I grabbed the first CFs I saw, too. They said something about "natural light" and "white light" and all that, so they sounded good. When I got them home and installed one, it seems incredibly blue and flat and bleah. I think that indoors, we are used to a more yellow cast. Technically, the bulb I got may be more like sunlight, but aesthetically it is baaaaad. I will eventually return it to BigBoxMart and see if they have something in a lower temperature range.
We have gotten CFs before that are an acceptable color and I really like them.
I swapped out our living room to CF's. They used to have six 75w floods in the ceiling cans. I bought six 13w floods. So I went from 450w to 78w basically I am using the same power with all six as I did with just one incandescent. Now I don't mind when the kids leave the lights on all the time.
I have very few incandescents left in the house, just the bathroom vanity (on a dimmer) and the bedroom ceiling (also on a dimmer) Everything outside and even the chandelier have CF's in them. Those little 3 and 4 watt candelabra base lights are pricey!
We live in an older house here in the tropics, and one of the things I love about the CFs is that they don't put out anywhere near as much heat. For example, our vanity fixtures have room for 6 bulbs, but the bathroom gets unbearably hot with 240 watts of incandescents in there, so I usually put in just one or two bulbs. If I can find aesthetically acceptable CF replacements, we can have plenty of light AND stay cool. :-)
So am I right in assuming an ideal color temperature is between about 4700K and 7200K? Is there a downside to using a more "white" and less "yellow" bulb? More energy consumption?
"Ideal" is a matter of preference.... If you're used to incandescents, you want a cooler (more red) light -- a 100W incan. puts our a temperature of 2870K, but when it blows out - that flash is hotter (more blue in color because the filament is a lot hotter while it breaks apart):P So somewhere around there for a CF bulb. Fluorescent light temperature is different than that of a incandescent bulb - that wiki you linked to mentioned black bodies (perfect emitters) of which a fluorescent light is not (and doesn't follow the color temperature scale exactly).
If you want to mimic sunlight (which is different than daylight mind you) -- that greatly depends on what time of day and your latitude and the season you want to mimic. But that range is around 2000(sun rise/set)-5400K (summer - noon). Daylight - which takes into consideration the sun+sky ranges from 2000 (sky doesn't add much at rise/set)-6500K. And finally, color temperatures rise in the shade - that is, no direct sunlight.
Now this probably is really confusing.... but here's the last bit... CRI - Color Rating Index. CF bulbs are not black bodies -- that is, they do not emit all the time. In fact, they are operating at twice your mains power frequency cycle and are off two times per cycle! During that cycle, power is not constant - so the color temperature emitted changes with time - at twice your mains power frequency. So for those of us operating @ 60Hz (most of us) - our lights cycle at 120Hz.
Now, back to CRI. The CRI equates a non black body light source to a black body light source. The scale is from 0-100 - 100 being the black body - perfect color temperature representation. But, this comparison only works to compare two sources of the same representation. So if your bulb selection includes a CRI index, pick the color you want and then pick the highest CRI Mind you, 6000K with a 70CRI may not be better than a 5000K with 60CRI - temperature is key.
So my final point is - the best bulb temperature is a personal thing. For a reference, commercial/professional daylight photo flood lights are 4800-5000K - which is where I'd like my lights to be 6500K is another common temperature and a lot of home-use (that is, not professional) electronics are calibrated to this color temperature. It's likely your P&S camera is default at 6500K
Hopefully I didn't scare anyone You can learn all this by reading photography books and such :P But picking the "right" color isn't too hard. And if it's really bad, you can always return your bulb and you'll know - yes, I need more blue (hotter light) or more red (cooler)
Time is the best teacher. Unfortunately it kills all its students.
You didn't scare me too bad, I remember some stuff about black body radiation from heat transfer in college.
I don't think the wiki article is saying that the bulb is a black body emitter. As I understood it, it was saying that a black body is the standard against which other light sources are compared - that a "5000K CF" bulb's color is directly comparable to a black body radiation emitter at a temperature of 5000K (there is no way that the CF bulb is burning at 8500 degrees F!).
A couple years ago we bought 4-5 packs of CFL's from Sams club. They were GE's and replaced all our incandescents in the major fixtures.
Within 3 months all were burned out except for 4 (out of 25-30)
We thought it may be a bad batch so we replaced the bad ones with units from Home Depo. $$$ again.
Sure enough almost all were burned out within a few months and the family got tired of a dim house. At the time we were down to 1 CFL per fixture (or less) with a mix of the old incandescent bulbs.
We have a big flagpole and is illuminated at night. I've bought 3 different types of CFL floodlights and if they don't burn out after the 1st rain, will certainly short out within a month or so. All are rated for outdoor use.
Typically, We hear arcing within the base then they quit.
I thought perhaps we are having some high voltage spikes but it's only the CFL's that have problems.
Surely they have warranty but it seems pointless to keep a constant flow of light bulbs.
After spending a few hundred dollars on CFL's we finally grew tired of them and bought a case of 45w incandescents at Sams for only a few $.
We have one of those tall 3-bulb lamp posts out in the back controlled by a photocell and is the only CFL's which have lasted- two years now.
I looked into LED lights but the only ones which seem to emit nearly enough light cost around $80/ea. (Ouch!)
I can't imagine living in a State that ever passed a manditory CFL law.
I'd either buy them abroad or burn candles
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About 2 months ago I also switched the majority of the incandescents over to CFLs. The difference being I purposely looked for bulbs with a guarantee (because I'd heard of the premature burn-out issue).
I didn't find any with a "store" return guarantee, though. If they do quit, the only option is to mail them back to the manufacturer (in my case, in Quebec, if I recall).
Of course that means we also had to save the packaging, with the receipts.