Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are amongst the most efficient lamps available and are a direct replacement for incandescent and halogen lamps.
CFLs use the same technology as linear fluorescent tubes – common in our workplaces – but are designed for use in homes. CFLs only use around 20 per cent of the energy to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent light bulb and last between four and 10 times longer.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are covered in the GEMS (Self-ballasted Compact Fluorescent Lamps for General Lighting Services) Determination in Australia. Product requirements are set out either directly in the determination or the determination refers to the applicable clause in the product standard.
In New Zealand, the detailed requirements for products included in energy-efficiency regulations are outlined in the relevant Australian/New Zealand current product standards.
From 1 November 2009 in Australia, and 1 October 2012 in New Zealand, self-ballasted CFLs are required to comply with Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) which are set out in AS/NZS 4847.2. This standard specifies MEPS requirements and related attributes for self-ballasted CFLs with integrated means for controlling, starting and stable operation that are intended for domestic and similar general lighting purposes. AS/NZS 4847.2 applies to self-ballasted lamps of all voltages and wattages irrespective of the type of lamp cap. Test procedures are set out in AS/NZS 4847.1.
In Australia only, tungsten filament and tungsten halogen lamps are also subject to MEPS.
The intention of MEPS for CFLs is to improve the performance of CFLs to ensure that they remain a viable alternative to inefficient incandescent lamps.
As part of the overall MEPS requirements, there are performance specifications for the following CFL attributes which are given in Table 1 of AS/NZS 4847.2:
- Starting time
- Run-up time
- Luminous flux, efficacy and lumen maintenance
- Power, power factor and harmonics
- Premature lamp failure rate
- Low temperature starting
- Switching withstand
- Lamp life
- Colour attributes
- Mercury content
CFLs with similar colour light to traditional incandescent light bulbs
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) cover a range of desired colours including a close approximate of the ‘warm’ light of most incandescent bulbs, around 2700 degrees Kelvin.
The Kelvin temperature of a light bulb refers to the colour of the light it emits. It is a comparison to natural outdoor light. For example, sunlight at noon on a clear day is about 6000 degrees Kelvin.
CFLs are available in five main colours:
- warm white (similar to the light from incandescent light bulbs) – about 2700 to 3000 degrees Kelvin
- white – about 3500 degrees Kelvin
- cold white – about 4000 degrees Kelvin
- neutral white – about 5000 degrees Kelvin
- daylight – about 6000 degrees Kelvin.
How light output is measured
Traditional incandescent light bulbs were commonly selected by the wattage (W) shown on the packaging of the product. An example of this is the purchase of a traditional 60W incandescent bulb, suitable for use in bedrooms and or other small living spaces. The wattage of a lighting product refers to the measure of energy input, or energy required for the light to come on – this however, is not a true measure of light. The more accurate measure of light is lumens (lm). Lumens is a measure of light output, the actual intensity of the light that is produced.
When selecting a lighting product for your home or office, look for the amount of lumens the bulb produces. This will assist you in buying the light output that best suits the space. See the light globe conversion table to assist you in your selection of a more energy efficient lighting alternative that best suits your lighting requirements.
Turn the light off – or leave it on?
There is a common misconception that more energy is used to switch a fluorescent light on and off than to leave it on when you leave a room. In fact it is more energy efficient to switch CFLs off to save energy and conserve the life of the lamp if you briefly leave a room – rather than leaving the lights on.
There is an ‘inrush’ current when fluorescent lights are turned on that is higher than the current drawn during normal operation. This additional current is only drawn for a fraction of a second – so it is always more energy efficient to turn the light off when not needed.
Frequent switching on and off may shorten the life of most CFLs. However, as an addition to the incandescent phase-out initiative the Australian Government has introduced minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for CFLs that includes a basic standard for switching. This standard requires over 3000 switching cycles per 6000 hours of lamp life.
For some special applications where frequent switching is critical, there are ‘cold cathode’ CFLs that feature lifetimes of 15,000 hours with 500,000 switching cycles. This technology is more expensive and mostly intended for commercial use.
CFLs and interference with electronic devices
CFLs can interfere with other electronic devices, but it’s rare. CFLs like all other electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields and emit light in the infrared range, which can occasionally affect other electronic devices.
