Terms of the Trade: What Is a CFL Bulb?

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  • Beginner
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CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp. Unlike an incandescent bulb, which produces light via a wire filament that glows as current runs through it, CFLs produce light when electric current travels through a tube of argon and mercury vapor. An ultraviolet light excites the fluorescent coating inside the tube, creating visible light. CFLs sell for anywhere from three to 10 times more than a regular incandescent bulb, but their lifespan is eight to 15 times longer and they use up to 75 percent less energy than an incandescent.