which actually last longer and cheaper too. I use CFLs for all the exposed bulbs, they last pretty long.

  20. u1itn0w2day says:

    No, they last about 4 years if used daily.

  21. PatrickPortland says:

    The greeter at Home Depot was pushing 4-packs of CFL bulbs for 89 cents a few days ago. No complaints here!

  22. sirwired says:

    I’ve had problems with “infant mortality.” But I’ve found that if they go longer than a year, they go a REALLY long time.

    The biggest beef I have is the long warm-up time with covered bulbs. Spirals come online pretty fast, but all my covered bulbs take a minute or so, especially in the winter. I try to purchase fixtures where it won’t matter, but this isn’t always possible.

    Lastly, circline fixtures ROCK! No warmup time, they are more efficient than CFLs, the bulbs are cheaper and last longer, and they are available in pretty high light levels. I buy circline ceiling fixtures in every place where they make sense.

  23. SagarikaLumos says:

    I actually think that the CFLs of a few years ago lasted longer. This could be because they cost more and were better made. Since about the last 5 years or so, it seems they last no longer than regular bulbs do.

  24. Muddie says:

    I’ve just moved on to LED bulbs.

    Where do you guys dispose of the CFL’s? That’s my biggest issue with them.

    • FuzzyWillow says:

      I bought a few CFLs for a trial, had nothing but trouble with them. I started trying LEDs recently. As far as light output goes they are great – but I have this problem with bulbs being labelled “Flood” that are really “Spot” light.


    • runchadrun says:

      Check to see if your city has a disposal site for them. And I believe the big-box chains will take them as well.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I drop mine off at Home Depot.

      • Slave For Turtles says:

        Out of curiosity, how many will they accept at a time? I have a box FULL of them in my garage, all dead.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      Right in the trash with the soda cans, milk cartons and old magazines.

    • AD8BC says:

      Yup. Right in the trash. I figure if the government wants me to use them they can come and pick them up for me when they are burned out.

  25. rbb says:

    I only get 8-9 months in my kitchen fixtures where the bulb points downwards. The heat from the bulb tends to bake the ballast/electronics over time. Besides that problem, it’s the pain of storing enough of the dead ones to make a trip to Lowes or HD to recycle them. Finally, in cold weather, they just don’t warm up that quick.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I find the regular tube fluorescent bulbs in my kitchen go out once a year, faster than the incandescent and CFLs both.

    • Rachacha says:

      CFL bulbs put off very little heat, so I doubt that it is the heat from the bulb. Perhaps, some of the ballasts were engineered assuming they would be installed base down and the heat sinks and ventilation openings were placed with this in mind, so when you installed them base up, you were essentially trapping the heat in the ballast enclosure.

  26. runchadrun says:

    When we bought our house 10 years ago I installed a CFL in one of the fixtures and it was still going strong when I replaced the fixture with a ceiling fan (also with CFLs) 2 years ago. I’ve since replaced all of the frequently-used lights in the house with CFLs and haven’t had to replace one, except for a Sylvania 3-way bulb which I’ve had to replace twice.

  27. Supes says:

    A few items that can shorten the lifespan of CFLs.

    * Turning lights on briefly (should try to keep CFLs lit for at least 15 minutes)
    * Really cold or hot temperatures
    * High vibrations (such as in a ceiling fan unit)

    The big one for most people is the first. Turning a CFL on and off frequently, and for short periods of time, dramatically lowers the lifespan.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      As an engineer I can tell you the absolute cheapest parts, design, assembly possible is the largest factor in longevity. Nothing else on the list even comes close.

  28. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I’ve had a pretty bad experience with CFL longevity. They do not last nearly as long as advertised by any means. Some brands are very short lived. I can’t keep our lights all working at once, not even new, as there is always a few duds (DOA). Still, when Enron hiked the price up 5X, they saved us a bundle. There is no way they last 10 years.

  29. Erich says:

    I’ve replaced every CFL at least twice in the last 5 years. Even the ones I don’t use very often.

