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Fluorescent bulb product information

The fluorescent bulb is a compact version of the common fluorescent tube. While they are different in appearance, they have the same parts and operate using the same principles. Their popularity is driven by their lower power usage and longer life compared to incandescent bulbs. Households can reduced their energy costs by using fluorescent bulbs, and in the process help reduce greenhouse gases. However, they require several years of constant use to make back that extra cost in energy savings. There are also serious concerns about their mercury content and the risk it poses to the environment.

The main difference between fluorescent bulbs is the shape of their glass tube. The low power bulbs use a long U-shaped tube, while the high power bulbs use a spiral tube. The ends of the tube are fixed inside a plastic case that also holds the circuit board and socket cap. The circuit board connects the tube ends with the components that make up the electronic ballast. The ballast limits the flow of current through the tube and prevents it from being damage, and is essential because mercury vapor in its excited state has low resistance and acts like a short circuit.

Fluorescent tubes work by heating small filaments at each end to ionize mercury vapor so that current can flow through it more easily. The current excites the mercury vapor and causes it to release ultraviolet light, which is absorbed by the phosphorus coating on the tube and released as visible white light. The ultraviolet light cannot escape from the glass tube so there is no risk of it causing burns or other damage. In a regular fluorescent bulb, the ballast acts to maintain a constant current so the light intensity cannot be changed easily. Dimmer switches have not effect and can even damage the bulb. There are special bulbs that have additional circuitry that allows them to be dimmed but they are more expensive.

The fluorescent bulb lasts more than ten times longer than an incandescent bulb, although the range of lifetimes is wide because it depends on many factors. They are more efficient and use only one quarter of the power, making them very popular now that energy costs are rising. The package will usually have both the actual and equivalent power ratings marked on them to avoid confusion. For example, a fifteen watt fluorescent bulb has the same brightness as a seventy-five watt incandescent bulb. They also generate less than half the heat, and this can slightly reduce air conditioning costs.

The high cost of fluorescent bulbs is one of the main barriers to their widespread use. They cost an average of four times more than an incandescent bulb, and it can be many years before this cost difference is made back through energy savings. Another problem is their mercury content, which is small but still exceeds safe limits. With so many fluorescent bulbs in use, many are broken and disposed of each day, and this presents a significant environmental problem. Their long starting time is also a problem, and while electronic ballasts have reduced it to just a few seconds, it is still too long for lights that are used frequently. They are more suitable for lights that remain on for a long time.

The fluorescent bulb has become very popular lately due to the intense interest in climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power stations. While they can greatly reduce the energy used for lighting, they are not the only bulb capable of doing that. Bulbs using light emitting diodes (LED) save even more energy and last much longer but are years away from being widely used. Until then, the fluorescent bulb has an important role to play in saving energy.

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