4 Jun 2007

When will CFL's cut the mustard?

Interesting article in June’s Lighting magazine on Compact Fluorescent (CFL) lamps. In summary:

• Invented in 1981 by Philips. The original SL*18 (pictured) weighed over half a kilogram, but its 18W consumption delivered 900 lumens, on a par with a 75W incandescent, and lamp life was an unheard of 5,000 hours.

• The average EU home now contains 24 lamps, but fewer than 30% of these homes own any CFLs.

• The EU seems to be in the process of banning incandescents GLS bulbs, but it’s not yet clear when this will come into effect.

• Minaturisation: size used to be a major problem with CFLs but the development of electronic ballasts has addressed the size issue, although there are still many light fittings which won’t accept CFLs because they are too big.

• Shape: As size has been getting smaller, so we are seeing more and more conventionally lightbulb-shaped CFL bulbs coming onto the market. Megaman and Firefly Lighting (both Chinese) have got ranges of lamps very similar in shape to conventional bulbs but the prize goes to Japan’s Toshiba whose Neoball Z Real is identical in shape, size, profile and output to an ordinary 60W bulb.

• Dimming: This has been another problem for CFLs as the pulsed output of conventional dimmers can damage the electronic ballasts. You can buy specialised CFL dimmers but that is far from ideal. However technology seems to be riding towards a solution. Megaman have been producing DORS technology (DORS stands for Dim OR Switch). First switch gives you 100% output; then flick on and off a second time and the output falls to 66%, then 33% then 5%. It’s not quite dimming as we have grown to know it but it’s a fair approximation. But this June, Korean firm Feelux launches a smoothly dimmable CFL lamp into the UK, which works with conventional dimmer switches. Look out for their DimPac range.

• Speed: one of the most frequent complaints about CFLs is that they don’t reach full power for half a minute or more. Not very good for bathrooms or stairwells. However Sylvania’s MiniLynx Fast-Start is designed to address these issues: it comes on in just 0.2 seconds and reaches 80% output in ten seconds. Lamp life is not compromised. Expect more fast start lamps from other manufacturers soon.

• Colour quality: many (most?) consumers complain that CFLs emit a cold light that makes colours appear flat and dull. Whilst colour temperature is now similar to GLS lamps (2700K), the other quality of artificial light, colour render, is still proving problematic, especially on the all-important R9 Red Rendition, which incandescent bulbs excel at and CFLs don’t. But it’s quite possible that this will improve over the coming years.

• Disposal: small amounts of mercury reside in every CFL lamp. No one has ever really bothered about this before but if they are to become much more common, then some procedures are going to have to be put in place for safe disposal of CFL lamps. One to ponder.

1 comment:

  1. Fair summary but absolutly no mention that many CFLs devolop an annying 50cycle mains hum although not every one can hear it. I use CFL but not in any reading lamps - buzz is too annoying