The Squiggly and Beyond: Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb Options You May Not Have Noticed

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You’ve probably seen those squiggly CFL bulbs, and you probably also know that they can save you about $40 in electricity costs over the lifetime of the bulb. But you may not have noticed that there are lots of other styles, shapes and kinds available, including cold cathode fluorescent light (CCFL) bulbs. CCFLs tend to have longer life span than standard CFLs, and they’re not as affected by frequent on-and-off switching, making them ideal for commercial applications and other places where a longer life is needed.

We’ve talked about the CFL bulb styles for the design-conscious before, but we want to do a deeper dive to give you a better sense of how to find the right bulb for your fixture. Below is a quick overview of the various CFL bulb categories you’ll find at the BrightenSM Online Energy Store, a TXU Energy online savings resource. Remember, not all CFL bulbs are compatible with dimmers or other switches you may have installed. Always read the package to make sure you’re getting a compatible bulb before you buy:

  • Spiral and Tubed - The spiral bulb is the most popular type of CFL bulb and is designed for general use around the home. This bulb is great for harp shade lamps, pendant fixtures and ceiling fixtures. Spiral bulbs generally offer the most light for the least amount of money and are available in a range of lighting options such as soft white, natural light and daylight. There are even some color options available. View our selection of standard base spirals. Early CFL bulbs — essentially straight versions of the spiral bulbs — are commonly called “tubed” and are still available in pin- and Mogul-base bulbs depending on where you shop.
  • Capsule - Capsule bulbs feature a spiral bulb within a decorative cover. The shape of the cover determines the capsule type:
  • A-shaped - CFL bulbs offer the same look of a traditional incandescent bulb with the energy efficiency of a spiral bulb. Use this type of bulb in fixtures where the bulb is visible, such as bath vanities, mini-pendants or fixtures with clear diffusers. View our selection of capsule bulbs.
  • Globe or G-Shape - CFL bulbs feature a rounded capsule that looks best with open fixtures in which the bulb will be visible, such as hanging pendants and various types of bathroom vanity fixtures when you want a more rounded look. View our selection of globe bulbs.
  • Torpedo/Candle (B, CA / BA, F-Shape) – CFL bulbs are perfect for use in decorative fixtures where you want an elegant look. “Flame-tip candle” shapes offer an extra bit of style. Plus the sleek shape allows these bulbs to fit in narrow fixtures. View our selection of torpedo and candle bulbs.
  • Reflectors – Reflector CFL bulbs provide directional light and are available in a variety of beam widths and wattages — as well as being designated for indoor or outdoor use. Reflector indoor bulbs are designed for recessed ceiling lights in kitchens and in some ceiling fans. Reflector outdoor/wet location bulbs are intended for outside use, and they’re sealed to withstand moisture from rain and snow. As with other CFL bulbs, always check for compatibility with any timers, motion sensors and other lighting controls you have.
  • 3-Way – Have a 3-way light fixture? Use a 3-way CFL bulb. Just like its incandescent cousin, it delivers three distinct levels of light when used with a 3-way switch — with one-third as much electricity usage as an incandescent 3-way bulb. View our selection of 3-way bulbs.
  • Dimmable – Dimmable CFL bulbs are intended for fixtures or lamps with dimmer switches. They tend to work well with mechanical slide and rotary controls but not as well with electronic dimming controls, programmable controls and remote controls. View our selection of dimmable bulbs.

You no longer have to be limited to those spiral bulbs as you do your part to save energy — you can go “beyond the squiggly” and experiment online with some different styles, features and shapes to create the look you want with the ENERGY STAR® Choose a Light Guide.

Have you made the switch to CFL bulbs? What types have you tried? Tell us your preferences in the comments section.