In the living room, for example, where there are four recessed lights along one wall, Mr. Chipman tested six dimmable bulbs and determined that one made by Greenlite with the same hue as incandescents worked best in certain spots, attractively lighting an exposed brick wall and maple bookshelves. A Satco brand bulb with a slightly whiter hue made a limestone-tiled fireplace in the middle of the wall look best, so he installed one above it. Mr. Chipman’s wife, Liz Diamond, 53, a theater director who considers herself even more particular about aesthetics than her husband, said investing time in trying multiple bulbs made a big difference. “There was one bulb that made the limestone look really freaky, ugly and moldy,” she said, but the Satco bulb now in place makes the space look “fabulous.” “I was amazed at how much variation there was, but you can really get a color that you like,” she said. Mr. Chipman agreed. “You really have to experiment with different bulbs to find the ones that work for you,” he said. “But they exist.”
Get the right color for your application. I use GE 6500K daylight bulbs during the day to completely match outside light--you would be hard pressed to figure out if the light from the other room was from a window or the bulb. I also have some old tube "full-spectrum" fluorescents to wake up to in the morning in my bedroom. Again, these have fantastic matching color rendition to daylight.
For nighttime, it's best to limit your exposure to blue light, as it disrupts the production of melatonin and hence your sleepiness. I switch to tungsten matching lights at night as much as possible. For matching incandescents, both the n:vision soft white and GE series match the color. The n:vision lights instantaneously, whereas the the GE takes too long to light (and has other objections below).
Many CF bulbs take a delay to light. This is annoying and a common complaint for many brands of bulbs. I've found that GE's Soft White 20W(75W) has a 1/2 second light time that drives me insane.
In addition, every CF I've ever owned takes time to warm to full brightness. I don't mind a short delay. I've had no problem with the the warm-up time, but in hotels I've seen lights that have taken literally minutes to light up to full brightness.
A lot of people have reported the CFs aren't lasting as long as claimed. I can believe this, especially if they bought by price. The compact fluorescents also are very intolerant of cycling--don't use them in closets and places you don't need the lights on for hours at a time. The lights are also sensitive to overheating--so don't stick them in unventilated fixtures, or recessed ceiling cans, or in general any upside-down fixture.
Now for long life. In 1991 or so I bought a very early CF. It was underpowered--I think it's a 7W. I used it for a few years and then went to college. It's still sitting in my old room at my parent's place, and I use it whenever I visit. Granted, this means it doesn't have many hours on it, but that CF bulb is older than many people I know.
My own specific recommendations are to get N:Vision soft white CFs for general use. I can say they are as close to an incandescent as I've seen in CFs.
I built an awesome "halogen torchiere killer" that I'll describe in another post.