Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fluorescent Bulbs

This is from the GE Page on Fluorescent Blubs
(It's important to know your bulbs)
Fluorescent light bulbs (including compact fluorescents) are more energy-efficient than regular bulbs because of the different method they use to produce light. Regular bulbs (also known as incandescent bulbs) create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. A lot of the energy used to create the heat that lights an incandescent bulb is wasted. A fluorescent bulb, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and the coating changes it into light you can see. Because fluorescent bulbs don't use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.
What's the difference between a compact fluorescent light bulb and a fluorescent bulb?
The primary difference is in size; compact fluorescent bulbs are made in special shapes (which require special technologies) to fit in standard household light sockets, like table lamps and ceiling fixtures. In addition, most compact fluorescent lamps have an "integral" ballast that is built into the light bulb, whereas most fluorescent tubes require a separate ballast independent of the bulb. Both types offer energy-efficient light.
What compact fluorescent light bulb do I buy to replace a 60-, 75-, 100- or 150-watt regular bulb? How are the watts calculated?
While a regular (incandescent) light bulb uses heat to produce light, a fluorescent bulb creates light using an entirely different method that is far more energy-efficient — in fact, 4-6 times more efficient. This means that you can buy a 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt regular incandescent bulb.
Don't worry about the math, though — we make it easy for you to figure out which compact fluorescent bulb to buy by displaying the equivalent regular watts you're used to prominently on the package. Just look for the wattage you would normally buy in a regular bulb.
In case you're curious, here are the watts needed by regular incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light.
CFL Wattage Standard Bulb CFL Bulb
60w = 13w-15w
75w = 20w
100w = 26w-29w
150w = 38w-42w
Because the wattage of a CFL bulb is much lower than that of an incandescent, you can use higher wattage CFL giving you the equivalent light of a higher wattage incandescent. For example: If your fixture says not to exceed 60 watts, you can use a 15 watt CFL to get the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb or use up to a 42 watt CFL and increase the amount of light.

