- Author : Timothy Allsworth
Light globes come in many shapes and sizes, from the ordinary incandescent bulb to newer and more efficient LED’s. You probably didn’t know that there are large variations in the lifespan and performance of different globes. Cheaper isn’t always better, and understanding the differences can save you time and money in the long run.
Halogen and Incandescent Lamps
Incandescent lights were invented in the 1800s by the legendary American inventor Thomas Edison – they were the first type of electrical lighting solution. Incandescents work by heating a fibre wire inside the lamp using an electric current, and the glow from the wire gives the light source. Unfortunately, they also produce a lot of heat.
Incandescent lamps are loaded with an inert gas that helps stop the heated filament from disappearing too quickly. In traditional incandescent globes, this gas is ordinarily argon. Halogen incandescent lamps use elements like iodine or bromine for the gas, coupled with a filament formed from tungsten.
The main dilemma with Incandescent lights, be they halogen or otherwise, is that the light emanates from heating a filament wire. This means nearly all the energy (90-95%) is transformed to heat rather than light. The energy is lost, and can create excess heat in your home or office.
Incandescent globes can be wasteful compared to some of the other options. Still, their predominance over the past two centuries indicates they are cheap and easy to build. However, halogen and incandescent lights are slowly being phased out in most places. They are far from being the best choice for lighting around the home due to their short lifespan and loss of electricity, and they should only be used when other options aren’t suitable.
Compact Fluorescent Lights
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) once had the reliability of producing harsh, unflattering light with the random flicker. The technology that goes into building CFL’s has developed dramatically over recent years – they now have a lifespan of around 10,000 hours. Compact Fluorescents also use about 80% less energy than an incandescent bulb, despite only costing a little more.
CFLs work through a mixture of argon gas, phosphor and particles of mercury. When the light switch is switched on, electricity makes the gas combine with the particles of mercury – the end result is ultraviolet light. UV is invisible to the human eye, and this is where the white phosphor comes in. Coated over the bulb, when the UV light interacts with it, the white phosphor fluoresces and releases white light.
As stated above, fluorescent lights could flicker in the early days of CFL lighting. The circuitry inside the bulb now prevents that flickering from occurring. CFLs also have a much higher lumen output to watt power used. Some globes surpass 100 lumens per watt, matched to incandescents, which are about 16.
While fluorescent lights have a longer lifespan than halogens and incandescent lighting, the production of CFLs is less than environmentally friendly. Mercury is a toxic ingredient which makes these bulbs dangerous to dispose of. Tubes of fluorescent lighting can hold up to 15mg of mercury, enough to poison 30,000 litres of drinking water.
CFLs also take a small amount of time to ‘warm up’ and produce their full brightness, so they’re less than ideal for areas that need quick and bright light (like stairwells). They also can’t be applied with dimmer switches.
Light Emitting Diodes
For several years now, LED lights have been the most popular option for home and office lighting. They work by connecting a positive and negative current within a semiconductor to create energy in the form of light. LED diodes are very compact which makes them a great option for small areas. They have a comparable rating of about 90 lumens per watt-hour.
An LED’s real value is in its lifespan, with bulbs lasting between 20,000 and 50,000 hours. With CFLs operating for a maximum of 10,000 hours, that puts LEDs up to 5 times longer-lasting than the competition. LEDs are also not affected by frequent turning off and on, which can influence some other globes.
LEDs have a small heat signature, indicating they are much more productive than incandescent globes. Still, they do have their downsides, including responsiveness to voltage, thermal dependence (they need an adequate cooling sink), and they are direct in their lighting signature.
In the recent past, LEDs were considerably more costly than other lighting options, costing as much as $50 to $100 per globe. Technology has improved the manufacturing process in modern years: now, we see LEDs priced at approximately $8.
Lighting Installation For The Long Term
While the price of LED globes is falling fast, they’re still more expensive than their CFL equivalents. In stores, there’s usually an incentive to buy CFLs or incandescents instead of LEDs. Still, over the long term, LEDs are the best possible option. They are safer and easier to dispose of, use less electricity, last longer and are simply cheaper to buy
The Simple Dollar has a simple table that outlines each globe’s different pros and cons over a 25,000-hour lifespan. A single LED light would satisfy an entire lifespan (and more). At the same time, you would need to replace an incandescent light around 21 times and a CFL on at least three occasions. The entire operating cost (including purchase and electricity) adds up to $38 for the LED, $48 for the CFLs, and a massive $201 for Incandescent globes.
Given the advantages of LEDs, there isn’t much reason to pick other globes unless it’s completely unavoidable. That said, understanding the constraints of LEDs will help considerably in mapping out the lighting structure in your house or office.
Ifix Electrics has the expert skills and are fully licence electricians servicing the North Brisbane and Sunshine Coast areas. We can provide the right lighting installation for your home, office, shop or business professionally and efficiently so please give us a call today!