  30. Dave Farquhar says:

    If your bulbs are burning out prematurely, there are two things you can check. The copper tab in the light fixture itself may be mashed too far down, giving poor contact. See

    The other thing to check is your light switch. I had a really bad problem with bulbs burning out quickly in my bathrooms. The fixtures themselves seemed OK. Someone suggested I try replacing the light switch. I did, and my bulbs are lasting a lot longer now than they ever have. I imagine the humidity in the bathroom caused the contacts on the switch to oxidize a little, and that was causing poor conductivity.

  31. mister_roboto says:

    I use CFL for the last 8+ years. When I move- I take them with me (yes I have a cabinet full of old incandescent lights that came with my apartment when I moved it). The most of the ones I’ve had die on my were because I broke them on accident. The ones who just die from use- have only been a couple, one lasted 5 years, another 7.

    I had always saved them because when I got them they were kind of expensive, so replacing one recently- I was a little floored at how cheap they’ve gotten. The electrical savings over the years have been great.

  32. Not Given says:

    I can’t find 3 way CFL bulbs and the CFLs I have put in seem to dim after a while

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      Three ways are out there… I bought three of them for my more posh lamps and they work beautifully. Keep looking and good luck.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        They are out there (LOWES and HOME DEPOT) but they’re more expensive, and are too large to fit in some lamps.

  33. darklighter says:

    Here, let me sum up the comments in this thread so nobody else has to post:
    – Anecdotal evidence about bulb lifespan
    – Complaints about quality of light
    – Unsubstantiated claims about design flaws
    – Overblown concerns about trace amounts of mercury

  34. Slave For Turtles says:

    I’ve had terrible luck with CFLs over the past dozen or so years, and it doesn’t matter where I live. The worst part? When some self-righteous people insist I’m doing something mysteriously wrong – how dare I bad mouth CFLs! To counter years of accusations (seriously?), I decided to run an experiment. I replaced all the bulbs over my bathroom sink to half brand new CFLs ($15) and half brand new incandescents ($4.50), both types being of similar lumens and similar globe shape. After just a day, one of the CFLs died. The other 5 lights are going strong nearly 3 years later. I’ve learned that I appreciate the mix of them. I flip on the switch, and the incandescents are bright immediately while the CFLs are ghostly and come up to speed a bit later. Having half and half seems to be the best of both worlds in terms of function and energy savings for me, at least until another CFL croaks.

  35. darklighter says:

    Here, let me sum up the comments in this thread so nobody else has to post:
    – Anecdotal evidence about bulb lifespan
    – Complaints about quality of light
    – Unsubstantiated claims about design flaws
    – Overblown concerns about trace amounts of mercury

    • White Scorpion says:

      Add: the constant flicker (not always consciously observed but it’s there) which can cause seizures in those who are predisposed and headaches

      At work we have so many fluorescent tube fixtures we turn them off when the boss isn’t there as they cause the computer screen to flicker.

  36. sqlrob says:

    My house was built with cheap fixtures. Incandescent last longer in them than CFL.

  37. Tim says:

    A utility company, which not only sells the electricity but has to subsidize CFLs, most definitely is not biased.

  38. KillerBee says:

    What really sucks about these things is that because the bases are often wider than incandescents, I have several light fixtures that they won’t fit in. So I’m going to have to replace a whole bunch of fixtures in the near future.
    Plus, my old house (1925) has some wiring to those fixtures that causes frequent power fluctuations. Nothing dangerous, but it’s enough to kill any light bulb faster than it should. I’d much rather replace a cheap incandescent every few months than a relatively expensive CFL.

  39. Spiro_Agnew says:

    What kind of mental unstable hoarder is going to keep a receipt for ten years and be able to match that up with which light bulb it belongs?

    I won’t allow them in my house. Ever.

  40. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Being a bit Scottish and a wee bit of a data junkie, I have been writing the install date on CFL’s since I first started using them in the early 90’s. This allows me to say that in my experience (60 or so bulbs) you will get a few duds that die very prematurely, but most will go as advertised.

