What Type of CFL Should I Use?
Q: "Can I use a 200-watt CFL in a fixture designed for 60 watt incandescent bulbs?"
The enclosed ceiling fixtures at my house are marked "maximum 60-watt bulbs." Can a 20-watt compact fluorescent light bulb, which gives the same light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb, be used safely in this location?
—John Frenzel, Saginaw, Mich.
Kevin O'Connor replies: According to Gabrielle Boose, CFL Product Manager for GE Lighting, as long as the bulb's actual wattage use is lower than 60, you're okay. A 20-watt fluorescent burns cooler than a 60-watt incandescent bulb, so there's no danger to your fixture or your house if you put one in.
However, that fluorescent may burn out sooner than it should, depending on which fixture it's in and how it's made. If your fixture is enclosed—entirely concealed by a glass shade or globe—and recessed into a ceiling or wall, the heat generated by the ballast inside the bulb's base might fry the bulb's electronics. Boose says the bulb's packaging will make clear whether a bulb will work in a recessed, enclosed fixture and will also note any other restrictions, such as whether it can be used with dimmer switches or photo sensors, or is suited to outdoor use.