Are Energy Saving Bulbs Really Worth It?
This article answers several often asked questions about LED lights.
The question is are energy efficient light bulbs (fluorescent) better than the original light bulbs or do they cause more stress waiting for them to come on and use more electricity. The main idea of a ‘normal’ light bulb is that the electricity runs through the filament, and because the filament is so thin it offers a good bit of resistance to the electricity, and this resistance turns electricity energy into heat. The heat is then enough to make the filament white hot, and the white part is light. The filament glows because of the heat – it is incandescence.
The problem with these light bulbs is that in the heating up of the filament it wastes a lot of electricity. Heat is not light and the purpose of the light bulb is obviously light so the heat energy is a waste. Therefore the incandescent bulbs are very inefficient.
However the fluorescent bulbs use a completely different method to produce light. There are electrodes at both ends of a florescent tube, and a gas containing argon and mercury vapor is inside the tube. A stream of electrons flow through the gas from one electrode to another, these electrons then bump into the mercury atoms and excite them. As the mercury atoms move from the exited state back to normal they give off ultra violet photons. These hit the phosphor coating the inside of the tube and creates visible light.
A fluorescent bulb is 4-6 times more efficient than normal bulbs. That’s why you can buy a 15-watt fluorescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb.
Some of the questions that you may have could be similar to these:
Are they as bright? If you buy the right low energy bulb, it will be just as bright as the one you’re replacing but will have much better effects and cost a less.
Don’t they take ages to get up to full brightness? All CFLs (compact fluorescent) and other fluorescent tubes take some time to reach full brightness after they are switched on. However, some are much better than others. If you choose an Energy Saving Trust Recommended bulb, you can be assured that it meets our strict criteria on lighting up period, as well as all the other standards we require. LEDs reach full brightness just as quickly as old-fashioned bulbs. If you want instant full brightness everywhere in your house, then you could consider LEDs throughout. LEDs for standard light fittings are still expensive and not widely available, but prices are expected to come down.
Do they still give off a harsh light? When buying any low-energy light, you have a choice about the quality of light it will produce. This is mainly to do with the color of the light if it is a dark magnolia color you don’t expect to get a bright white glow for example.
Is it true that they contain poisonous chemicals? CFLs contain tiny amounts of mercury. This cannot possibly harm you while the light is working. Even if you break the bulb in your house, the amount of mercury that can escape is tiny and not considered a hazard. Nevertheless, we would recommend that you clear up carefully after breaking a CFL. Like all electronic appliances, CFLs should be disposed of by taking to an approved recycling point. LEDs do not contain mercury though, as with all electronic appliances, they should be recycled at an approved facility.
However, despite all the apparent drawbacks, energy saving bulbs are in fact a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient way to light your home.
Gary has been an electrician for electrical contractors JR Wood for a number of years and has seen the use of these light bulbs increase dramatically, not just in a domestic scenario.
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