Compact Fluorescent Globes
CFLs use around 20% of the power required by an incandescent bulb and will last four to ten times longer. They are available in a range of wattages, colour outputs and designs to fit many existing incandescent light fittings around your home and office.
On a lifetime basis,a standard 100 watt-equivalent CFL will save 480 kilowatt hours of electricity when compared to an incandescent lamp. In fact during its lifetime, just one CFL bulb has the capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as one tonne.
A typical compact fluorescent lamp will save around $50 in its lifetime. Additionally you'll save the expense of six or more incandescent globes and of course you don't have to change the bulbs as often.
Switching to energy efficient globes will result in reduced households lighting costs of up to 66%. This represents an annual saving of up to $1.3 billion to Australian consumers.
CFLs are more efficient and therefore require a lower wattage globe for the same light output (lumens).
CFLs are available in a range of three colours. Bright daylight (6500K) offers a strong, bright light suited to home offices, cool white (4000K) is suited to social environments like lounge rooms, and warm white (2700K) creates a more intimate atmosphere for bedrooms.
The higher the Kelvin (K) rating the bluer the colour gets. Lower Kelvin-rated CFLs have more yellow and are similar to the light colour of an incandescent globe. The Kelvin rating only refers to the colour of the light emitted, not the brightness, and different colours should be used for different situations as listed above.
While the cost of a CFL is greater than an incandescent lamp, CFLs are cheaper when the total life cycle cost is considered.
The cost of running a light is directly related to the globe wattage plus any associated ballast or transformer. Therefore the higher the wattage, the higher the running cost. So the type of lighting you choose will affect the amount of electricity you use, your lighting bill, and greenhouse gas emissions.
CFL Light Quality
The light quality of the latest range of CFLs is equal or superior to today's incandescent globes. And importantly, new electronically-ballasted CFLs don't flicker or hum.
While traditional CFLs deliver most of their light to the sides, corkscrew-shaped CFLs and those enclosed in frosted plastic spheres distribute light in a pattern similar to that of incandescent lamps.
However the light distribution of CFLs is different and may appear less bright than the bulb they replace unless used in a specially designed fitting. Therefore when replacing an incandescent lamp with a CFL in an existing fitting, it may be better to use a slightly higher wattage than recommended by the manufacturer to ensure adequate light output.
CFL light output can also drop slightly over time. Therefore it's important to regularly clean or dust CFLs and light fittings to maintain an optimum light output, particularly given their extended lifespan.
CFLs have a high electrical component and trace amounts of mercury, usually around 3 to 5 mg, which is required to operate the lamp. 5 mg is one fifth of the mercury found in watch batteries and 100 times less than that found in a thermometer or dental filling.
In a CFL the trace amount of mercury is sealed within glass tubing and is not dangerous to users when the lamp is in tact or in use because no mercury is released. However as mercury is a toxic substance it's important that CFLs are handled carefully and disposed of responsibly.
Handling and Disposal
Handle CFLs with care. If you break a CFL you can release mercury into the atmosphere. Gently sweep up the glass fragments and use a damp cloth to pick up fine particles. If the breakage is on carpet, use sticky tape then a damp cloth to clean up the debris prior to vacuuming. Place all debris into a sealed plastic bag for disposal and ventilate the room where possible.
In Australia there is no legislation covering the disposal of CFLs and other electronic waste, therefore it is legal to place them in your household garbage bin. Contact your local recycling and waste depot for information on CFL disposal alternatives in your community. And please do not contaminate your recyclable waste with CFLs.