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Understanding Fluorescent Lighting

As energy prices climb ever higher, the electric bill is becoming a real worry for many households.

The energy demands of typical incandescent lights constitutes an average of 9 percent of a homeowneręs electric bill. However, times have changed and old technologies suddenly find themselves more useful. Fluorescent lighting, once something only found in commercial properties and public buildings, is quickly become the mainstay at home as well. Fluorescent light and incandescent lights are radically different. Most people are familiar with incandescent lighting as one of Thomas EdisonÎęs great gifts to the modern world. These lights rely upon the principle of incandescence, where an electric current flows through a filament, heating it until it emits light. The filament is enclosed in a familiar bulb to prevent its destruction by contact with oxygen. Its a rather simple process, but is quite energy inefficient. The science behind a fluorescent light is somewhat more complicated, however the discovery of basic fluorescent lights predate EdisonÎęs bulb by several decades. A fluorescent light is basically a tube filled with a noble gas, usually argon, and mercury vapor. When electricity is applied to the gas, the mercury vapor becomes an excited plasma and emits ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light strikes the edge of tube, which is covered in fluorescent materials, and produces visible light. Colors produced by fluorescent lights vary depending on what combination of fluorescent material are used to cover the tube. Although the technology has its benefits, fluorescent lighting faced several hurdles in order to become a viable product for the home. Size and shape was the main factor. Most people are all too familiar with the long tubes that fill overhead lighting in large public buildings. For quite some time, fluorescent lights require special fixtures and were incompatible with the screw-in power source of incandescent lights. Too few manufacturers produced home products that fit these requirements. Today, fluorescent compatible fixtures are becoming popular. Well designed products from Hubbardton Forge, Kichler, Troy Lighting and others accommodate fluorescent bulbs without sacrificing style. In recent years, the compact fluorescent bulb has become common in stores. This bulb is a fluorescent light that is shaped to take the place of a typical incandescent bulb in existing light fixtures. These are called compact fluorescent bulbs, and are a product of the 1970s energy crisis. Although the lighting demands of every household are different, replacing a homeęs incandescent bulbs with fluorescent lights can greatly reduce the amount of electricity used by lighting. A compact fluorescent bulb consumes roughly a quarter of the energy used by an incandescent light and will last six to ten times longer. Since a fluorescent bulb contains mercury, they canęt just be tossed into the trash, otherwise the mercury could be washed into waterways. Mercury has several negative effects on a personęs health. So, when disposing of a fluorescent bulb, first check with local waste management to see what their preferred method of disposal is. If that isnÎęt an option, contact the Environmental Protection Agency. The energy benefits of using fluorescent bulbs are so numerous, the Federal government has decided they should replace incandescent lights completely. Beginning in 2012, one of Americaęs greatest inventions, the incandescent bulb, will be phased out of the market place. Although compact fluorescent bulbs can easily fill the needs existing fixtures, buyers should consider using specially designed fluorescent-specific fixtures to fit certain needs, as will ultimately save them money by reducing their energy bill.