Energy saving fluorescent lamps – myths and reality of savings

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A burned-out light bulb is always a choice: buy a replacement with an incandescent filament or give preference to luminescent analogs. The article will tell you whether the current energy-saving technologies are so economical, whether there is a threat to health or nature, and many other aspects of the use of advertised lighting..

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings.

Technological progress does not stand still, but with each stage of its development, the load on the energy industry is growing more and more. You don’t need to be an expert to see this. Entering the apartment of an average citizen of the USSR, from the energy-consuming devices, one could see several light bulbs, a refrigerator and a TV. And even then this whole set was not typical for every family. Today, a person’s home contains an order of magnitude more energy consumers: an electric kettle, a computer, a washing machine, a dishwasher, microwave ovens and many other common things. And the number of TVs alone is often equated not even with the number of residents, but rather with the number of rooms, including corridors, bathrooms and kitchens.

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

Currently, decisions are being made at the state level urging everyone to save energy resources. The simplest and most affordable measure on the energy saving list is the replacement of conventional bulbs with a filament and low efficiency with economical counterparts. The most popular of these is the compact fluorescent lamp.

The principle of operation of such a lamp can be found in our other article, and in this material we will try to reveal its unpopular aspects. For example, are they so economical. Often choosing this or that light bulb in the lamp, you feel insecure: one is old and cheap, the other is expensive and advertised, and which one is better is not so easy to understand. A lamp with a filament tested over the years has an efficiency of no more than 50%, a new one is an order of magnitude higher, but its cost also differs upwards.

Myth # 1. Energy-efficient fluorescent lamps save our money

Calling to buy fluorescent lamps from billboards and TV screens, many sellers are silent that the savings for the common man will be negligible, if at all. Electricity consumption, as stated by the manufacturers, will be approximately 5 times less than that of a conventional light bulb. But as for the cost, it is 10-40 times higher than the price of the usual incandescent lamp.

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

Using an online calculator that calculates the benefits of using energy-saving lamps, let’s try to find out how much you can actually save on one such light bulb per year. For clarity, the cost of both bulbs will be taken equal to one ruble. Depending on the service, the program and tariffs, the result on the calculator is rarely more than 100 rubles per year. But if we take into account the difference in the cost of lamps, then the value of the funds saved by the consumer is rapidly approaching zero. However, the calculator calculates this parameter differently. Even having entered the cost of a fluorescent lamp about 300 rubles, and the old one – 1 ruble, the calculated savings still stubbornly exceed zero. The reason for this “inaccuracy” in the calculation is simple: it is believed that the service life of an energy-saving lamp is from 8,000 to 12,000 hours, while a conventional lamp is only 1,000 hours. This is what is being corrected in many calculations. It is for this reasoning that we came to the following myth..

Myth number 2. Fluorescent lamps last a very long time

The minimum declared life of an energy-saving lamp is typically 8,000 hours. In a city apartment with owners constantly disappearing at work, using lighting for 1 hour in the morning and 1 in the evening, this is quite a lot:

  • 1 hour in the morning + 1 hour in the evening = 2 hours a day
  • 2 hours a day x 30 days a month = 60 hours a month
  • 60 hours x 12 months = 720 hours per year

Add another 80 hours for the increased need for lighting during weekends and holidays:

  • 720 + 80 = 800 hours per year, adjusted
  • 800 x 10 = 8,000 hours …

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

Therefore, the service life of such a lamp in an ordinary apartment should be about 10 years and, having bought it once, you should remember this problem, oh, how not soon, but not so simple. Frequent switching on / off of lamps reduces the service life to a minimum. In practice, a lamp screwed into a bathroom rarely survives until the end of a year’s warranty period. There are, of course, lamp manufacturers who have solved this problem, but the cost of their products is not available to everyone..

Consider the second option, when the lamp is on continuously. There are no factors that reduce its durability, but 8,000 hours does not seem so long. About 11 months. By the way, working in this mode, the light bulb really saves not only energy, but also citizens’ funds. But back to longevity. How long will a filament lamp last in the same mode? If it is of high quality, then for a long time. Perhaps even longer energy-saving, since the reason for lamp failure in more than half of the cases is frequent switching on or drops in the network.

Due to the dubious durability, enterprising Russians have already come up with their own way of saving on energy-saving light bulbs of not very high quality. When purchased in a store, such lamps are given a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. Therefore, if it burns out earlier, then it can be replaced with a new bulb. The replacement will have its own one-year warranty and after some time you can do the same with it. This is provided for by Article 22 (its 2nd part) of the RF Law “On Protection of Consumer Rights”. If the light bulb suddenly turns out to be too “tenacious”, there are even several popular ways to “finish off” the latter. The three leaders of the national rating can be cited as an example:

  1. Practically no fluorescent lamp can withstand use in conjunction with a dimmer (lighting dimmer). True, one should warn about a rare, but still happening fact: some especially persistent specimens disable the regulator itself, after which they continue to function successfully for some time.
  2. Use at very low or very high temperatures. Usually, it is enough to screw the lamp into the plafond of street lighting in winter and let it work normally for a couple of days. Initially, it will lose a significant percentage of the light, and then it will stop turning on altogether..
  3. Frequent on / off switching. It is for this reason that the use of energy-saving lamps is difficult in New Year’s flashing illumination, light signaling, and with many motion sensors that turn on the light automatically.

