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Q. Dear Umbra,

A CFL that I’ve had for less than a year just burnt out. It’s happened to me numerous times before. We’re told that one of the money-saving benefits of CFLs is that they last much longer than incandescent bulbs, but that’s not been my experience. Am I buying the wrong brands? Has demand for cheap CFLs caused manufacturers to cut corners? What’s the deal?

Caroline E.
Richmond, Va.

Photo by Seth.

A. Dearest Caroline,

Your question is important, not only because you’re frustrated with your fritzy CFLs, but because 2012 is a turning point in the history of lightbulbs.