Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Bulbs

Industrial Consumer

City staff are required to buy LEDs.  Compared to fluorescents, LEDs do not contain toxic mercury, are more energy efficient and longer lasting.  

Can't avoid fluorescents?  Try Limited Use CFLs that meet criteria below.  They have lower levels of toxic mercury than other fluorescents.

Required

Suggested

Limited

Prohibited

Info on this product category: Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Bulbs

Why Go Green

Manufacturers are not required to indicate how much toxic mercury is in fluorescent lamps. So in 2008, SF Environment created the nation's first list of fluorescents with the least amount of toxic mercury. Using energy-efficient lighting also reduces demand for coal-burning power plants, which are the largest man-made source of mercury emissions to the air in the U.S.

Why Mercury Is Toxic

When fluorescents break, they release toxic mercury vapors. Short-term acute exposure can cause pneumonia-like symptoms, tremors; muscle atrophy, headaches; decrease of cognitive function. Higher exposures can lead to respiratory failure and death. (Read more).

Mercury released in the air gets into water and fish. When pregnant women eat fish that have mercury, it can lead to a loss of IQ in their children.  

Criteria for Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Bulbs

Limited Use pin-based compact fluorescent lamps (not self-ballasted): 

If LED replacements do not exist, suppliers may only sell products meeting specifications below.

4-Pin CFLs

  • Minimum rated life (hours): 12,000
  • Minimum warranty (years): 1
  • Minimum color rendering index (CRI): 82
  • Maximum mercury content (mg): 3.5

2-Pin CFLs

  • Minimum rated life (hours): 10,000
  • Minimum warranty (years): 1
  • Minimum color rendering index (CRI): 80
  • Maximum mercury content (mg): 2.5

Prohibited:

  • All general service self-ballasted compact fluorescent lamps

Last updated

Last updated: 
August 14, 2019

Guide for City Staff

Need help switching to lighting that's Required above? 

  • Get funding for retrofits with the SF Public Utilities Commission: 415-554-2424, TOSullivan@sfwater.org.
  • Contact Steven Mesh, LC, IESNA, Pacific Energy Center, 415-972-5238, sdmn@pge.com.

Recycling Instructions

Hang posters where lighting is collected for recycling.

In City-owned buildings, pay for a pickup from your lighting vendor or SF Department of Public Health (SFDPH).

In privately-owned buildings, use companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area.

Guide for Small Businesses & Homes

  • Get a free on-site assessment for low-cost installation of energy-saving equipment. Contact SF Energy Watch, 415-355-3769. 
  • Recycle lighting with companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area or the rest of the U.S.

Guide for Large Organizations

  • Get a free on-site assessment for low-cost installation of energy-saving equipment. Contact SF Energy Watch, 415-355-3769.
  • Recycle lighting with companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area or the rest of the U.S.