CFL, LED or Halogen?
The European Union and Australia started the phase out of incandescent light bulbs in 2009. Many other nations, including United States, have scheduled their phase-outs and in a few years you will no longer be able to buy these bulbs anymore. The replacement to energy saving light bulbs will result in a significant energy gain. Estimations show that the EU phase-out will be equivalent to entire energy consumption in Belgium over a decade.
However, energy saving light bulbs comes with downsides as well. Does these bulbs really produce a good quality light? What about health risks? Before I answer these questions I want to give you a quick overview of the different light bulbs we are talking about.
Incandescent Light Bulb
Thomas Edison first demonstrated the incandescent light bulb in 1879 revolutionizing the world and putting electrical lighting on the map. It was during this time he stated: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.”
The source of the light is thin thread, usually made from wolfram, which is heated with an electrical current emits light. It is surrounded by a glass bulb that is evacuated, making sure the thread does not oxidate or burn away.
Much of the energy from incandescent light bulbs also goes to emitting UV-light, making the bulbs warm and decreases overall efficiency. Several other light bulbs improving on these things have made their way on the market since then.
The halogen lamp (also known as a tungsten halogen lamp) is an incandescent lamp wit a very similar design to the original. It has small quantities of halogen filament that prevents the tungsten atoms from turning the lamp black. These light bulbs can therefore be made much smaller than original incandescent light bulbs.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)
Compact fluorescent lamps (also known as compact fluorescent light or energy-saving light) use about one fifth of the amount of electricity a conventional incandescent light bulb would use to produce the same amount of light. In addition to this, their lifespans are usually six to ten times longer.
There is no doubt that there is both a lot of energy and money to save by switching your old incandescent with compact fluorescent light bulbs, but what about the health-risks?
CFLs have mercury vapor inside the lamp or tube, a heavy metal that is incredible harmful when inhaled. This makes CFLs dangerous if they break and difficult to recycle.
CFLs are made of glass and therefore fragile. If one breaks you have to follow a set of complicated rules, the first one being: Have people and pets leave the room and don’t let anyone walk through the area.
There is no doubt that the amount of mercury that these bulbs are harmful and can result in both physical and psychological problems in a human being.
Some people claim that CFLs emit so-called dirty electricity. What is dirty electricity? Clean electricity is a smooth sine wave that goes up and down 60 times a second (that is if the voltage is 60 Hz). When you have dirty electricity you have spikes on top of the smooth sine curves, which are high frequency transients. We know that dirty electricity affect electrical equipment and might also affect humans.
An interesting study was done in a school in Wisconsin. When the power quality in the school was cleaned, they found that 37 students that had asthma did not need to use their inhalers in the school environment anymore. Similar studies suggest that there is a link to raised blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.
The verdict is still out on dirty electricity and potential health risks. In the meantime, companies are making a lot of money by selling electrical devices that deals with these issues. We suggest doing thorough research before any purchase.
A Light-emitting diode (LED) lamp uses pure frequencies of light and does not produce any infrared or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This has several benefits, one of them being less attraction to bugs and therefore suitable for outside lighting. LEDs are very energy efficient and have a long life span. They also offer instant on and off and don’t require any warm-up time like compact fluorescent lamps would.
On the other hand, energy saving led light bulbs are quite expensive. In addition to this, they are not always quite as bright as you would like them to be. Making too bright LED bulbs would result in too much heat and shortening the life span.
None of these light bulbs are perfect. They offer a wide array of different benefits and downsides, and which one to pick is therefore situational. Dimmable and 3 way models in all categories are available.
The health risks of CFLs should not be overlooked, but are generally regarded as safe if disposed of in a proper manner. The amount of energy and money that can be saved by doing the transition to energy saving led light bulbs is large. There are also many other ways to conserve energy, which you can read about in the Energy Efficiency.