While fluorescent light bulbs are very common in public and government buildings, such as schools and offices, many households still use incandescent light sources. After a little inspection, it can be seen that there is very little reason to do this; the number of justified cases in which people have halogen or other incandescent light bulbs installed in their homes is rather small. In reality, people are either not aware that there is a better alternative, do not know enough in order to make a move, or are just so transfixed in their ordinary lives, that they dare not replace the familiar yellow light.
In principal, incandescent light bulbs contain some sort of wire, through which electrical current flows. The wire heats up, and quite like a simple black body, radiates according to its temperature. About 90% of the energy invested in making the current is dissipated into heat. The rest is outputted as light, although not all of it is in the visible range, so that doesn’t help us either. Overall, very little of the energy we spend to make the bulb work actually goes towards our original goal, which was to radiate light and vanquish darkness (on most bulbs, less than 5%). Because of all this heat, eventually the thin wire may snap, disabling the bulb. This usually happens after about 1000 hours of emission.
Fluorescent light bulbs use the electrical current in order to cause mercury to emit ultraviolet light. This light then hits another material, a phosphor, which causes it to glow in the visible spectrum. The details behind the working of a good fluorescence bulb can be quite complex, and won’t be discussed here. About 20% of the energy invested is turned to visible light, and an average bulb can shine for over 6000 hours, although its lifetime is said to decrease each time the light is turned on and off.
Now that we know the basics, we can start comparing the facts, and soon realize: fluorescent light bulbs are cleaner and better to the environment, and they help save money.
An incandescent bulb costs about 3 NIS, and lasts about 1000 hours. So, if we want 6000 hours worth of yellow glow, we would have to buy 6 of them. Most household bulbs consume 100 Watts. Overall, we pay the electric company 600 [Kilowatts ⋅ hour] worth of money. At the current price of 0.5 NIS per [Kilowatt ⋅ hour], the total cost of 6000 hours of light is: 3⋅6 + 600 ⋅ 0.5 = 318 NIS. And to top it all off, we would have to replace the bulbs 6 times, a rather annoying procedure, which can also be peculiarly dangerous, in case the bulb explodes or shatters (this happened to me twice already, and gave me quite a fright!).
A fluorescent bulb, on the other hand, costs about 35 NIS (over ten times as much as an incandescent bulb), and lasts 6000 hours. If we want 6000 hours worth of white rays, we would have to buy just one. In order to radiate the same amount of visible light as a 100 Watt incandescent bulb, a fluorescent bulb requires just a fifth of the energy: 20 Watts. Overall, we pay the electric company 120 [Kilowatts ⋅ hour] worth of money. This totals to: 35 + 120 ⋅ 0.5 = 95 NIS. We pay less, and we don’t have to replace the bulb so many times.
Now, 6000 hours of light is a mighty long time; in most houses, it amounts to several years of good, light emitting service. During this period, we save about 220 NIS. It doesn’t sound like much, but this is only for one bulb. If we were to replace all of our light sources from incandescent to fluorescent, we would change over a dozen bulbs. This already amounts to a nifty sum, and all for no effort. Considering the fact that the statistics here were calculated based on just the “average” bulb, and that there are better and more efficient ones out there, one can save a considerable amount of money, without having to do any extra work whatsoever *. Why haven’t people thought of this before? They have, but like many things that are know to be better, men generally do not put it into practice.
Overall, there are indeed some reasons not to use fluorescent bulbs: they take a moment to turn on, they sometimes flicker, and some people do not like the white light the emit (although that can be easily changed). However, for most people and in most cases, these reasons are not quite valid, and are often given only as an excuse for laziness. Thus, I suggest that anyone who hasn’t done so yet, move on to fluorescent light bulbs. Not only do they save money, they also produce less waste, consume less energy, and require less maintenance. In future time, I hope we may use LEDs, which should be even better, once the technology makes itself more readily available to common households; until then, let us irradiate with fluorescence and elegance!
* For those economists out there: although the calculations are not brought here, one saves money even after asking the question: “what if I had put the extra money I spent on the fluorescent bulbs in the bank, and let it grow by interest?”