LED vs Fluorescent: 10 Problems To Consider With Fluorescent Lighting

Posted by Jimmy Hovey on Mon, Sep 09, 2013 @ 16:09 PM

Which Way To Go...LED vs Fluorescent

Fluorescent is still an inexpensive option for retrofitting old T12 fixtures, but Fluorescent lighting does have it's drawbacks.  Here are 10 problems that people run into with Fluorescent Lighting: 7-reasons-to-consider-led-vs-fluorescent

1. Frequent Switching Causes Early Failures

If the lamp is installed where it is frequently switched on and off, it will age rapidly.

Under extreme conditions, its lifespan may be much shorter than a cheap incandescent lamp.

Each start cycle slightly erodes the electron-emitting surface of the cathodes; when all the emission material is gone, the lamp cannot start with the available ballast voltage.

Fixtures intended for flashing of lights (such as for advertising) will use a ballast that maintains cathode temperature when the arc is off, preserving the life of the lamp.

The extra energy used to start a fluorescent lamp is equivalent to a few seconds of normal operation; it is more energy-efficient to switch off lamps when not required for several minutes. 

2. Fluorescent Bulbs Contain Mercury

If a fluorescent lamp is broken, a very small amount of mercury can contaminate the surrounding environment. About 99% of the mercury is typically contained in the phosphor, especially on lamps that are near the end of their life.

The broken glass is usually considered a greater hazard than the small amount of spilled mercury.The EPA recommends airing out the location of a fluorescent tube break and using wet paper towels to help pick up the broken glass and fine particles.

Any glass and used towels should be disposed of in a sealed plastic bag. Vacuum cleaners can cause the particles to become airborne, and should not be used.

3. Fluorescent Lights Give Off Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet emission Fluorescent lamps emit a small amount of ultraviolet (UV) light. A 1993 study in the US found that ultraviolet exposure from sitting under fluorescent lights for eight hours is equivalent to only one minute of sun exposure.

Very sensitive individuals may experience a variety of health problems relating to light sensitivity that is aggravated by artificial lighting. 

Ultraviolet light can affect sensitive paintings, especially watercolors and many textiles. Valuable art work must be protected from light by additional glass or transparent acrylic sheets put between the fluorescent lamp(s) and the painting.

4. The "Buzz" On the Fluorescent Ballast

Magnetic single-lamp ballasts have a low power factor. Fluorescent lamps require a ballast to stabilize the current through the lamp, and to provide the initial striking voltage required to start the arc discharge.

This increases the cost of fluorescent light fixtures, though often one ballast is shared between two or more lamps.  Electromagnetic ballasts with a minor fault can produce an audible humming or buzzing noise.

Magnetic ballasts are usually filled with a tar-like potting compound to reduce emitted noise. Hum is eliminated in lamps with a high-frequency electronic ballast. Energy lost in magnetic ballasts can be significant, on the order of 10% of lamp input power.

Electronic ballasts reduce this loss. Small lamps may use an incandescent lamp as a ballast if the supply voltage is high enough to allow the lamp to start.

5. Power Quality and Radio Interference

Inductive ballasts include power factor correction capacitors. Simple electronic ballasts may also have low power factor due to their rectifier input stage. 

Fluorescent lamps are a non-linear load and generate harmonic currents in the electrical power supply. The arc within the lamp may generate radio frequency noise, which can be conducted through power wiring. Suppression of radio interference is possible.

Good suppression is possible, but adds to the cost of the fluorescent fixtures.

6. Not As Efficient At High and Low Temperatures

Fluorescent lamps operate best around room temperature. At much lower or higher temperatures, efficiency decreases.

At below-freezing temperatures standard lamps may not start. Special lamps may be needed for reliable service outdoors in cold weather.

In applications such as road and railway signaling, fluorescent lamps which do not generate as much heat as incandescent lamps may not melt snow and ice build up around the lamp, leading to reduced visibility.

7. Fluorescent Lamp Shape Cause Retrofit Problems

Fluorescent tubes are long, low-luminance sources compared with high pressure arc lamps and
incandescent lamps. However, low luminous intensity of the emitting surface is useful because it reduces glare.

Lamp fixture design must control light from a long tube instead of a compact
globe. The compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) replaces regular incandescent bulbs.

However, some CFLs will not fit some lamps, because the harp (heavy wire shade support bracket) is shaped for the narrow neck of an incandescent lamp, while CFLs tend to have a wide housing for their electronic ballast close to the lamp's base.

8. Most Fluorescents Are Not Able To Be Dimmed

Fluorescent light fixtures cannot be connected to dimmer switches intended for incandescent

Two effects are responsible for this:

1. The waveform of the voltage emitted by a standard phase-control dimmer interacts badly with many ballasts.

2. It becomes difficult to sustain an arc in the fluorescent tube at low power levels.

Dimming installations require a compatible dimming ballast. These systems keep the cathodes of the fluorescent tube fully heated even as the arc current is reduced, promoting easy thermionic emission of electrons into the arc stream.

Now, before you go off and write me a note telling me I am wrong, here is the exception...

This would not apply to some CFLs as they are available to be used with with suitable dimmers.

9. Contaminants Cause Disposal and Recycling Issues

The disposal of phosphor and particularly the toxic mercury in the tubes is an environmental issue.

Governmental regulations in many areas require special disposal of fluorescent lamps separate from general and household wastes.

For large commercial or industrial users of fluorescent lights, recycling services are available in many nations, and may be required by regulation. In some areas, recycling is also available to consumers.

But even though recycling is available, it can be expensive which leads to a bigger issue.  If it is too expensive to dispose of the lamps, people are not encouraged to recycle and dispose of the lamps in ways that are harmful to our environment. 

10. Light From Fluorescent Bulb Is Non-Directional

The Light from fluorescent bulbs is non-directional light source. When a fluorescent bulb is lit, it gives off lighting all the way around the bulb or otherwise 360 degrees.  

This means that only about 60-70% of the actual light being given off by the fluorescent lamps is being used.  The other 30-40% is wasted.  

This wasted light tends to lead to over lighting certain areas, especially offices.  Most offices we go into will not qualify for The Energy Policy Act of 2005 because the wattage per square foot is too high.  

What About Considering T8 LED Bulbs?

In the article above, LED is the best replacement to solve most of those problems that are listed, but they can be a little pricey.  Because of the reach of our blog, we have set up a special direct relationship with a LED manufacturer and now have LED T8 Bulbs, LED Parking Fixtures, LED Wall Packs and LED Troffers.  

If you are looking for a better alternative to Fluorscent lighting, then check out our deal on T8 LED bulbs, just click on the blue box below.  Thanks, Jimmy


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Topics: fluorescent ballasts, led replacement bulbs, led vs fluorescent, LED Lighting, fluorescent lighting, fluorescent bulbs vs led bulbs