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Compact fluorescent energy saving lamp 'better than incandescent bulbs'

By Nairita Das

Washington, Oct 23 (ANI): Empa researchers have investigated the ecobalances of various household light sources - and the compact fluorescent lamp, commonly known as the energy saving lamp is the clear winner.

Although the compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) faced much criticism initially, when the sale and import of tungsten filament bulbs was banned, things are turning around for the energy saving lamp.

One of the main concerns of opponents of these light sources is the fact that they contain mercury.

Roland Hischier, Tobias Welz und Lorenz Hilty, of Empa's Technology and Society Laboratory investigated four different kinds of lamp; the classical incandescent bulb, halogen lamps, fluorescent tubes and energy saving lamps.

They analysed the life cycle of each - raw material and energy consumption of a lamp during its complete life cycle, from the production and usage to final disposal.

The reason why energy saving lamps have larger ecological footprint is because of the electronic circuitry they contain.

In the first 50 (European power mix, upper graphic) to 180 (Swiss power mix, lower graphic) hours the incandescent bulb is ecologically superior to the energy saving lamp. But with increasing time of usage the high current consumption of the incandescent type works to its disadvantage, and its competitor does better.

In the case of energy saving lamps the environmental effects reduce by as much as 15 per cent when they are recycled instead of being incinerated.

But even when they are incinerated in a waste disposal facility the much criticized mercury release is quantitatively insignificant. This is because the overwhelming proportion of mercury in the environment is emitted by fossil fuel burning power stations.

By far the greatest environmental effects are caused by actually using the lamps.

"By choosing to power lamps with electricity generated in an environmentally friendly way one can achieve more in ecological terms than by simply replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps," clarified Roland Hischier.

However, energy saving lamps do have ecological advantage. This is shown by the determination of the environmental break-even point, which is the time for which a lamp operates in order to inflict a certain degree of total environmental damage.

Using the European power mix, which is produced mainly by fossil fuel powered generation plants, both incandescent lamps and energy saving lamps reach their environmental break-even points very quickly - after some 50 hours - due to the significantly higher power consumption of the tungsten filament bulb. With the Swiss power mix this point is reached after 187 hours.

But with a typical lifetime of about 10,000 hours for a compact fluorescent energy saving lamp (compared to some 1000 hours for an incandescent bulb), the purchase of such a lamp pays for tself very quickly in an ecological sense. (ANI)

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