    • El-Brucio says:

      My grandfather did that with every single thing he ever bought – put the date on it, as well as his initials. And I mean everything, no matter how minor.

      It did come in handy avoiding that five year old box of cookies I suppose.

  41. Spiro_Agnew says:

    What kind of mentally unstable hoarder is going to keep a receipt for ten years and be able to match that up with which light bulb it belongs?

    I won’t allow them in my house. Ever.

  42. Starfury says:

    I do hobby stuff and the CFL bulbs don’t cut it. A pair of 100w incandescent bulbs give me the light I need. I don’t run them all the time and they keep me warm in the winter when I am doing my hobby stuff.

  43. jp7570-1 says:

    My CFL experience varies by manufacturer. I’ve had a few last only 2 years (about the same length as a halogen bulb in the same fixture). I am hoping the LED technology improves so that future bulbs will be cheaper and longer-lasting.

    I’ve also found the color rendering with CFLs to vary by manufacturer. Look for the color temperature rating on the box – expressed in K (Kelvins). I find warmer colors (2700K to 3000K) are more natural and easier on the eyes. 5000K is closer to full daylight, and ratings above that (6000K+) tend to be “bluer”.

  44. MarvinMar says:

    “Keep your receipt when purchasing bulbs, just in case they really do cut out a few years early.”
    Me: Hi home depot worker
    HD: How can I help you?
    Me: I bought this lightbulb and it was supposed to last 9 years. It is dead now.
    HD: When did you buy it?
    Me: 6 years ago
    HD: We will gladly give you your money back or an exchange, within 30 days of purchase. Next time your 9 year bulb dies after 6 years, be sure to return it within 30 days of original purchase.


  45. Wolfbird says:

    Of course they don’t. But they sure last a lot longer than those stupid Zoo Med herp bulbs that burn out withing the month.

    Since moving into our new pad last July, we have lost 1 CFL. It was a buck so it’s not like I care.

  46. econobiker says:

    One note is to write the date purchased on the base with a sharpie type marker.

    An older cfl (circa 1996) which I purchased for a specific lamp is still going well- of course it cost $20 alone. The cheaper ones I have now don’t last as long- about $1.50 each…

  47. cgskitters says:

    Usually last about a year for me, but at $3.50 for a 4pack at Costco not really a big deal.

  48. Stiv says:

    Nope. I’ve got two burned out ones in the bathroom to prove it….

  49. keepher says:

    Consumer reports needs to retest CFL’s because my experience has been far less than the usage stated.

    The manufacturer appears to matter, Sylvania CFL’s lasted for three years. GE’s lasted less than a year in a room that seldom needed the use of artificial light.

    My guess is that they did meet a certain criteria when they first came out but as China has done in the past they’ve degraded the product so that it no longer comes close to meeting the stated life expectancy.

  50. bethshanin says:

    What does the Canadian Football League have to do with lights?

  51. Emilliy says:

    If I am going to save the receipt, do I need to save the original packaging too? Also do I make the return request to the store that I bought the bulb from to the store I bought it from or am I going to have to go through the manufacturer.

  52. TBGBoodler says:

    I really do not like the CFL lights, but have some very nice LED bulbs in some recessed lights in my home.

    I do wish the packaging on the LED lights would tell me how they correspond to regular incandescent bulbs. Many of the more-expensive ones do, but I’ve seen some deals lately but have no idea what a 2W LED bulb will look like. You’d think they’d make that pretty prominent.

  53. blacknoi says:

    In my home, I can’t get a CFL to last more than 2 years.

    What really bugs me is I have 2 light switches that have “remote” light switch panels (so I didn’t have to rerun wiring to the other side of the room, just stick up the remote switch and i’m done).

    CFLs controlled by these remote sockets die within a few days literally. I really hope once I run out of my hoard of edison-bulbs , that they’ll make a CFL compatible with these switches.

  54. mackjaz says:


  55. Branden says:

    i’ve been using CFL bulbs for about 6 years now, approx 35 in total, have yet for one to burn out.

