It’s becoming more and more popular all over the world and people are beginning to take note. Replacement LED lighting is saving people thousands of dollars. More often there are articles on schools and even a number of airports changing over to the new technology. The savings are huge and the carbon footprint is minimal. Not only are the new lines of LED lights generally brighter than their fluorescent/halogen/incandescent cousins, they also have next to no heat output as well. Heat is a huge loss when it comes to energy efficiency.

In the USA there are laws already in place phasing out incandescent light bulbs starting 1st January 2012. The writing is on the wall there. In fact, here in Australia we were the first country to announce that we would be banning incandescent bulbs by 2010!! This was announced by Turnbull in 2007.  Whilst the Australian government had talked of 2009 being the roll out of legislation.

Incandescent bulbs have a life span of anywhere between 750 hours and 2000 hours. Not much in the whole scheme of things, but they cost a lot whilst they are on. For an incandescent bulb, that figure spells the end. You might get another few hours out of it, but doubtful.

Halogen lighting is portrayed as the least energy efficient of all, with the most heat output. Halogens are also the least likely to last for a particularly long time. The European Union has also set plans to phase out these bulbs. You see, these bulbs use so much power to heat the internal filament up to a point where it is visible (basically like your electric oven or stove) that they are ridiculously inefficient. Because heat is such a loss when it comes to electrical efficiency, most of the energy put into lighting the globe is lost in the process of starting up and staying lit. This is a very inefficient way to light your house.

When it comes to compact fluorescents(CFL) it’s a different ball game altogether. CFL’s use the same principal as fluorescent tubes but they have different technology used to run them due to the size of the lamp. They generally have an internal ballast in the lamp whereas fluorescents have an external ballast. They last between 5000 hours and 15000 hours. Unfortunately CFL’s contain mercury (as do all fluorescent lights) which makes disposal something that should be thought about a little more, though frequently it gets overlooked. There have been a number of occasions in china at CFL factory’s where workers have been sent to hospital due to exposure to mercury.

Apart from the above issues, CFL’s are frequently not suitable for dimming, or the existing light dimmer you have in the circuit will need to be changed. Also, CFL’s have a longer warm up time which can sometimes take up to a minute. By the time you’ve turned the light on in the room, got what you wanted and left the room again, the CFL will not have warmed up, but they are a much better option than halogen or incandescent and will save you money as well as lowering the carbon footprint..

Fluorescent tubes are in the same ball park as compact fluorescent. They are also gas discharge lamps that use electrical pulses to excite the mercury vapour which produces ultraviolet light (not visible to the eye) that in turn makes the phosphor glow/fluoresce (hence the name) and we have light. Because no heat is needed to create light, heat losses are minimal and the light fitting is a lot more efficient than incandescent or halogen.

LED Lighting in Office by Dunwrights

Fluorescent tubes need a ballast to regulate the current to the lamps; also mostly they use starters as well. To keep the power factor within Australian standards’ guidelines there are capacitors used as well. All in all there is a fair bit of technology and forethought going into these light fittings. They do their job as efficiently as the CFL’s, but are more costly to maintain. Frequently you will be in need of an electrician to fix the internals, rather than being able to DIY.

LED’s are the pick of the bunch in my opinion. LED’s work due to electroluminescence and the movement of electrons, which is basically the forward movement of electrons in a semiconductor material. As you will notice with 12v LED’s, they only work when polarity is correct. LED’s can emit light from any part of the colour spectrum whilst intensity and lifespan are continually being increased.

I predict most lighting will eventually go this way in all countries; on vehicles, offices, houses, solar garden lights or whatever the case may be. We have already seen the great results from LED streetlights installed. There are schools, universities, shopping malls  and airports taking the lead and converting across all their lighting needs, with HUGE savings and a massive drop in the carbon footprint. The fluorescent tube replacement LED’s are fantastic because they don’t need ballast, don’t need capacitors and don’t need starters. They run straight off 230volts with no problems. They emit next to no heat and use next to no power with a huge long term saving (see next post on price comparisons) and last for many years. The initial cost of purchase easily offsets the long term positives. They are also safely disposed of with no long term environment effects, which is another bonus for the environment, compared to CFL’s or fluorescents.

Solar power is obviously the greatest benefit to everyone, but the feasibility of using solar power in schools, airports or high rise office blocks is a long way off.

In the next post I’ll go through the costs vs. effectiveness of these lights, as well as the power savings and carbon emissions.

By Jon Story

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