Do CFL Bulbs Get Hot?


For years, people had only one type of light bulb, the incandescent bulb. The compact fluorescent light or CFL bulbs was a cheaper alternative that proved to be more efficient than the conventional bulbs. But you may wonder whether CFL bulbs get hot.

Yes, both CFL and incandescent bulbs get very hot.

Why Do CFL Bulbs Get Hot?

CFL bulbs get hot because much of their energy is released in the form of heat energy and not light energy. Different tests have shown that 100-Watt incandescent lights burn at 335-degree Fahrenheit whereas CFL lights burn at 179-degree Fahrenheit but LED bulbs burn at only 87-degree Fahrenheit.

If you are wondering what is the best kind of bulbs you can get to lighten your home that does not increase the temperature of your room from the heat emitted by the bulb, read the following points to learn more about CFL bulbs –

  1. Heat
  2. Efficacy and Brightness
  3. Average life

How Does CFL Work?

The functions of a compact fluorescent lamp are identical to the functions of a linear fluorescent bulb. Both discharge gas and require electricity from cathodes to induce mercury gas vapor. This process is called inelastic scattering. Noble gas like argon and phosphors are contained within the envelope along with mercury.

The mercury atoms emit UV or ultraviolet light that causes the phosphors to glow or fluoresce and hence, produce visible light.

Where Are CFL Bulbs Used?

CFL bulbs are gradually being improved and they are becoming an ideal replacement in several applications, be it residential or commercial. In particular, the screw-in CFLs are the perfect replacements because it is extremely easy to upgrade these CFL bulbs.

You can simply get rid of an old lamp and place a CFL there. A plug-in CFL bulb requires both ballast and a certain socket and they are more complex to retrofit.

Can CFL Bulbs Burn Out?

Though CFLs bulbs require 75 percent less energy than a typical incandescent bulb the CFLs tend to burn out differently and this may startle some people.

When a CFL bulb is at life’s end, it becomes dimmer and when it burns out, there is a distinct smell and a striking pop sound. The bulb may produce smoke also and the bulb’s base turns black. This should not cause worry because the smoke and the popping imply that the end-of-life process has worked perfectly for the CFL bulb.

Tips To Avoid CFL Burn Out –

  • Do not toss a burned-out CFL bulb into your dustbin or trash. You can stack old bulbs and take them to your local retailer or department store who accepts burned out bulbs for recycling.
  • If you are living in an enclosed room, avoid using CFLs since the heat from the bulb may result in the improper working of the bulb. If your fixture is not entirely recessed, the CFLs may work. But in case you need to use the bulb in an inverted manner, check the instructions on the packaging.
  • Avoid using CFLs if you turn on and off too much or let them burn for a few minutes only. This reduces the span of the bulb and it may burn out soon. CFLs work better if they are kept on for more than 15 minutes or an hour.
  • Do not introduce your CFL to outdoor elements if you have no protective cover for the bulb.
  • If the fixture experiences a lot of vibrations, maybe from the ceiling fan, do not use CFL in that fixture. Vibrations may cause the CFL to burn out or work improperly.
  • A CFL bulb may not produce 3 brightness levels on a 3-way switch.

Is A CFL Bulb Dangerous?

Mercury Poisoning – There is nothing much to worry about a broken CFL. In the case of a broken CFL bulb, the mercury inside it may evaporate.

For a long tubular bulb, only 17 to 35% of the mercury will evaporate. The remainder remains stuck to the bulb. When we are exposed to even small amounts of mercury, it is unlikely to affect us noticeably.

Mercury poisoning primarily leads to neurological problems. An extremely low-level of mercury exposure may cause dangerous symptoms such as memory problems, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and also milk clumsiness. Whereas high exposures may lead to tremors, emotional or mood disturbances but these are not going to happen if you drop one CFL bulb. So, there is nothing much to worry about.

Ultraviolet Radiation Leakage – A 2012 study stated that most CFLs come with a defect that allows UV radiation leakage that can damage our skin cells if directly exposed to the bulb at close proximity. Users of CFL bulbs must shield it inside fixtures and stay at least 1 or 2 feet away from it. It is also important to avoid staring into the bulb directly for a prolonged period.

Can a CFL Bulb Start a Fire?

CFL bulbs are used in every room for efficient and bright lighting. However, one needs to be very sure of how the bulbs are to be used to ensure the safety of your home.

A CFL consumes electricity for heating an element that stimulates the mercury gas in the coil and that’s when they produce light. When the CFL stops producing light, the other elements will work the same way, and sometimes, they lead to overheating and that’s how they cause a fire.

But there may be other reasons too, as to why the bulbs cause a fire:

One of the reasons may be brittle wiring. Sometimes wires get brittle because of extra heat caused when the wattage exceeds a certain specification. This results in a fire and it is common with bulb wires inside ceilings or walls.

CFL bulbs in an enclosed fixture is another reason why bulbs may lead to fire since the heat fails to dissipate. Bulbs that are inside a globe or a glass scone carry more risk for fire than others.

Types of CFL Bulbs

While searching for the right type of CFL bulb for your home, remember

  • “Dimmable” bulbs work on only dimmer switches
  • “Three-way” bulbs work on only 3-way sockets
  • Most electric timers and photocells do not work with CFL bulbs

The following are the types of bulbs that you will commonly get in the market –

  • Spiral Bulbs –
  • A-shaped bulbs –
  • Globe –
  • Tubed-
  • Candle –
  • Posts –
  • Indoor Reflectors –
  • Outdoor Reflectors –

Rob Wreglesworth

Rob is the head writer at Innovate Eco sharing knowledge and passion cultivated over 10 years working in the Environmental Sector. He is on a mission to build a community of people that are passionate about solving environmental problems.

Recent Content