The world today faces numerous environmental challenges, and global warming is just one of them. Another is the diminishing availability of fossil fuels and other unsustainable energy sources. Both problems are connected to each other, and actions taken for the resolution of one will also generate a positive result for the other.
This is one reason why governments of urbanized countries are now strongly urging the use of energy-efficient lighting, specifically LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights and CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights). These two are the most popular energy-efficient light bulbs sold in the market today.
LED vs. CFL
You may be wondering what the difference is between LED lights and CFLs.
LED is the product of a more advanced technology, which is the reason why they are usually more expensive than CFL. Each bulb can cost up to $25. It seems to be a sound investment though, considering that LED bulbs may last for an impressive 10 to 15 years. They don’t heat up, which is actually an indication of minimal energy consumption. They are brighter than CFLs too. The savings you get from reduced electricity bills will be double than that of the CFL, which makes LEDs the more cost-efficient fixtures.
As for CFL, these are compact versions of the standard fluorescent lights. Many people prefer them though because first, they’re cheaper at around $3 per bulb; second, they produce a soft, warm light that’s perfect for rooms at home; and third, they fit standard lamp sockets. Compared to incandescent bulbs, they are more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. If wide-scale CFL use is implemented, a country can effectively reduce CO2 emissions and dangerous chemical wastes.
Using LED and CFL is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Homeowners or consumers will end up paying less for their electricity consumption. Since the bulbs require less energy, it means fewer natural resources are used up for energy production, which in turn means they are more environmentally-friendly.
What about health hazards?
We’ve always said that nothing is too good to be true, and indeed, reports that these energy-efficient lamps may be hazardous to consumers have diminished some of the public’s enthusiasm for CFL and LED lights.
Actually, most of the negative feedback is directed towards CFLs. The reports state that:
- CFL bulbs have a high risk of exploding and causing fires.
- CFL bulbs contain significant amounts of mercury, which is detrimental to our health.
While these seem to be valid arguments against CFLs, you must also be aware that experts have also presented proof that these claims are exaggerated.
First of all, any bulb will always run a risk of exploding. It could be due to overheating, faulty wiring (which would cause excessive current to flow through a bulb), or existing damage prior to actual usage. However, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there is a bigger chance that a light bulb, regardless of its kind, will explode because it has suffered damage prior to its installation. All standard-approved bulbs also contain built-in mechanisms which would automatically stop electric current once a heat limit has been reached. Zero current would ideally mean it would no longer catch fire. If there will be a fire, it will be because the bulb is mounted on a combustible surface.
Secondly, CFL bulbs do contain mercury (an average of 5mg), but the amount is much smaller than the mercury found in batteries, dental fillings, or a thermometer. According to Environmental Engineering professor Dr. Kim Dietrich from the University of Cincinnati, it takes 100 shattered CFLs to come up with the same amount of mercury in a thermometer.
Having said these counter-arguments, safety measures are nevertheless necessary.
CFL Safety Tips
- Don’t install these bulbs in rooms where the lights will be frequently turned on and off because that reduces their life. That means no CFLs in bathrooms, bedrooms and the like. LEDs are more appropriate for them. You can put them in the kitchen or living room since you generally switch them on and off once a day.
- Don’t use CFL bulbs alongside ceiling fans because the vibrations may damage them.
- If ever a CFL bulb is broken, open your windows and let the air circulate in and out of the house for 15 minutes to make sure that harmful fumes (if any) dissipate rapidly.
- As much as possible, avoid direct skin contact with the broken parts of a CFL bulb.
- Turn over broken CFL and LED bulbs to recycling centers.