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Ask Mr. Tight Watt: CFL Bulb Use  Smart Choices Archive

Ask Mr. Tight Watt: CFL Bulb Use

Mr. Tight Watt finds answers to your energy-efficiency questions.

Ask Mr. Tight-Watt

Question: Is it safe to use CFLs in my refrigerator and in the exhaust fans above my stove and in bathrooms? I'm wondering if the exposure to cold, heat, and humidity has any negative effects. –Robin, a Smart Choices reader
Mr. Tight Watt called on Rob Kirkpatrick, Service Concepts, to provide a response. Service Concepts produces our online cooperative catalog of products.
Rob replies:
Refrigerators: Safe, yes. Energy saving, a little bit. CFLs do not warm up as quickly, nor get as bright, in cool environments, but you can certainly use them. Depending on the refrigerator, if the bulb is out in the open in the refrigerator space, I’d suggest an “A” lamp style covered CFL, to eliminate the possibility that something in the refrigerator could get caught on the spirals of a bare CFL. If the bulb is enclosed, behind a protector lens, you could use a bare spiral CFL with no trouble, if it will fit. However, often, refrigerators use smaller bulbs, and are not on (hopefully!) more than a few minutes a day. Therefore, you may be looking at the possibility of having to hunt for a smaller (and perhaps more expensive) CFL to fit. With higher cost, and not much operating time per day, the payback on the small amount of savings from those few minutes could be very long.
Exhaust fans: Not recommended. CFLs are designed to work in ambient conditions ranging from cold to hot outdoor ambient temperatures, but not recommended for use where they will be directly subjected to additional heating sources. The hot environment of a range exhaust fan would result in a shorter operating life for the CFL, reducing the likelihood that it would be a wise investment.
Bathrooms: Absolutely – no problem. There are even many CFL models specifically designed to fit bathroom décor – most notably globes that are popular for many bathroom fixtures. Globes, and other “covered” CFL fixtures are usually designed to be fine in damp locations (not direct water spray, but bathrooms, under eaves outdoors, etc. should be no problem). While bare spirals could also be used in bathrooms and other humid locations, I would advise the covered models such as globes or “A” style lamps (the ones shaped like an old fashioned incandescent bulb).
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