Related information: How does a compact fluorescent light bulb work?
Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with a dimmer switch?
To use a compact fluorescent bulb on a dimmer switch, you must buy a bulb that's specifically made to work with dimmers (check the package). GE makes a dimming compact fluorescent light bulb (called the Energy Smart Dimming Spirals®) that is specially designed for use with dimming switches. We don't recommend using regular compact fluorescent bulbs with dimming switches, since this can shorten bulb life. (Using a regular compact fluorescent bulb with a dimmer will also nullify the bulb's warranty.)
Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb on my 3-way lamp?
GE does make CFL bulbs for use in 3-way lamps. Check the package for this application. If a regular CFL is use in a 3-way switch, it will work on the middle (medium) setting and it should not damage the bulb. The 3-way switch does not alter the performance of the bulb.
Why does my compact fluorescent light bulb flicker or appear dim when I first turn it on?
The first compact fluorescent bulbs flickered when they were turned on because it took a few seconds for the ballast to produce enough electricity to excite the gas inside the bulb. Thanks to the refined technology in our new GE compact fluorescent bulbs, there is now no significant flicker (less than 1 second). However, these bulbs do require a short warm-up period before they reach full brightness, which is why they may appear dim when first turned on. Compact fluorescent bulbs are best used in fixtures that are left on for longer periods of time, rather than in fixtures that are turned off and on frequently.
Related information: How does a compact fluorescent light bulb work?
Can I use a CFL in applications where I will be turning the lights on/off frequently?
Compact fluorescent light bulbs work best if they are left on for over 15 minutes each time they are turned on. These types of lamps can take up to 3 minutes to warm-up. Warm-up will probably not be noticeable from a user stand point, but the lamp needs to warm-up in order to reach the point of most efficient operation. Frequently switching them on and off will shorten the life of the product. If the life of the lamp is shortened significantly, you will not reap the financial benefits (includes energy & life of lamp), that are common to CFL lamps.
Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb in an enclosed light fixture?
Compact fluorescent light bulbs may generally be used in enclosed fixtures as long as the enclosed fixture is not recessed. Totally enclosed recessed fixtures (for example, a ceiling can light with a cover over the bulb) create temperatures that are too high to allow the use of a compact fluorescent bulb.
Can I use a CFL in any position?
Yes, GE screwbase CFL bulbs can be used in any operating position unless there is text printed on the lamp or packaging that indicates a required operating position.
Can I use a CFL in applications involving vibration such as a ceiling fan or garage door opener?
Generally it is not recommended to use CFLs in vibrating environments. Vibration can cause the electronics in the CFL to fail. There is one CFL bulb (FLE11) that is available for use in a ceiling fan. Check the package for this application.
Can compact fluorescent bulbs create interference with electronic equipment, such as radios?
Many electronic devices, such as radios, televisions, wireless telephones, and remote controls, use infrared light to transmit signals. Infrequently, these types of electronic devices accidentally interpret the infrared light coming from a compact fluorescent bulb as a signal, causing the electronic device to temporarily malfunction or stop working. (For example, your television might suddenly change channels.) Fortunately, this only happens when light is produced at the same wavelength as the electronic device signals, which is rare.
To reduce the chance of interference, avoid placing compact fluorescent bulbs near these kinds of electronic devices. If interference occurs, move the bulb away from the electronic device, or plug either the light fixture or the electronic device into a different outlet.
Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with an electronic timer or photocell (AKA electric eye)?
Some electronic timers and photocells contain parts that are incompatible with compact fluorescent light bulbs; using these bulbs in incompatible products will result in a shorter light bulb life. To find out if an electronic timer or photocell is compatible with compact fluorescent bulbs, check with the manufacturer of the timer or photocell.
Does the EPA recommend the use of CFL bulbs?
Yes. CFLs, when compared with standard incandescent bulbs, offer many benefits. First, they help save energy and money. They use 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs, and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 60-watt incandescent with a 13-watt CFL can save you at least $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb. Second, CFLs offer convenience, because they last longer, and come in different sizes and shapes to fit almost any fixture. In addition, CFLs produce about 70% less heat than standard incandescent bulbs, so they're safer to operate and can help cut energy costs associated with home cooling. When shopping, always look for ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs.
. . .
Is it true that CFLs contain mercury? Why and how much?
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - an average of 5 milligrams (roughly equivalent to the tip of a ball-point pen). Mercury is an essential, irreplaceable element in CFLs and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. By comparison, older home thermometers contain 500 milligrams of mercury and many manual thermostats contain up to 3000 milligrams. It would take between 100 and 600 CFLs to equal those amounts.
There is currently no substitute for mercury in CFLs; however, manufacturers have taken significant steps to reduce mercury used in their fluorescent lighting products over the past decade.
Should I be concerned about using CFLs in my home or should I take any special precautions?
CFLs are safe to use in your home. No mercury is released when the bulbs are in use and they pose no danger to you or your family when used properly. However, CFLs are made of glass tubing and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing the lamp from its packaging, installing it, or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the lamp by its base, and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket by its tubes. Used CFLs should be disposed of properly, learn how to properly dispose.
What do I do with a CFL when it burns out? What is the proper disposal of a CFL bulb?
Follow these guidelines to dispose your CFL properly:
* Like paint, batteries, thermostats, and other hazardous household items, CFLs should be disposed of properly. Do not throw CFLs away in your household garbage if better disposal options exist. To find out what to do first check (where you can find disposal options by using your zip code) or call 1-877-EARTH911 for local disposal options. Another option is to check directly with your local waste management agency for recycling options and disposal guidelines in your community. Additional information is available at Finally, IKEA stores take back used CFLs, and other retailers are currently exploring take back programs.
* If your local waste management agency offers no other disposal options except your household garbage, place the CFL in a plastic bag and seal it before putting it in the trash. If your waste agency incinerates its garbage, you should search a wider geographic area for proper disposal options. Never send a CFL or other mercury containing product to an incinerator.
* ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs have a two-year warranty. If the bulb fails within the warranty period, return it to your retailer.
What should I do if a CFL breaks?
Because there is such a small amount of mercury in CFLs, your greatest risk if a bulb breaks is getting cut from glass shards. Research indicates that there is no immediate health risk to you or your family should a bulb break and it's cleaned up properly. You can minimize any risks by following these proper clean-up and disposal guidelines:
* Sweep up—don't vacuum—all of the glass fragments and fine particles.
* Place broken pieces in a sealed plastic bag and wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up any stray shards of glass or fine particles. Put the used towel in the plastic bag as well.
* If weather permits, open windows to allow the room to ventilate.
What is mercury, what are the sources of mercury emissions, and what are the risks?
Mercury is an element (Hg on the periodic table) found naturally in the environment. Mercury emissions in the air can come from both natural and man-made sources. Utility power plants (mainly coal-fired) are the primary man-made source, as mercury that naturally exists in coal is released into the air when coal is burned to make electricity. Coal-fired power generation accounts for roughly 40% of the mercury emissions in the U.S. EPA is implementing policies to reduce airborne mercury emissions. Under regulations issued in 2005, coal-fired power plants will need to reduce their emissions by 70 percent by 2018.
CFLs present an opportunity to prevent mercury emissions from entering the environment because they help to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. A coal-fired power plant will emit 13.6 milligrams of mercury to produce electricity required to use an incandescent light bulb, compared to 3.3 milligrams for a CFL.
Even in areas without significant coal-fired power generation as part of the electricity mix (e.g., Alaska and the Pacific Northwest), there are other, equally positive environmental impacts from saving energy through the use of CFLs: reduction of nitrogen oxides (which cause smog), and prevention of substantial quantities of CO2, a greenhouse gas (which is linked to global warming), as well as other air pollutants.
Airborne mercury poses a very low risk of exposure. However, when mercury emissions deposit into lakes and oceans, they can transform into methyl mercury that builds up in fish. Fish consumption is the most common pathway for human exposure to mercury. Pregnant women and young children are most vulnerable to the effects of this type of mercury exposure. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that most people are not exposed to harmful levels of mercury through fish consumption. However, the FDA and state agencies do issue public health advisories.
Do light bulbs (such as compact fluorescent bulbs) give off hazardous amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light?
Regular fluorescent light bulbs used in your home and office do not produce a hazardous amount of ultraviolet light (UV). Most light sources, including fluorescent bulbs, emit a small amount of UV, but the UV produced by fluorescent light bulbs is far less than the amount produced by natural daylight. (Ultraviolet light rays are the light wavelengths that can cause sunburn and skin damage.)
Your safety is important to us; that's why, for all of our light bulbs designed for general public use, we strive to minimize the amount of UV light emitted.
If you're looking for a low-UV bulb for an especially sensitive area (like a photography dark room), try our Saf-T-Gard® bulbs. They block most ultraviolet light emissions, and they're also shatter-resistant.
How much heat (or infrared radiation) is emitted by regular, halogen, and compact fluorescent light bulbs?
Regular light bulbs, known as incandescent bulbs, create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. Halogen light bulbs create light through the same method. Because incandescent and halogen bulbs create light through heat, about 90% of the energy they emit is in the form of heat (also called infrared radiation). To reduce the heat emitted by regular incandescent and halogen light bulbs, use a lower watt bulb (like 60 watts instead of 100).
Fluorescent light bulbs use an entirely different method to create light. Both compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes contain a gas that, when excited by electricity, hits a coating inside the fluorescent bulb and emits light. (This makes them far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.) The fluorescent bulbs used in your home emit only around 30% of their energy in heat, making them far cooler.
What is the white powder I see inside my fluorescent bulb?
The white powder that you see inside a fluorescent lamp is called phosphor, which is a substance that emits white, visible light whenever it absorbs light waves. Both compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes contain a gas that gives off invisible light when excited by electricity. This invisible light travels to the phosphor coating on the bulb, where it is transformed into light visible to the human eye.

