Fluorescent lights or CFL’s as they are known in the industry fall under the category of energy saving devices. We thought that since the days are getting longer and we tend to have the lights on in our homes for longer periods at this time of year, writing about fluorescent lights would be a timely thing to do since they reduce the amount of energy that you use and they save you money in the long run.
In fact in some areas of the country with in Canada and perhaps the United States as well, some governments have begun limiting the sale of the incandescent light bulb to encourage consumers to purchase fluorescent lights and save energy. With electricity companies faced with building new electrical generation plants and upgrading existing, they can avoid significant expenditures if consumers can reduce their footprint in terms of electrical energy used for lighting their homes.
But many people will say, myself included, that the cost of buying a fluorescent light is prohibitive compared to buying an incandescent light bulb. A fluorescent light will cost as much as $8 to $10 dollars while a regular incandescent light bulb can be as low as a dollar.
The difference is, and this is were you have to do the math, is that the CFL (Compact florescent light) will last much longer than an ILB ( incandescent light bulb). CFL’s will last up to 10,000 hours while you are lucky to get a 1000 hours out of a ILB.
So if you compare them on a cost per operating hour basis, you quickly see that they are very close in cost per operating hour. The real savings come from the operating cost which we will discuss next.
Comparing like rated bulbs in terms of wattage, CFL’s consume about one quarter of the power that ILB’s consume. To calculate the amount of energy that you will save and the cost you will save, you need to know what your electrical utility is charging you for electricity were you live. It will be based on cents per kilowatt.
For example if you are being charged 10 cents per 1000 watts of power consumed, then a 100 watt bulb will consume one cent of power per hour that it is turned on. A CFL will consume approximately 1/4 of that or approximately 1/4 of a cent. Doesn’t sound like much does it!
Lets assume you have 10 lights in your home that are on for an average of 5 hours per day. Doing the math that gives you 5 times 365 days times 10 lights times 1 cent for a total cost of $182. 50 for the entire year. Replacing all of these lights will cost you 10 times $10 or $100 and the cost of operation will be approximately $45 since they take 1/4 of the power. You save $38 in the first year.
Note that 5 hours a day average times 365 days is 1,825 hours which means you will have to replace the ILB’s during the year while the CFL’s will continue to operate. We did not add this cost into the above equation.
For the individual home home owner saving $38 over a year is not too much money, however you should do the math for your area and for your personal usage. Also consider if a million homes across the country made the same conversion, how much power would be reduced in terms of demand and how much coal would not have to be burned to generate so much electrical power! We all should do our part to reduce our energy consumption.
Types of CFL’s
There are many more types of CFL’s today than there used to be. Not too long ago you could not purchase CFL’s for many applications such as situations were you wanted to operate a dimmer switch or use them outside. Now new bulbs have been developed for these applications and many others.
Today fluorescent light bulbs on the market include:
- T-16 - 2-inches in diameter and 60 inches long.
- T-12 - diameter of 1½ inches and available in a variety of lengths including a 15-inch (14-watt), an 18-inch (15-watt), a 24-inch (20-watt bulb) as well as a 36-inch and a 48-inch bulb.
- T-8 - 1-inch diameter and available in a variety of lengths including a 12-inch (13-watt), a 15-inch (14-watt) and an 18-inch (15-watt).
- T-5 – is currently used in some commercial locations and throughout Europe.
- U-tube – This is a tube in the form of a “U” shape.
- Circle tube - either 8 inches or 12 inches in diameter
- Miniature bi-pin sockets – The bulbs to fit these sockets are 5/8-inch in diameter and 6, 9, 12 or 21 inches long
- Compact fluorescent light (CFL) – a tube reduced to the size of a pencil, folded or twisted into the size of a light bulb.
- Screw-in bulbs – uses a CFL and has a screw in contact, making it the most popular energy-saving light bulb.They cannot be dimmed.
- NEOLITE™ low-mercury – This is one of the smallest CFLs available, so it fits most lamp sockets. The bulb is ENERGY STAR qualified and contains only one milligram of mercury.
- Flood lights – using only about 25% of the energy used by regular incandescent flood lights. They cannot be dimmed.
- Dimmable lights – These bulbs offer energy savings and they can be dimmed to 20% of their full light output.
- Decorative torpedo bulbs – used for decorative bulbs for chandeliers and light fixtures.
- Colored light bulbs – used in restaurants, bars, nightclubs or in homes – to add various colors such as red, green, blue, yellow and pink.
- 3-way bulbs – They can be used in any lamp with a three-way switch. They cannot be used in touch lamps.
As you can see there are many different types of CFL’s and other fluorescent bulbs that fit various applications. It is important to read the instructions and the applications to ensure that the bulb you purchase will work in your lamp.
Size is a factor. Not all CFL’s will fit in existing lamps due to physical specifications.
Also if you are using a dimmer, only specific bulbs can be used with dimmer switches. Same thing applies to 3 way lamps were you have several different power levels based on the position of the switch.
In most major stores there will be an expert who can assist you to help make the correct purchase.