There is some concert that Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) are not safe. In the early days there were issues with end of life and using the wrong CFL in the wrong application. Recently Underwriters Laboratories (UL) looked at the CFL. They found, “CFLs do not pose any fire or shock hazard when used in a light fixture, controller, or switch that traditionally has been used for an incandescent source.” –May 2010 AL
The study examined CFL substitution in a variety of fixture types and found that even a CFL with the highest heat output still emits less heat than a 40W incandescent bulb. UL also looked at a lamp’s end-of-life characteristics. This is an area of particular concern for consumers, since earlier generations of CFL products have been rumored to make popping sounds or produce smoke when installed in an incandescent socket. The study also explored what happens when CFLs are used in conjunction with lighting controls such as motion detectors, wireless controls, and dimmers. No safety issues were unearthed here, but the test did indicate that there were issues such as flashing, flickering, poor light output, and reduced lamp life that might impact consumer satisfaction with performance. UL is quick to note that a CFL’s lifespan will be reduced substantially when installed in fixtures where switches are turned off and on frequently.
I’d like to add, that it is bad idea to a regular CFL on a dimmer. It may not explode but it will probably fail instantly. If you have a dimmer on the circuit and you want to use Compact Fluorescent Lamps, either removed the dimmer or use a dimming CFL. TCP has some nice dimming CFLs.
Many people are concerned by the mercury that CFLs contain. But what they fail to realize is the leading source of mercury emissions in the United States is from coal-fired power plants. And where CFLs can be recycled, the mercury from coal is going right into the atmosphere. I invite you to read all “25 Truths About Green” in the Fortune April 2010 Fortune magazine issue.
Considering that CFLs consume up to 75% less electricity than traditional light bulbs, using them decreases the mercury in the atmosphere. According to Energy Star, a 60-watt incandescent bulb adds 5.8 milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime, vs. 1.8 milligrams for a comparable CFL.
–Fortune April 2010
Aside: if you want to see dangerous Fluorescents check out the photo by Craig Cutler. Hot wires running to bare lamp sockets on a paper backdrop.