Q I understand that compact fluorescent lights (CFL) don't work in cold weather. So what I am supposed to use in my unheated garage and outdoor light fixtures?

A You're right, the starting system or ballast of the average CFL is for indoor use. It won't perform well in low temperatures -- generally, the colder it is, the worse it is. The bulb might come on, but might not come up to full light, or it will take a long time to get there.

You'll need to buy a specialty CFL, one fitted with a cold-weather ballast. Called cold cathode technology, these ballasts are similar to what's used in neon lights and they give CFLs a much higher success rate in the cold, even below zero, said Paul McLellan, vice president of Service Lighting Inc. in Maple Grove.

Cold-weather CFls are offered by several manufacturers; check the temperature rating on the label. (Service Lighting's cold-weather lights are available at www.servicelighting.com. Search for "cold cathode." Or call 763-571-3001.)

They'll cost more than the average CFL, $17 to $25, but will last about 25,000 hours. Be sure to save your receipt. If you don't get the performance stated on the label -- for temperature or life expectancy -- take the bulb back to the retailer.

Seed of sesame

Q Are sesame seeds nutritious? Are they a considered a condiment?

A Yes. One of the oldest cultivated plants, sesame (Sesamum indicum) is grown for its seeds, which are a condiment in the United States and most of Europe, but a primary source of cooking oil in Africa and Asia, according to "The World Encyclopedia of Food" by L. Patrick Coyle Jr.

The plant is native to India, but archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest residents of the Tigris and Euphrates valley ate bread made from sesame dough. Sesame seeds are high in protein and provide an oil that is famous for its resistance to rancidity.

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies. Fixit appears daily in Source except on Friday.