A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also called compact fluorescent light, energy-saving light, and compact fluorescent tube, is a fluorescent lamp designed to replace an incandescent lamp; some types fit into light fixtures formerly used for incandescent lamps. The lamps use a tube which is curved or folded to fit into the space of an incandescent bulb, and a compact electronic ballast in the base of the lamp.
Compared to general-service incandescent lamps giving the same amount of visible light, CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power, and last eight to fifteen times longer. A CFL has a higher purchase price than an incandescent lamp, but can save over five times its purchase price in electricity costs over the lamp's lifetime. Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain mercury, which complicates their disposal. In many countries, governments have established recycling schemes for CFLs and glass generally.
CFLs radiate a spectral power distribution that is different from that of incandescent lamps. Improved phosphor formulations have improved the perceived color of the light emitted by CFLs, such that some sources rate the best "soft white" CFLs as subjectively similar in color to standard incandescent lamps.
The parent to the modern fluorescent lamp was invented in the late 1890s by Peter Cooper Hewitt. The Cooper Hewitt lamps were used for photographic studios and industries.
Edmund Germer, Friedrich Meyer, and Hans Spanner patented a high-pressure vapor lamp in 1927. George Inman later teamed with General Electric to create a practical fluorescent lamp, sold in 1938 and patented in 1941. Circular and U-shaped lamps were devised to reduce the length of fluorescent light fixtures. The first fluorescent bulb and fixture were displayed to the general public at the 1939 New York World's Fair.