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Study: Compact fluorescent lamps safer than perceived (4/6)

April 6, 2010
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Underwriters Laboratories (UL) unveiled results from its compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) safety study that found consumers may be able to use CFLs more broadly and safely than previously believed or understood, according to a recent press release. UL’s CFL Safety Study found no fire or shock hazards in CFLs when used in light fixtures, lighting controllers, and switches traditionally used with incandescent light bulbs.

Fluorescent and LED lighting have been used commercially for decades and continue to gain popularity with homeowners due to their increased interest in energy efficiency. In fact, CFLs are installed in about 11 percent of available sockets in homes. The findings from UL’s CFL Safety Study give consumers several reasons to use these energy efficient light bulbs in even more applications. Study findings revealed the following:
  • CFLs perform well and safely in a variety of lighting applications
  • Temperatures of CFLs are generally lower than those of incandescents when used in a wide range of lighting applications
  • CFLs’ lifespans may be reduced when used in fixtures where switches are turned on and off repeatedly, but will not pose any safety hazards when used according to manufacturer’s specifications
  • Advancements in CFL technology improve performance and eliminate end-of-life issues that had previously raised safety concerns, like popping sounds or smoke
“Consumers are highly receptive to CFLs and LEDs because they use less energy, produce less heat and can dramatically cut down on energy bills,” said John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety at UL. “We conducted the study because we were seeing an increase in public concern over the safety of CFLs. Our research will provide a foundation for public education on the safety and use of CFLs.”

UL’s CFL Safety Study examined the following: substitution of CFLs into a variety of light fixtures, compatibility of CFLs with light controls and safety hazards related to switches. Additionally, it studied end-of-life behaviors of CFLs, which is where most consumer concerns lie.

The light fixture substitution analysis tested for potential temperature hazards of using CFLs in common household lamps and open fixtures. Tests found that not only were there no safety hazards, but even the hottest CFL emitted less heat than a 40 watt incandescent light bulb. Additionally, this test did not find any end-of-life safety issues.

UL also investigated CFLs when used with controls such as switches, motion-detecting switches, wireless controls and dimmers designed for incandescent lamps. While no safety problems were uncovered, the study did find performance issues such as flashing, flickering, poor light output and reduced product life that could impact consumer satisfaction of CFLs.

"UL's research will help give peace of mind that CFLs are safer and will provide valuable information for manufacturers as CFL technology evolves," said Alex Boesenberg, manager of Technical Programs for the Lighting Systems Division of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. "We applaud UL's research and ongoing standards revisions to address consumer concerns and provide ongoing awareness to better understand typical behaviors and best uses for CFLs."

To learn more about CFLs safety, visit

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