True or False: CFL Light Bulb Warning

I have no clue as to the truth of the story below. I received it in an email with a photo of a burned out CFL light bulb. It was one of those a friend of a friend of a friend said this happened.

I tried to check it out on Snopes to no avail. I plugged a keyword phrase into Google and got lots of hits and stories about similar incidents so I suspect there's some truth here. Do the same and reach some of the articles that warn of the possible dangers of these bulbs.


I hate to say it, but I hate CFL bulbs! I made a huge investment in these suckers and put them in all my lamps in the house. Darkness came, and I turned on the lamp by which I usually read. I couldn't see well enough to read with the one lamp. I could when I had an incandescent bulb in it. I ended up in turning on 3 lamps in the room and finally the overhead lights, thereby using more electricity than I would have used with the 1 lamp with an incandescent bulb.

These bulbs simply don't yield enough light to sew, read, do needlepoint, or any other activity requiring good lighting. I felt like an environmental failure, but I ended up in taking out these "green" bulbs and putting in the old light bulbs. I risk eye strain every day so I certainly don't want to add to the problem with inadequate lighting.

I've bought the highest wattage bulbs available, and they still don't give the same light as a lower-wattage incandescent bulb. Sure, I have middle aged eyes, and I'm aware that at my age, you must have significantly more light in order to see well. I'm one of millions in this age group.

Now we're told to dispose of them as if they are hazardous waste because of the mercury content of them. What's environmentally friendly about that?

Anyway, here's the story that came with a picture of a burned ballast on the CFL bulb. The image didn't allow for copying.

Below is a picture of a CFL light bulb from my bathroom. I turned it on the other day and then smelled smoke after a few minutes. Four inch flames were spewing out of the side of the ballast like a blow torch! I immediately turned off the lights. But I’m sure it would have caused a fire if I was not right there. Imagine if the kids had left the lights on as usual when they were not in the room. I took the bulb to the Fire Department today to report the incident. The Fireman wasn’t at all surprised and said that it was not an uncommon occurrence. Apparently, sometimes when the bulb burns out there is a chance that the ballast can start a fire. He told me that the Fire Marshall had issued reports about the dangers of these bulbs. Upon doing some Internet research, it seems that bulbs made by “Globe” in China seem to have the lion’s share of problems. Lots of fires have been blamed on misuse of CFL bulbs, like using them in recessed lighting, pot lights, dimmers or in track lighting. Mine was not in any of those. It was a normal light socket. I bought these at Wal-Mart. I will be removing all the Globe bulbs from my house. I have not decided yet if we are going back to incandescent bulbs at this point. Just thought you should know.

Takeaway Truth

Don't take my word for it. Do your own research and be prepared for problems if you choose to use these bulbs.


  1. I agree with your experience with energy efficient lighting. It's a big myth in my opinion as is a lot of the so-called energy conservation. It all sounds good on paper but in practice it really doesn't work. It's kind of reminds me of a little kid tinkling in the ocean thinking he's going to make a difference when in reality, one little activity is not going to make a difference. We've been led to believe we're going to save the planet and our pocket books by using double the amounts and risking mercury dangers - what a joke

  2. I am a consulting engineer and manage energy efficiency programs at a large electric utility. I have seen this same story (word-for-word) in several locations on the internet. The story is suspicious, as no location is given and the person is not identified. I sent this story to my lighting consultant, and they contacted Globe Electric. Globe's response was that not only do they not sell their CFLs at Wal-Mart, but they have never received any reports of fires caused by CFLs. The Underwriters Laboratory has stated that CFLs are safe. The EPA and ENERGY STAR have stated that it's almost impossible for a CFL to catch on fire. At the end of life of a CFL, you may see a darkened area on the bulb or base, smell a burning odor, or see a small puff of smoke --- that is normal. Just use CFLs appropriately. Don't put a standard CFL in a dimmable fixuture, unless the package is labeled 'dimmable CFL'. As far as the light output, they have gotten better over the years; you can get CFLs in different color temperatures (i.e., warm white, cool white, etc). Find some that you like, because incandescents will eventually become unavailable.

  3. Thank you for commenting. If I could find CFLs that provided adequate lumens, I'd be happy to purchase them.

  4. I am at a loss to understand how CFL bulbs are not as bright. Some, particularly cheap and / or older ones, take a minute or two to come to full brightness, but a high quality 13-watt PAR 30 CFL casts just as much light as a 65-watt CFL.

    I know, because I have measured the lumens.

    It will also save you a ton of money and the time of two or three light bulb changes, as it lasts longer.

    I am fairly firmly convinced that people have mental blocks against these bulbs that distort their perceptions of reality. A lot of public buildings use these bulbs and people don't even notice. Bring them home, though, and there's a whole bunch of drama.

    Just my opinion.

    Buy name-brand only.