Ask the Help@Home Handyman

Question: I want to use compact fluorescent bulbs for environmental reasons. I use them in the garage, but since they take a while to warm up, when I flip the switch on, there’s hardly any light for a few minutes, often longer than even I needed to be in the garage. Is there an environmentally friendly alternative for such spaces (hallway, garage, basement, entryway) that provides instant light the way an incandescent bulb does?

Answer: To my knowledge, the short answer is no. Besides CFLs, there are also Halogen, Xenon, and LED light bulbs. Halogen and Xenon bulbs generate a lot of heat and don’t offer much energy savings over incandescent bulbs. 120V LED bulbs are fairly new in their development and are still pricey. They use very little electricity and last a very long time, but the light output and quality are low.

Some CFL bulbs are marketed as “instant on”. These might work for your application, although they will still take time to reach 100% brightness. You may also try CFLs labeled for “outdoor use”, as these should work better in cold temperatures.

In the case of the garage lights, also consider:

  • If they are only used for brief periods, the energy savings/environmental benefits from CFLs may be minimal
  • Cold temperatures in a garage can lead to longer “warm-up” times for CLF bulbs
  • CFLs have a shorter life when turned on and off for brief periods

I would recommend good old incandescent bulbs in your case. Natural light is always nice, and although not cheap, adding a window to the side of the garage or a row of windows to the garage doors can really brighten up the space.

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