A long-standing detriment of standard compact fluorescent light bulbs has been their ineffectiveness in cold temperatures (40 degrees and below). This has been conquered by newer CFL technology in the cold cathode compact fluorescent light bulb. The majority of pitfalls of standard compact fluorescent light bulbs have been engineered out of cold cathode CFLs.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Standard compact fluorescent light bulbs use a tiny tungsten filament on each end of the coiled tube; these filaments are heated upon lamp startup and subsequently provide the catalyst which causes the mercury dust in the tube to light up. This is known as "hot cathode" compact fluorescent technology. Cold cathode compact fluorescent light bulbs remove the tungsten filament and instead use higher voltage to excite the mercury and create light.
Cold Cathode Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
In place of the tungsten filament is a solid metal thimble. These thimbles are significantly stronger and more rugged than tungsten filaments, able to withstand much harsher operating conditions. This is why cold cathode compact fluorescents work in rough service applications that would normally quickly destroy standard CFLs, such as those involving shock, vibration, and rapid power cycling. Because cold cathode CFLs do not need to reach as high a temperature as standard CFLs to produce illumination, they can easily operate in temperatures as low as -10 degrees F.
This cold weather operation is something that has plagued standard CFLs for years. Being able to use an energy efficient light bulb in temperatures far below freezing used to be out of the question. Now, with cold cathode CFL technology, it's as simple as screwing in the light bulb. Using cold cathode compact fluorescent light bulbs in outside lights during winter and other cold seasons is a great step up for CFLs in general, not to mention the potential for rough service applications.