Fluorescent bulbs produce light by running electricity through a gas that produces a field of ultraviolet light energy. This radiated light energy is made to glow by interacting with phosphors coating the inside of the fluorescent bulb glass containment. Fluorescent bulbs produce light much more efficiently than incandescent bulbs.
We're all familiar with the tubular glass bulbs that have been traditionally used to illuminate garages and warehouses. In the 1980s and 90s, these tubular bulbs were reconfigured into CFLs, or Compact Fluorescent Lamps. The most recognizable of CFLs are the helical or "curlicue" bulbs.
CFLs have self-contained ballasts, which regulate the flow of electricity through the bulb. CFLs are produced for domestic use with standard screw-in bases and sold as replacements for incandescent bulbs.
After the turn of the millennium, the lighting industry began promoting the replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs as an energy-saving measure.
This change was met with much resistance due to the lack of nuanced options. Most attempts to comply with this change resulted in spaces that were overly illuminated with unmistakably unflattering garish light. The solution was in the nuance.
When choosing fluorescent lights:
Go low: fluorescents deliver 3-4 times the lumen output (brightness) at comparable wattage of an incandescent bulb
Go warm: warm white fluorescents will deliver a reddish light very comparable to an incandescent bulb
If you want to have the option of dimming, choose fluorescent bulbs that are designated as dimmable. Dimming will also require electronic dimmers compatible with fluorescent bulbs.
If you want to dim, keep in mind that fluorescents will not have a color shift toward the red, as do incandescents. They will only dim.