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New light bulbs: what is the difference?

: LEDs are still more expensive, but last a long time and have very low energy use. PHoto: photo: CCDesigntech.COM

With traditional incandescent bulbs being phased out by the end of this year, newer energy-saving light bulbs are all the rage.

When South Africa announced in 2011 that the country aims to phase out all incandescent light bulbs and replace them with energy-efficient ones by 2016, the country was following a growing worldwide trend.

Cuba was the first country to ban incandescent lamps in 2006 as part of its “energy revolution”. Since then, many countries have followed suit with full or partial bans. Senegal and Ghana were the first African countries to ban incandescents, followed by Tunisia and Egypt with partial bans.

Since 1879, when Thomas Edison first invented them, incandescent light bulbs have brought cheap electric light to all parts of the world. However, scientists have since found that these light bulbs use lots of energy to produce light and 90% of this energy is given off as heat.

“That lost energy is money we are throwing away,” according to the Energy Department of the United States.

“[N]ewer energy-saving light bulbs provide the choices in colours and light levels you’ve come to expect. The new lights are also much more efficient, so they save you money,” the department says.

Three of the most common energy-efficient lighting types include halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs). You can find these in most hardware and home-improvement stores.

Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colours, and they can be used with dimmers.

CFLs are simply curly versions of the long tube fluorescent lights one may already have in a kitchen or garage. Because they use less electricity than traditional incandescents, typical CFLs can pay for themselves in less than nine months, after which one saves each month. A CFL uses about one-third the energy of a halogen incandescent.

CFL bulbs are available in a range of light colours, including warm (white to yellow) tones that were not as available when first introduced.

Fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, and they should always be recycled at the end of their lifespan.

LEDs are types of solid-state lighting semiconductors that convert electricity into light. Although once known mainly for indicator and traffic lights, LEDs in white light and general illumination applications are among today’s most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing technologies. LEDs use 25%–30% of the energy and last eight to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.

LED bulbs are currently available in many products such as replacements for 40W, 60W, and 75W traditional incandescents, reflector bulbs often used in recessed fixtures, and small track lights.

While LEDs are more expensive at this early stage, they still save money because they last a long time and have very low energy use.(Source: US government energy website)

Volg Weslander