If this occurs it can be fixed by moving the device away from the bulb or putting something between the device and the bulb, such as a lampshade.
CFLs end of life and knowing when CFLs should be replaced
Unlike traditional incandescent light bulbs, CFLs tend not to stop working completely, but the light output reduces over time.
A CFL should be replaced when its light output fades.
CFLs, like other electronic appliances, may fail in a number of different ways at the end of their life. In a very small number of cases, for example, the electronic components in the base of the CFL may fail and release smoke, or discolour or deform the plastic casing of the CFL.
While disturbing, these events are not a safety hazard. The plastic casing is required to be designed to contain the failed components and has special inhibitors to prevent a risk of fire.
All CFLs imported into Australia are required to meet Australian Standards that specify safety parameters including the way in which the CFLs may fail when they reach the end of their life.
Disposing of CFLs
Cleaning up broken CFL light bulbs containing mercury
The short-term nature of the potential exposure to mercury – particularly after effective clean-up of broken compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) material – does not constitute a significant health risk to exposed adults, pregnant women or children.
By following these instructions for clean-up and disposal as a cautionary approach, it will help to further reduce any risks.
- First, open nearby windows and doors to allow the room to ventilate for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken light bulb. Turn off air conditioning or heating equipment which could recirculate mercury vapours back into the room.
- Use disposable rubber gloves rather than bare hands.
- Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom on hard surfaces because this can spread the contents of the light bulb and contaminate the cleaner. Instead, scoop up broken material (e.g. using stiff paper or cardboard) if possible into a glass container which can be sealed with a metal lid.
- Use a disposable brush to carefully sweep up the pieces.
- Wipe up any remaining glass fragments or powders using sticky tape, a damp cloth or damp paper.
- On carpets or fabrics, carefully remove as much glass or powdered material as possible using a scoop and sticky tape. If vacuuming is needed to remove residual material you will need to discard the vacuum bag or thoroughly wipe clean the vacuum cleaner canister afterwards.
- Finally, dispose of any clean-up equipment such as gloves, brush, damp paper and sealed containers containing pieces of broken light bulb in your outside rubbish bin – never in your recycling bin.
While not all of the recommended clean-up and disposal equipment described above may be available (particularly a suitably sealed glass container) it is important to remember to remove broken CFL and clean-up materials to an outside rubbish bin (preferably sealed) as soon as possible. This will reduce the potential contamination indoors.
Disposing of used CFLs
At present, CFLs can generally be disposed of in regular garbage bins – where the garbage goes to landfill. You should always check with your local authority – such as your council – responsible for garbage collection for their advice on disposal of CFLs as different local authorities may have different arrangements. For example, some garbage is sent to waste processors and this may change the disposal arrangements.
If you dispose of CFLs in a regular garbage bin you should wrap them in newspaper to prevent them from breaking.
CFLs shouldn’t be placed in recycling bins because they can break during transport and contaminate recyclable items. Several Australian states have household chemical collection programs and drop-off points that accept CFLs for recycling. Other states are considering introducing similar schemes.
FluoroCycle (Link https://fluorocycle.lightingcouncil.com.au/) is a voluntary product stewardship arrangement that seeks to increase the national recycling rate of waste mercury-containing lamps. Lamp recycling can help reduce the amount of mercury being sent to landfill. Established in 2010, the program targets the commercial and public space sectors where the bulk of waste lamps are generated.
Administered by the Lighting Council Australia, FluoroCycle’s operations are funded by a recycling levy which is paid by members. To demonstrate their commitment to recycling waste from mercury-containing-lamps, businesses, government agencies and other organisations joined FluoroCycle as signatories.
In 2014, the FluoroCycle arrangement gained accreditation under the Product Stewardship Act 2011 for a period of five years (Link https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/product-stewardship/products-schemes/fluorocycle), from 21 June 2014 to 21 June 2019. The scheme does not have a current accreditation.
Fluoro-Cycle is a voluntary partnership between government and industry to increase recycling of mercury-containing lamps.
The Environment Protection Heritage Council (EPHC) – made up of state, territory, and Australian Government environment ministers – has investigated issues associated with disposal methods of CFLs. The EPHC have supported Fluoro-Cycle since May 2009.