A lot of hype has been made about compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), particularly when it comes to trying to convince homeowners they really make a difference. But even ENERGY STAR promotes CFLs because of their significant reduction in energy use when compared to standard light bulbs [source: ENERGY STAR].
Installing CLFs in your kitchen can be an instant energy-saver. The kitchen will retain as much light as it had under traditional light bulbs, but the energy consumption could decrease by as much as 75 percent. This translates into a lower electricity bill which, over time, adds up to significant savings. That means a CFL bulb, which has a lifespan of about 10 years, can pay for itself. According to ENERGY STAR, one CLF bulb, which costs about $10, will burn for 6,000 hours, where it would take six traditional bulbs, which cost about $40 total, to burn for the same amount of time.
The CFL bulbs also produce 75 percent less heat, making them safer to the touch and, in summer, can lead to less air-conditioning needed to counteract heat from lighting [source: ENERGY STAR ]. Check out the ENERGY STAR Web site's interactive guide to learn about the different kinds of CFLs and how much you could save over the lifetime of the bulb.
CFLs aren't perfect, though. Many homeowners don't like the color of light they produce. And because CFLs contain mercury, they need to be disposed of properly -- usually that means taking them to a special facility that can discard them safely. The EPA offers an online guide via ENERGY STAR to help locate recycling facilities in your area [source: ENERGY STAR].