  56. Alessar says:

    I have a ceiling fan with a 4 light fixture in my living room. The 40 watt bulbs in it used to burn out every 3 months, almost like clockwork. (I am assuming fan vibration damaged the filaments.) I even bought some expensive ($3) ceiling fan + utility light bulbs. They lasted … 4 months. Finally I tried CFLs. I haven’t changed them since then and it’s been about 3 years so far!

  57. Bodger says:

    Some CFLs may last. I installed a couple of very expensive Philips bulbs after a remodel in fixtures which see at most an hour a day of use. These bulbs have lasted thirteen years so far and are still working. THAT IS TWO BULBS. On the other hand, I’ve bought entire bulk packages of Feit bulbs in which every single one died within a year. After much labor I got Feit to replace them. After half of the replacements had died within another year I took the entire remaining batch to the recycling center. I’ve had similar experiences with other inexpensive bulbs from big-box stores — they just don’t last. THAT IS PERHAPS FORTY BULBS. (And you wouldn’t believe the smell when the electronics on a CFL go supernova!)

    The lesson I’ve learned is that, if you are willing to buy absolute top-of-the-line CFLs you can probably expect them to perform as advertised (and sometimes even better). Otherwise, forget it.

  58. Speak says:

    I bought my house 5 years ago and the previous owner had put CFL’s in every light socket except the bathroom vanity. As of today I only replaced the 2 in the bed room (about 8 months ago). So that’s 2 out of about 10 that did not last 5 years plus who knows how long they were installed before I bought the house. I have since replace the bathroom vanity and any new light fixture in my house with CFL’s too. The lights seem to last longer than incandescent, how much longer I haven’t been keeping track.

  59. smbizowner says:

    my first CFL: burned out last week. Bought it with my nelson bubble lamp 12 years ago.

    for the first 5 years it was lit 24×7 over the last 7 just 9hr/day/6days

  60. yessongs says:

    Probably not, and then they are treated like hazardous waste when they do. I just stick to the good ol regular light bulb.

  61. Press1forDialTone says:

    The light is different despite bulb materials and shades
    and its just creepy and for people who unfortunately cannot
    see out of one eye or the other (I mean blind here), the effect
    is truly awful and gives them headaches. Sorry fluorescent light is
    nasty and hopefully LEDs will enable the warm look and non-flickering
    appearance that incandescent has. For me, I’ve reduced the wattage
    somewhat on my bulbs and am careful to turn them off when not needed.
    And in the end it isn’t lighting that causes high electricity use, it is heatling
    water, heating air, refrigeration, and drying clothes.

  62. KrispyKrink says:

    The longest they’ve lasted for me is 3 months. I don’t have to buy them as management hands them out whenever we need one.

    Plus, mercury or not I toss them in the trash when they die, everyone does. I suspect our trash bin outside could be declared a toxic spill zone.

    So, over the last year, I’ve stocked up on regular incandescent bulbs, CA laws be damned. I love the light and the heat they give off over the cold winter.

  63. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i don’t know when the bulbs that were in the fixtures when i bought my house were installed. but i had to change one of them recently and the base style was HUGE, much different than any i have bought the last few years. and the plastic on the base was yellowed with age.
    however long it lasted, it was a lot longer than any incandescent bulb.
    but as the report states, it’s not right for every fixture. my sister had CFLs go bad about every year in her ceiling fan before an electrician who was fixing something else mentioned that you can’t put them in that type of fan.

  64. AnthonyC says:

    Some do. Cheap ones don’t. And you have to use the right bulb for the right socket- for example, standard CFLs can overheat in recessed ceiling lighting, shortening life span. They make other CFLs designed for those kinds of fixtures.

  65. evilpete says:

    CFL do not do well in sealed light fixtures on the ceiling, or when installed upside down.

    Also if you put a dim a dimmable CFL you cut the life even more ( I have fried dimmable CFLs with in weeks of months )

  66. FilthyHarry says:

    I’ve had a lot burn out as well. Kinda pisses me off considering the price is supposed to reflect their longevity.

