Energy Saving Light Bulbs

Energy saving light bulbs have been growing in popularity as prices have come down, and energy prices increased. Traditional incandescent bulbs are being phased out in some countries so you won’t have any other option than to use them.

How do they work, and what are their benefits?

With a traditional incandescen tbulb most of the energy goes to heat a wire filament. This glows and gives out light. But it’s an inefficient method of generating light. Energy-saving light bulbs generate very little heat, so most of the energy is used for light.

There are three main types of energy saving bulb; fluorescent which are 60%-80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. They’re the most common type, but can’t be used with dimmer switches and can be slow to warm up. Halogen bulbs are 20-30% more efficient than incandescents, but get hot in use. And the new kid on the block is the Light-Emitting Diode (LED) – very expensive but lasts for up to 30 years and is 90% more efficient than incandescents.

Lighting your home accounts for about 15% of your electricity bill. The Energy Saving Trust in the UK calculated that replacing your old incandescent bulb with energy saving equivalents would save around £37 ($50) per year.

So by using energy-saving bulbs you will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere and save money into the bargain. How great is that?

Despite the positives there has been negative publicity surrounding low energy bulbs, much of it centered on health risks.

In late 2008 there was a scare that some energy saving light bulbs emitted higher levels of UV radiation and could cause cancer. The Health Protection Agency recommended not sitting closer than 30cm to a bulb for more than one hour a day.

There have also been anecdotal reports of migraines being brought on in migraine sufferers, but no firm evidence has yet come to light. Similarly, reports that epilepsy attacks can be triggered – no firm evidence one way or the other.

One area where you do need to take precautions though is in disposing of used energy saving light bulbs. They contain small amounts of mercury, a very hazardous material, so don’t throw them in the household garbage. Rather, they should be disposed of in the same manner as electronic waste. If you drop and smash a bulb, open a window and leave the room for a few minutes to remove any harmful vapor, then clear up the glass and debris with sticky tape and cardboard. Put it all in bag, and dispose of as electronic waste.

These are minor concerns when the overall benefits of energy saving bulbs are taken into consideration. If you haven’t started to switch, now’s probably the time. -MARK LEE

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