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

It should be noted that all of the above methods do not work 100%. But this is not the main problem when using this peculiar method of saving money. A big threat to enterprising citizens today is posed by equally enterprising salespeople. The most common trick is an unfilled warranty card, without which it is somewhat difficult to receive an inoperative lamp. The second most popular trick is to reduce the manufacturer’s one-year warranty to 2 weeks from the seller. But this is not the last option. Even if you were vigilant and kept the packaging, receipt and completed warranty card, an enterprising seller may simply intimidate you with impending expensive expertise and misuse. Let’s say right away that all these actions do not really get along with the law. For example, if you follow the norms of Part 5 of Article 18 of the Law “On Protection of Consumer Rights”, then it is not at all necessary to have a cashier’s receipt or any other document to return or replace a defective product..

Myth # 3. All of these lamps contain mercury vapor

It is believed that the main problem with fluorescent lamps is the presence of mercury. It poisons the air if you break the bulb, requires additional disposal, and so on. But according to the assurance of manufacturers, not all fluorescent lamps use mercury, or rather liquid mercury. There are many options on sale where the box contains the inscription “without mercury vapor” or the corresponding icon with a crossed out drop. There is truth in this, but only half.

If a lamp breaks in an apartment when it is off (dropped, thrown against the wall or from the balcony, stepped on and the like), then you will not have a detrimental effect on the environment with your actions. The reason for this is simple: instead of free mercury, the lamp uses “amalgam”, that is, a metal alloy containing mercury. Under normal conditions, it does not allow the latter to evaporate freely and have a negative effect on humans..

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

But this is under normal conditions, namely when the light is off. In the working state, all the same mercury vapors make it glow. Therefore, breaking the lamp while it is on, the damage to the room will be equivalent and requires mandatory long-term ventilation.

There are other factory methods to protect potential consumers from exposure to mercury vapor when a lamp breaks. One of them is applying a silicone coating to the flask. Even with a broken glass layer, mercury vapor in such a product will be retained by silicone. However, the price for such additional protection is not at all tuned to save your budget. But here the choice is solely for the consumer: expensive, but relatively safe, or cheap, but with extra care.

It should also be noted that if a light bulb does not contain a mercury-free icon, this does not mean that the manufacturer will leave a mention on the packaging that it contains it. Most of the manufacturing plants, and not only Chinese ones, are safely silent about this. However, as well as the fact that the light bulb is subject to specialized disposal and should not just be thrown into the garbage chute.

Myth number 4. These lamps are safe for humans

This statement does not always work. It is not so easy to find full-fledged studies on this issue, but the opinions of some doctors who have spoken on this topic may fundamentally differ. However, you can highlight the most frequently pronounced options.

Fluorescent lamps make it difficult to work with small parts,for example, it is not so easy to thread a needle. Doctors justify this by the fact that the glow of mercury vapor is a light of the blue spectrum, which suggests a constriction of the pupil. As a result, additional lighting is required for more comfortable work..

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

Shimmer.Despite assurances from many manufacturers that flicker is not typical for compact fluorescent lamps, this factor should not be discounted. Many Chinese counterparts, or simply fakes, may not completely correspond to such statements. For the absence of flickering in such lamps, a capacitor should be responsible, which in some copies may not be at all.

Stroboscopic effect.This notorious characteristic of “flickering” lamps precludes their use in factories. In order to understand how this happens, an illustrative example can be given. Due to the fact that the frequency of light and dark changes during flickering, completely invisible to the eye, may coincide with the frequency of operation of some devices, they may seem inoperative, while in fact they will be activated. As a result, many accidents at the enterprise due to the incorrect perception of the picture by the workers.

Ultraviolet radiation.Although such a statement regarding energy-saving lamps has some convincing grounds, it should not be considered as a real threat. In summer sunlight, the effect of ultraviolet radiation is many times greater. True, if there are problems with the skin, you should not place the lamp in the immediate vicinity.

Unusual cold light.According to some doctors, it, being especially close to daytime, can cause sleep disorders. True, there is not much evidence for this statement..

Mercury vapor poisoning with careless use.When fluorescent lamps began to be promoted at the legislative level, almost everyone considered it necessary to take care of the fact that it was dangerous and rather harmful. However, listening to this kind of statements, one should first of all remove from sale all mercury thermometers, in which there is an order of magnitude more mercury as such. All of Europe precisely from this and began the struggle for security. Even in neighboring Latvia you will not find a single pharmacy where they are on free sale.

However, the latter statement is actually an indisputable fact, and some caution should still be observed. For example, twist and twist such bulbs without holding onto the glass bulb, since the risk of damaging it is great. And also take additional measures to clean the room when the flask is broken. I think we should dwell on this in more detail..

