Compact Fluorescent
Scott sent this question in (Makers correct me if I’m wrong in my response and/or debate the merits of CFL, you know you want to!)…

Hi Phillip -

I thought you might be able to either answer this question or suggest someone (or somewhere) that could. I have had a hard time getting a straight answer.

I’m no genius when it comes to things electrical. It seems to me like this is something that should become an important part of public knowledge. There are so many reasons to embrace CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) (like pollution, the cost of oil, global warming and the future of our planet), but if people (like me) remain in relative ignorance, its never going to happen. I guess I’m taking a step in the right direction, but I’m still kind of in the dark (I really did not intend that pun, sorry).

My question is about CFLs, or compact fluorescent light-bulbs (more formally: compact fluorescent lamps)

I bought this lamp at ikea, and near the socket it says to use a maximum 50 watt type R bulb or a 40 watt type A bulb (it says, in far fewer words, that exceeding this rating could cause the whole thing to go up in flames). I assume they mean incandescent. So I bought a CFL to use in this lamp. My CFL is 12 watts, which is equivalent to about 50 watts. My question is: is it safe to use this bulb in my lamp?

Anyway, ikea customer service only said “don’t use a bulb that exceeds the wattage recommendation.” I have emailed GE, Philips and some other big faceless lighting and power companies. So far, no one has returned my reply.


The short answer is yes it will work, the light -output- is equivalent to 50 watts. The CFL just needs 12 watts and that’s what it will get.

Oh, the usual caveats apply – for maximum safety please avoid electricity and only use USDA approved sunlight and stay away from any focusing lens to insure everything won’t go up in flames.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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