  67. MikeM_inMD says:

    Since CFLs give family members migraines – and should be treated as hazardous material when broken or being disposed of – I’m stockpiling incandescent bulbs until LED bulbs of equivalent lumens are cheaper.

  68. Weekilter says:

    Well, I haven’t done too well with CFL’s. I bought a Sylvania CFL two months ago and it died after just two months. One thing that’s not mentioned is that with fluorescents if you turn them off and on too much the life will not be nearly as long. I guess this means you have to leave them on if you’re not using them for more than an hour.

  69. marzolian says:

    What I don’t understand is, why the newer bulbs take longer to start up? Could it be that the hardware and grocery stores in my area, and the Lowe’s and Home Depots, are just carrying cheaper brands? Or are the slow-starters significantly more economical than quicker-starting models?

    When CFL’s first came on the market, that was one of the complaints against them, but when I converted most of my house to CFL’s about 10-15 years ago all of them were the quick-start type, almost indistinguishable from incandescents. Then, we moved in a new house a year ago, that was completely fitted with CFL’s, and they are all s-l-o-o-o-w to start. It’s probably quicker than this, but they seem to take about a minute or two to reach peak brightness.

    It’s not worth replacing them if they’re still working, but when two burned out I went shopping in my neighborhood. The only replacements I could find were the same brands as the ones that burned out.

    It really is just a minor annoyance, compared to the economic savings. But odd.


  70. FrankReality says:

    At my house the CFLs last about half their rated life. I use a Sharpie to write the install date on the base.

    Besides the drawbacks mentioned earlier in this thread, their performance in cold weather outside is anemic at best and pitiful at worst.

    I’ve also noted they tend to attract insects more than incandescents.

    They also aren’t very good for very short usage cycles such as in a stairway or hallway where you turn on the light upon entry and turn it off once at the other end.

    There are also some types of bulbs where the CFLs don’t work – examples include oven lights and refrigerator lights, and other shapes/sizes where you can’t get them to work such as vacuum cleaner lights, pilots lights etc.

    Can’t wait for economical and practical LED lights.

  71. Yorick says:

    I think most of my CFL’s are 6-8 years old, a couple are newer. I only ever had one burn out … spectacularly, with a flicker, a spark, and some smoke — that wasn’t fun to watch, and it stunk in that room for a week.

  72. JANSCHOLL says:

    I have never had one single CFL last more than 2 years. I have them in my kitchen and family room area. I also have them in my garage (specifically made for outside). Those last a bit longer but never more than 3 years. I am hording incandescent because I won’t put CFLs in the baths, or anywhere where I need instant lighting like the stairs area. I had no idea that I could complain about these not lasting even close to what the packaging says, and honestly, even if I did, do you think they would be replaced? Its my word against theirs. I am better off in the dark that I usually have unless I really need to see. LED is the way to go.

  73. timjohnson1717 says:

    I am not sure what you guys do to your bulbs, but i have not had a single failure in 2 years, i replaced every bulb in the house, all of them. The ceiling fans, outdoor fixtures, indoor fixtures, even the refrigerator has a cfl inside of it. The only burnouts are in the dimmable fixture in the dining room, but the company happily sends me replacements. Saves about 20 a month in electric, cost about 75 bucks to replace them all, not sure why anyone would waste time on incandescents.

  74. polishhillbilly says:

    I brought a set at sams in 2001, I just replacement them before Christmas, they all stopped working the same week.
    Now the ones I got in 2007 or 2008, when Lowe’s was giving them for nearly nothing during black Friday, those only last a year or so.

  75. Dave Saunders says:

    I find they burn out much sooner than 10 years but they’ll do until we have a full line of affordable LED bulbs on the market.

  76. macruadhi says:

    But they still suck! The light is annoying, and I generally hate them unless I’m using my work light for close up work.

  77. Maxamus says:

    I replaced have of my bulbs. The new CFLs go out FASTER than the old bulbs.

  78. kierzandax says:

    “That works out to 3 hours a day for 9.4 years.”

