CFL - Cold, fugly luminescence
September 12, 2008 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Are there some specific CFL models that will light just like my old soft incandescent light bulbs?

I bought a bunch of CFL bulbs but my girlfriend won't let me turn them on because they look kind of heinous -- blue and pretty fluorescent like a university lab or the morgue.

I / we like that warm, yellow-white, incandescent glow of 40 and 60 watt GE bulbs. You know what I mean. Anybody had any luck finding a certain brand / wattage that mimics that particularly well?
posted by metajc to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: btw, last model i bought was a four-pack of "n:vision day light 14w (60w equivalent)" coiled CFL bulbs. A little dark, a little sickly green/blue.
posted by metajc at 4:38 PM on September 12, 2008

Feit Electric CFLs are pretty prevalent around these parts. They don't seem to have any sort of noticeably gross green/blue cast.
posted by strangecargo at 4:54 PM on September 12, 2008

Here's a nifty picture that shows some various bulbs output spectra.
The reason CFLs look weird is that they put out a different spectrum than incandescents do and generally that means more blues, things look colder etc. Your best bet is to muck around and find some spectra that are broad (those phillips look decent) or to get bulbs that are phosphor coated, that usually helps some.

CFLs take a while when turned on to output their normal color. Usually by then they look a lot better, it takes about five minutes but the colors look a lot better after a bit, so maybe you should just wait a bit. Also, a good lampshade my help some.
posted by Large Marge at 5:04 PM on September 12, 2008

Best answer: The term you're looking for is color temperature. According to Wikipedia, day light is around 5000K. You want something more in the 3500K range. You should be able to find CFLs closer to this (IIRC, most of them mark the color temp somewhere on the package).
posted by sbutler at 5:32 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are two main things you need to know about fluorescent lighting to get the results you want.

1. Color temperature. An incandescent lamp's color is usually between 2700-3000 degrees Kelvin. This is the range you want to shoot for when you buy a fluorescent lamp. The higher the number, the cooler (towards blue) the light. What you were looking at was probably around 4200K- yuck.

2. Color rendering index. This number basically describes how accurately colors are perceived. 100 is the highest score and the higher the number, the higher the quality of light. Crappy high pressure sodium lamps (the orange lights you see in parking lots) can have a CRI as low as 25, the lamps you bought were probably about a 62. The lamps you want (and are available) have a CRI of 80 or above.

These numbers might be printed right on the box, but if they're not, hop on to GE, Philips, or Sylvania's web site and download the lamp catalogs to figure out the model number for the compact fluorescent you want. You can take that to any lighting store and get exactly what you need. Best of luck, and don't forget to recycle your CFL's properly!
posted by Thin Lizzy at 5:55 PM on September 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I've generally had good results from CFL's labelled "warm white". If there's no info on the box about what kind of light they put out, they'll be a bit of a lucky dip. In my experience, the cheap and nasty no-name CFL's sold at cheap and nasty no-name shops generally put out cheap and nasty light.
posted by flabdablet at 6:44 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do higher-quality CFLs last longer than cheapo ones?
(Excuse piggybacking but it seems worthwhile extra info.)
posted by airplain at 8:14 PM on September 12, 2008

I've tried 4 different brands looking for the one with the warmest color, and n:vision Soft White (~2500k) is my favorite.
posted by roofone at 8:43 PM on September 12, 2008

I'm sure you've figured this out from the above, but "daylight" isn't just "not very warm", it's "the kind of light that isn't lightbulb light". Daylight's very cool light, and while I love the (good-quality light, but not warm) daylight bulbs we have in our kitchen, they wouldn't do in the living room.

In other words, the bluish cast is not (necessarily) because of CFLs or because of cheap bulbs, but because you've got "bluish cast" bulbs. I imagine you'd have the same response to "daylight" incandescents (a mistake I made once myself).
posted by mendel at 9:36 PM on September 12, 2008

I couldn't make the switch from incandescent to fluorescent until the latter were as warm as the former. Every compact fluorescent I've bought from the local Ace Hardware and Costco has made me happy. I look for ones that say warm or natural light on the box, and go for lights that are equivalent to 40 - 60W incandescent.
posted by zippy at 11:29 PM on September 12, 2008

Another thing you could consider for changing the perceived color temperature of your lights would be the things around the lights. For example, I use a relatively warm CFL (a Phillips model I got at Wal Mart I believe), but my walls are beige and a light-brown brick. Since the light is reflected a lot, the walls make the room seem a lot warmer.

Also consider how you're directing the light. One quality that gives fluorescent lights their feel in office buildings is that they tend to bare bulbs aimed directly at the surfaces they are illuminating. If the lighting is instead set up to be more indirect, it will take on more of the qualities of the reflected light. My lights point at the ceiling, rather than the desk, which I think also improves things. Of course, another option is to carefully select a lamp shade.
posted by The Eponymous Pseudonymous Rex at 2:43 AM on September 13, 2008

Strong second for n:vision Soft White pointed at the walls (not pointed directly at the things you're trying to illuminate).
posted by kalapierson at 3:07 AM on September 13, 2008

Try the Sylvania Daylight Extra bulbs. I really like them. But my problem with normal CFLs is that they were very "pink" seeming. Where these bulbs seem to be much closer to natural light.
posted by gjc at 7:22 AM on September 13, 2008

« Older Can you use an AASP to fufil an AppleCare service?   |   Bikram Yoga in Santa Monica? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.