Fluorescent lighting uses a ballast to significantly increase the voltage in order to excite the gas in the bulb and make it glow. This is how it generates light. These ballasts also operate at a higher frequency than the 50 Hz (for 220 VAC, or 60 Hz for 110 VAC)) mains with frequencies in the 15-30 kHz range. (In the typical fluorescent light the bulb can be alone can be replaced whereas in the newer Compact Fluorescent Lighting (see below), the ballast and driving circuit are built in – and wastefully thrown out when it has to be replaced).
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
Presented as a green alternative to incandescent or tungsten bulbs, these bulbs are in fact not green. While they do indeed consume less energy and are more efficient than their incandescent counterparts which they are intended to replace, they contain toxic materials, such as mercury (<5 mg per bulb) and cadmium. They also contain a driving circuit and ballast. (Regular fluorescent tube bulbs do not. Their ballasts are mounted in the mounting fixture and do not have to be replaced each time the bulb is replaced). They are also electrically much nosier roughly by an order of magnitude (10 times).
CFLs are more efficient which can be verified as a reduction of heat emanating from the bulb. But is this really advantageous when one must supply energy to heat their home or workplace anyway? If the old incandescent bulbs output excessive heat (due to their inefficiency) are they not also helping to heat the home or workplace? CFLs are really only advantageous where there is no requirement for heating, i.e., warmer climates. This is something that seems to have been overlooked by governments in their rush to be seen to be doing something green to reduce carbon emissions and saving the planet.
CFLs also take some time to fully bright and are rather useless where lighting is only needed for a moment or two, i.e., lighting the stairs, the bathroom, etc.
There use is also limited as they cannot be used on dimmer switches as this will radically reduce their operational lifetime.
There are problems with disposal of these bulbs as it has been noted to be too dangerous for binmen: “We will not pick up toxic new bulbs“ – UK Daily Mail
Detailed information on CFLs at: emfuk.com
Are CFLs really a green technology?
These bulbs are the latest green technology providing light for less cost. However, they are electrically noisy, 10 x noisier than the old and relatively inexpensive tungsten incandescent light bulbs. CFLs have a number of limitations; they don’t work with dimmers, they take a while to output maximum operational intensity (not good for stairwell, closet or toilet). They are also made up of a lot of toxic materials including 0.5 mg of mercury and electronic component populated circuit boards. Besides these setbacks the logic of demanding such efficiency gains at the price of the environment must be brought into question. Are CFLs really a green technology? If any inefficiency in the conversion of electrical energy into light energy or power density (intensity), is reduced to heat, then what value do these bulbs have in northern climates where heat energy must be supplemented (by electricity) anyway? Is there really a savings?
CFLs as well as regular fluorescent light bulbs output a mercury based spectrum, which for some individuals with higher than normal levels of mercury, may react adversely under their illumination.
Stock up on the old tungsten/incandescent bulbs until such time as LED lighting becomes more cost effective. LED lighting is very reliable and last can 10-20 years with a drop of only 85% of original output and will keep on working indefinitely even after that number of years of operation. They are more efficient than CFLs and are greener (no ballasts/control circuits or mercury). Although their upfront cost is more expensive than either CFLs or incandescent tungsten bulbs they can work out to be less expensive when considered over their lifetime (this includes their long life and power consumption). Also they don’t emit UV radiation and their light output is immediate. They can be used on dimmer type switching technology and can be turned on/off many times will loss of performance. (However, this inherent ability to be switched on and off quickly may be used to transfer information, i.e., update prices in a supermarket using the lighting system rather than having the cumbersome and expensive task of wiring, or supplying individual wireless receivers).
“There are many different types of LED bulbs on the market that come in a range of brightnesses and colours. Some LED bulbs give off far higher EMFs than others, and can be unsuitable for people who are RF-sensitive. However there are LED bulbs available which give off little or no RF and are ideally suited to people with electro-hypersensitivity, especially when earthed.
Toxic Light: The Dark Side of Energy Saving Bulbs
Dimmer switches put out a wide range of radio-frequencies in the kHz range when turned on.
Recommendations: use an ordinary on/off (dipole) switch. This is a safer alternative, since it does not put out a wide range of radio-frequencies.