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Are light bulbs accelerating global warming?

November 7, 2013 5:21 PM |

Avoid using the apparently cheap incandescent light bulbs, if you care for for the planet you live on. Invented in 1809, the incandescent light bulb was considered absolutely amazing. But today, we all are aware that this device wastes about 90 percent of the electricity it consumes. Moreover, these bulbs are designed in a way to burn out after about 1,000 hours, encouraging the consumers to buy new ones. Light bulbs which could last for longer durations were invented in 90s', but very soon they were rejected by manufacturers.

The actual cost of these bulbs goes unnoticed by most consumers as they are available in the market at a cheaper rate than Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFL bulbs effectively use electricity to produce gas within a glass tube, while incandescent light bulbs produces light by using electricity to heat a filament to the extent that it turns in to a white-hot state. It is believed that around 90 percent of the energy used is wasted as heat and 10 percent remains as light. Therefore, incandescent light bulbs are way more expensive to operate in the long run, as less amount of energy is required by CFLs to produce an equivalent amount of light.

The federal government of the United States of America took a stand by first banning 100-watt and 75-watt bulbs and on 1st of January, 2014, manufacturers will stop producing 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs as well. This would be in compliance with the mandate signed by a bipartisan Congress and President George W. Bush in 2007. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, also attempts a complete phase-out of the incandescent bulbs by the year 2020.

Tussle between CFL and light bulbs

Everybody seems to have been blowing the trumpet of CFLs as they use only about a quarter of the electricity used by light bulbs, but now the question whether they are absolutely safe? Accepted that they last for several years and come in a variety of colours as well, but what about the mercury they contain? They are undoubtedly a good way to decrease greenhouse emissions, however, CFLs contain about 5 milligrams of mercury and, as we already know, mercury is extremely toxic to the human body even in minute quantities.

We can continue this argument by mentioning that incandescent lights sold today are self-destructive and are a bigger environmental hazard. The coal power plants used to power these bulbs emit enormous amount of carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. These power plants are in fact the largest source of mercury emissions in the air and the mercury content of CFLs is negligible when compared to them. We can therefore conclude that CFLs contribute less mercury to the environment, only if disposed and recycled in a sensible manner. Moreover, with the wide array of choices offered by compact fluorescent technology, it is now easy to save energy and money, as well as protect the environment.

Halogen and LEDs

Initially, we expected compact fluorescent bulbs also known as self ballasted lamps to assume the throne. However that has not been the case; light-emitting diodes (LEDs)and halogens seem to be the new standard now.

Halogens best emulate traditional incandescent bulbs and use around 28 percent less energy than the later. It is true that these are not as energy efficient as CFLs, but many people prefer them for their immediate and warm light.On the other hand, LED's appeal lies in its long life expectancy.The replacement of traditional bulbs should be viewed as an evolution rather than revolution to satiate the mind frame of a population accustomed to a very specific bulb shape.

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