Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

CFL lightbulb

CFLs can directly replace standard incandescent bulbs in most parts of your home. If you cannot afford to buy LEDs, CFLs are still a good second-best alternative for energy efficient lighting.


  • Cost from $5 per bulb (dimmable bulbs may cost more).
  • Use up to 80% less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs for the same light output.
  • A lifetime of at least 6,000 hours, around 6 times longer than a standard incandescent light bulb.

Keep in mind

  • CFLs that are turned on and off a lot may have a shorter life. Use LED bulbs for lights that are switched frequently.
  • CFLs shouldn't be used in closed fittings as they need good ventilation to ensure their long life. If they get too hot, they are likely to fail early.
  • For recessed downlights, replacing the whole fitting with a dedicated LED downlight is recommended (instead of fitting a conventional CFL bulb into the existing fitting).
  • Most CFLs are not dimmable. If you want to use an efficient light with dimmer switches, opt for dimmable LEDs which are more widely available than dimmable CFLs from hardware and specialty lighting stores. Make sure the LED you choose is indeed dimmable (not all are).
  • CFLs can take a minute to reach full brightness.
  • CFLs contain a small amount of mercury (up to 5mg), so take special care when handling and disposing of them.
  • Avoid using CFLs where they are easily broken, like in children's bedside lamps. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are a safer alternative. If you install CFLs hold them at their base and don't use excessive force.
  • If a CFL breaks, vacate and air the room immediately for at least 15 minutes. Then follow the recommended clean up procedures to reduce your chance of mercury exposure.

Clean up of Energy Saving Bulbs - New Zealand National Poisons Centre

Disposal and recycling of CFLs

At the end of their life, put CFLs into a sealed glass or plastic jar to protect them from breaking, and if possible recycle them. Ask your local lighting supplier or council about CFL recycling options near you. Otherwise put them in your normal household rubbish, preferably outside.

Where to buy

Most hardware stores, many supermarkets and specialty lighting stores sell CFLs.