A year after a complete kitchen remodeling job here in San Antonio I've discovered that they're phasing out incandescent bulbs. The new compact fluorescent ones look terrible when they're off, but make good light. The trouble is that the new bulbs may not work with the touch dimmer switches in the kitchen and dining room. Are there models of fluorescents that work on all dimmers? The new bulbs are cheap but what's the cost of upgrading hardware?
Randy D. ~ San Antonio, Texas
Randy, as the U.S. follows the lead of other countries and completes the phase out of incandescent bulbs, in favor of using energy saving compact fluorescent lights (CFL), many more homeowners are going to be in your situation. The great news is that there are cost effective options for those who want to use compact fluorescent light bulbs with the existing standard dimmer switches in their homes. Unfortunately, I do not know of a dimmable CFL that will work with the touch electronic dimmers, which you have recently installed.
One option for you would be to replace your touch dimmers with some standard slide or toggle dimmers, which can cost as little as $15 a piece. This would allow you to use a dimmable CFL, such as The Long Life Plus Soft White Energy Saving Bulb which is available from GE, who claims that the product can be used with any standard dimmer switch. The company also claims that these bulbs are Energy Star qualified and can last up to 10,000 hours, which is about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb of equal wattage. These bulbs cost between $8-$11 a piece, while a regular CFL bulb, which can not be used with a standard dimmer switch, can cost between $3-$5.
Another option is to replace your existing dimmer switches with new ones that are designed to work with any standard CFL bulb. These specialized dimmer switches cost about $40 a piece, but allow you to use the less expensive types of CFL bulbs. Like other energy efficient upgrades, it seems that spending more money upfront on the equipment, may allow you to save money over the long haul on the operation.