So, let’s start with what mercury is so dangerous for our body. According to the degree of danger, three main degrees of exposure can be distinguished: acute poisoning, chronic poisoning and mercurialism (minor). And if for the first case a broken thermometer with a couple of grams of mercury is not always enough (although there are such cases), then the latter is also possible with a once broken energy-saving lamp without appropriate measures.

Many defenders of the safety theory of fluorescent lamps argue that the amount of mercury contained in it is not enough for poisoning, since in an ordinary thermometer there are 2 g, and here the count goes to tens of milligrams. According to doctors, mercury vapors with a concentration of 0.25 mg / m3 are retained in the body when inhaled, but above this figure they penetrate even through intact skin. The situation with lamps is aggravated by the fact that if it was damaged while it is operating, then there is no time for the evaporation of liquid mercury – in the flask, and so it is in a heated gaseous state. While a broken thermometer makes it possible to collect metal balls and safely remove them from the apartment.

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

Of course, contact with vapors of low concentration will not lead to death, but in general there is nothing pleasant. Mild mercury poisoning is characterized by the following:

  • drowsiness;
  • fast fatiguability;
  • weakness and dizziness;
  • headache;
  • depressed mood;
  • slight trembling of the fingers with outstretched arms (mercury tremor) and much more.

With prolonged contact with mercury vapors, even the simplest variants of poisoning become chronic. The most dangerous thing in this situation is that the symptoms do not appear after a couple of minutes. Even in case of acute poisoning, at least several hours should come. And if it comes to an easy option, then several months or years may pass before the first symptom appears..

If the lamp was inaccurately broken in the house, then the following should be done:

  • take people, especially children, out of the room, as their body reacts especially quickly and sharply to contact with mercury vapor;
  • ventilate the room for several hours (the maximum possible time) to reduce the level of vapor concentration;
  • remove fragments and scattered powder (it greatly simplifies the cleaning of small fragments with plain tape);
  • if the surface is not so easy to clean (for example, a carpet), it is recommended to treat this place with a specialized solution, you can experiment and apply a solution of “potassium permanganate” for this (suitable only for very dark things, where the stains will simply not be visible) or clean composition of chlorine (for opponents of self-made methods – there are special means on sale for neutralizing mercury).

Myth number 5. Ecology and energy saving together

Proponents of the use of energy-saving lamps insist on improving the environmental situation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But such a development of events is more like a utopia, since for each energy-saving light bulb in the apartment there is an additional plasma panel in the floor of the wall, which will nullify all the urges to save.

You can also consider the situation with the appearance of mercury pollution in landfills. All the same proponents of fluorescent lamps in chorus say that there are many factories for the processing of mercury-containing waste. Yes, indeed it is. Indeed, before the advent of compact energy-saving lamps, mercury was widely used in street lighting devices, fluorescent lamps, so typical for hospitals and other institutions. They were successfully processed and Russia did not reach global pollution.

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

But there is still a problem with the points of reception of such waste from the population and their disposal. Firstly, there are not many such points and sometimes even the most inveterate guardians of ecology cannot go for the sake of one light bulb to the other end of the city to transfer it for disposal. Secondly, there is a simple lack of desire among the majority to do any unnecessary actions: the easiest way is to throw it away along with ordinary garbage. The same problem with used batteries. Despite the fact that you can turn them in at almost any hardware store, an increasing number of these items are safely sent to landfills..


According to the law “On energy saving and on increasing energy efficiency …” pretty soon (it was planned from January 1, 2014), not only powerful lamps with a filament, but also their low-power counterparts will begin to disappear from the shelves. This law is intended to make a gradual transition to energy conservation in homes in the European image. There are many reasons for this on the sites of supporters of such a transition. In contrast to the spread of mercury from landfills, they even put a reduction in similar emissions with a decrease in energy production from coal-fired power plants. Moreover, this decrease is not only calculated, but according to some data will exceed the spread of unused mercury from lamps by an order of magnitude. This statement does not reflect the real situation. For every kilowatt of electricity saved by an energy-saving lamp, there is a commercial consumer, and the real load on the source will not decrease.

Energy saving fluorescent lamps - myths and reality of savings

Looking at the problem from the other side and evaluating the energy costs attributable to the industrial sector, one can easily identify that by re-equipping or retrofitting enterprises, much more energy can be saved. By installing a frequency-controlled electric drive on all pumps of city utility networks, you can save up to 80% of the energy they consume. However, in our country, such measures are not very popular..

Nevertheless, there is a way out of the situation with home energy saving. In Europe, LED light sources are increasingly being used for these purposes. They do not require disposal costs, and the real energy consumption is really low. There is also hope for a brighter future. The development of nano technologies already offers a safe substitute for fluorescent lamps, which does not require recycling or abandoning the usual light at night. It remains only to wait until the novelty is brought to the possibility of industrial production and its cost is made acceptable..

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