We use fluorescent bulbs because and only because they are so much cheaper for your budget in the long run. However, they suck and here's why: they turn everything a strange hue. Cooking under them can be a nightmare since you are never such what color your meat is. Oh, we've tried the more natural hued ones and they really aren't better--just dimmer. I have been known to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror under these lights and refuse to go out in public for several days (institutional fluorescents are the worst). As the bulbs get near the end of their life or it's just a bad bulb--they can flicker (fluorescents flicker anyway so some people always notice it) and buzz or both--some people are sensitive to this issue (migraines for some--personally, I can't go up to my husband's office and stay for long--those lights just make me physically uncomfortable--antsy, ill-at-ease). I have noticed in the last batch we bought that as they age they also don't put out as much light. And of course there are all the short-comings listed by GE--can't use them with dimmers 0r three-way lights (think someone make some bulbs that are three way, now, but they are much higher priced) or those touch lights and if you have a small lamp--mostly the bulbs won't fit it--or stick out the top. Don't forget to check this out:
"Congress bans incandescent bulbs
Massive energy bill phases out Edison's invention by 2014"


Johnny 5 said...

As someone who sells light bulbs for a living, I am less enthusiastic than most about compact fluorescent bulbs. This is due to the fact that the ones currently available contain significant amounts of mercury. If one of these bulbs should break inside of a person’s home, it could cause a challenging disposal situation. It is my belief that the technology should progress to a point at which the mercury levels are low or nonexistent before people changeover their entire homes. Another consideration is that as these bulbs burn out, they will most likely be thrown away as though they are normal rubbish and landfills will have incredibly high levels of mercury in their soil as a result.

Krissy said...

Most CFLs today on the market contain less than 5mgs of mercury and there are CFL options out there that contain as little as 1.5mgs of mercury- which can hardly be called a “significant amounts of mercury” considering that many item in your home contain 100s of times more of mercury including your computer. Mercury levels in CFLs can never be “nonexistent” since mercury is a necessary component of a CFL and there is no other known element that is capable of replacing it. But CFLs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, “a coal-fired power plant will emit about four times more mercury to keep an incandescent bulb glowing, compared with a CFL of the same light output”.