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Saturday, March 28, 2009

How Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs Work

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Compact fluorescent bulbs have made a huge impact on the environment. They have saved a countless amount of money and make it easy for people to become involved in protecting our environment. Compact fluorescent bulbs have been a real money saver for families and now account for a huge amount of energy savings on power bills. While fluorescent lighting has been around for years, compact fluorescent light bulbs have only just recently come on the scene. They offer many advantages over traditional incandescent lighting and have had a great surge in popularity.

Just how do compact fluorescent bulbs compared to more traditional fluorescent lighting? They work by putting all of the electronic ballast hardware into the base of the bulb. The fluorescent bulb is then fashioned in either a loop or a spiral configuration. This allows for maximum amount of lighting area around the bulb. Because of the electronic circuitry in the base of the bulb, compact fluorescent bulbs are able to start up very quickly and immediately give off light without the typical flickers associated with more traditional fluorescent lightning. In this way, compact fluorescent bulbs behave just like a typical incandescent bulb.

The technical aspects of compact fluorescent bulbs may seem rather complicated to the non-technical type of person. To put it simply, a sealed gas (which unfortunately, contains a small amount of toxic mercury in gas form) is put into a tube and when electricity is applied the gas lets off a light. This light is what we see when we are using compact fluorescent bulbs. It does take a large amount of electricity to get the gas excited so that it produces visible light. Because of this fact, it’s very important to remember that CFLs are most efficient when they are not turned on and off in short periods of time. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends leaving your fluorescent light bulb on for at least 15 to 20 minutes at a time, even after leaving the room, because it takes as much energy to run a fluorescent light for 15 to 20 minutes as it does to turn it on in the first place.

While CFLs may behave like an incandescent bulb in terms of ease of use, that’s where the similarity ends. Compact fluorescent bulbs cost more up front but in the long run save over $30 per bulb in household energy costs. CFLs have such a long life span that they typically lasts up to 10 times longer than the typical incandescent bulb. In addition, they emit 75% less heat than traditional bulbs, therefore saving on home cooling costs. This means that while a compact fluorescent bulb may cost more initially it more than pays for itself from its long life.

While the earliest CFL bulbs cost around $30 each, manufacturers have recently managed to bring the cost down to about $1 each. Unfortunately, there have been some trade-offs in the quality of components used in the bulbs. This has lead to a higher than average failure rate and some bulbs that do not work for as long as their advertised lives. It is also important to note that there are some lighting uses that are not recommended for CFLs: enclosed ceiling lamps, dimmable switches, and in lights that are turned on and off frequently.

If you are serious about saving money on your power bill and helping the environment then you should be using compact fluorescent bulbs in every light fixture in your home. Besides saving money, you will know that you are helping reduce the release of toxic gases into the atmosphere. If every household in the U.S. replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL, within one year we could prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of 800,000 cars. The effect would be enormous around the world. That’s why many countries are now making CFL use mandatory, which is—obviously—a good thing for the environment. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are easy to use and convenient. This means that anyone and everyone can get in on the act of saving both money and the environment each and every month.

Posted by casey on 03/28 at 11:53 AM
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