    Where do you live that you only have a light on for 3 hours? A more typical 6 hours takes even CRs rosy 9.4 years down to 4.7 years.

    Also, as we all know, bulbs more often burn out when you initially turn them on. CR should run a test based on cycles, not time.

    If you really want to make people listen, stop the “last 10 years!” lie and simply state:
    “100 watt” CFL energy cost per year = $6
    100 watt Incandescent cost per year = $25

    The consumer is smart enough to realize “Huh, I’ll save more money than the bulb costs. Cool.”

    (Except for the dumb halogens installed in the kitchen and the dinning room, all our lights are CFL.)

  79. ellemdee says:

    Do they last longer? Technically, yeah. But no where near 10, or even 6, years, at least not for me.

    I only use them in fixtures that are inconvenient to get to, so that I don’t have to change them as often, but I’m still replacing them…I don’t know…at least once a year. The problem is that they don’t necessarily “burn out” the way regular bulbs do, they fade. At what point is a CFL bulb considered at the end of its life? When it outputs 10% less light? 20%? 50%? That number makes a big difference when specifying lifespan. I use CFL bulbs in my main kitchen light fixture and just the other day realized that I was standing in a half dim kitchen even with the light on, so it’s time to replace them again and it’s been nowhere near a year. The dimming happens slowly, so it’s easy to not notice it at first.

    I hate CFLs, and only use them to keep from having to climb up on a ladder and take apart a heavy glass fixture more often. The light quality is bad (yes, I know they’re improving, but they’re not there yet) and the dimming issue drives me nuts. I use Reveal bulbs in my bathroom and it makes a world of difference in light quality. The funny thing is that I end up replacing my CFL’s almost as often as my Reveal bulbs, and they both get around the same amount of use.

  80. centurion says:

    Now if they only made them so they light up when you turned them on, instead of having to wait. The so called instant on bulb suck too.

  81. raz-0 says:

    I switched the majority of my apartment over early on when they were about $5 a bulb. From the same place, incandescent bulbs were about $0.70 for the same amount of light.

    On average I got 7 years out of a bulb. Some died in as short as 4 years, some made it 10. Given that incandescents got so cheap and shoddily built that it cost me $0.70 every time someone slammed a door too hard, they were worth every penny even before you factored in electricity costs.

  82. FiorellaMajumdar says:

    From my own experience, lifespan is also highly dependent on the brand. I used to by the nVision CFLs from Home Depot, and half of them would overheat and eventually melt the connection between the glass tube and the base. I’d have to wait for the melted plastic to set before removing it from the fixture. I’ve moved to GE and, two years later, they’re all working flawlessly. Now, I’m not a GE fan–I’ve had to force them to replace my dishwasher four times, including one time where faulty wiring burned a hole in the front panel because they couldn’t make a leakproof JetDry container–but at least now I’m not wasting money on CFLs that lasted less then an incandescent.

  83. deadbirds says:

    I’ve never had one last near that long, maybe just over a year and a half. However, I like them and they do last much longer than the old fashioned kind. I also like that they don’t put off heat.

  84. travis says:

    Fact: I have a CFL in my old bedroom at my mom’s house from the early 90s that still works great.

  85. White Scorpion says:

    My son told me he heard that incandescents will become illegal in 2012. Is that true? I may have to speed up my bulb hoarding.

  86. mharris127 says:

    I have had good luck with CFL bulbs. I have one in the living room that I paid $8 for in 1997 that still works, but that is in a low-use reading light over the couch. As most of my lights are on 24/7 (I may flip some of them off when we are all gone from the house, which is rare), they usually last about two years (17,000 hours or so). As they claim 6000 hours on most packages now and they cost about $1.50 each, I can live with that. For the record, in 1997 they claimed 10,000 to 12,000 hours. When they first came out in 1990 or so I bought two cylinder-shaped CFLs that lasted for four years of just about 24/7 use (and they cost $35 each, IIRC they claimed 20,000 hours at that time) and the only reason they quit working is because the house burned down. Even in 1990, they saved more in electricity than they cost, so I am happy.