Light emitting diode (LED) light products provide a good combination of light quality and energy efficiency, and are an ideal replacement for high energy-consuming incandescent bulbs, which are now banned by the federal government.
Most retailers and 65% of American consumers have upgraded to LEDs or CFLs (compact fluorescent lighting), now that our natural resources and the savings in electricity are better understood. However, there are still holdouts whose concern is with the health issues associated with breaking or disposing of these new products, and the lack of understanding about the differences between LEDs and CFLs.
Comparing new and old lighting systems makes the choice of LED and CFL lighting over incandescent very obvious. It is also important to understand that special care is needed to handle both CFLs and LEDs.
Incandescent Lamps were the Most Common Lighting Choice for Years
In the mid-1900s, the incandescent lamp became the light of choice, indoors and out, in the home and for retailers and municipalities. Incandescent lamps are made with a metal filament lit by electricity inside an empty bulb or one filled with an inert gas.
Advantages: They were a wonderful, convenient replacement for candles and gas lanterns, and much safer, too. If still used, they can be discarded in the trash and require no special handling.
Disadvantages: They are very inefficient, consume a lot of electricity and most of the energy is transferred into heat rather than light.
Halogen Lamps Became a Popular Variation, Particularly for Retailers
Halogen lamps are a variation of incandescent lamps and also lit by a filament inside a tube; however, the tube is filled with halogen gas.
Advantages: These lamps are a little more efficient than regular incandescent lamps. They are a better choice for display lighting, and for focused work such as reading since the bright light reduces eyestrain. They also last longer outdoors, which saves money in replacement lamps. They can be discarded in the trash and require no special handling.
Disadvantages: They are more efficient but cost four times as much as incandescent lamps, are very hot, produce a bright white light rather than the warm glow of incandescent and the intense glare requires that they be shaded or aligned so that the light is not in the direct line of sight.
Energy Efficient CFLs Create Breakage and Disposal Problems
CFLs use a tube that is curved or folded to fit into the space of an incandescent bulb. They radiate ultraviolet light, which is converted into visible light as it strikes the fluorescent coating on the bulb.
Advantages: CFLs are compact fluorescent lights that have all the advantages of halogens. They are more expensive, but run on one-third the electricity, emit 25% less heat and last 10 times longer.
Disadvantages: Any flaw in the bulb can cause ultraviolet radiation leakage, which means you should not have a lamp closer to you than 11 inches when considering long-term usage. There is some sensitivity to low temperatures and humidity, and they take time to warm up. Because CFLs contain mercury and are made of glass, special precautions must be taken when disposing of them or when they break—a broken lamp must be treated as hazardous. It is illegal to throw CFLs into trash or recycling bins, and they must be taken to a CFL disposal service, such as those offered by IKEA and Home Depot.
LEDs, while Energy Efficient, are Not Perfect
LEDs are illuminated by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, rather than in a gas or a vacuum such as in an incandescent lamp.
Advantages: LEDs are mercury-free, non-glass, resistant to breakage, remain cool, save electricity and reduce the drain on our natural resources. They have a long lifespan, which reduces maintenance costs, and most can be used with dimmer switches. There is no sensitivity to low temperatures or humidity, and they turn on instantly. Cost savings begin almost immediately and it doesn’t take long to recoup the initial purchasing investment, usually two to five years. They require no special handling if broken and can be recycled or discarded in regular landfill.
Disadvantages: LEDs are legally defined as non-toxic and can be discarded in regular garbage and landfills; however, studies have shown up revealing the use of toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and other potentially dangerous chemicals currently contained in some LED lamps. Severe precautions are warned to safely dispose of LEDs should they be broken in the home; if so, sweep up while wearing protective clothing and handle as hazardous waste when disposing of the lamps.
With that said, the technology continues to improve these products and LED makers are being encouraged to replace the toxic ingredients or redesign the lamps entirely with safer materials, to ensure that there are no environmental or physical problems created for future generations.
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