LED vs Fluorescent: Should I Switch?
Categories: Tech, Energy
Fluorescent tubes have been around for years. They have been consistently proven to be economical while producing the illumination required in working and public environments. In recent years, however, a newer form of light source has come to the forefront: The LED. Both fluorescent tubes and LEDs have their advantages and disadvantages, but LEDs seem to be winning the attention of consumers. Let's take a look to see why that is, and why you should consider LED lighting over fluorescent tubes.
How They Work
To explore why LEDs have advantages over fluorescent tubes, we must first understand how both light sources work. It is how they are designed and the way they operate which produces both positives and negatives to each light source.
Fluorescent Lights : Fluorescent tubes, and their smaller cousins compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), work in a strikingly different way to LEDs. Fluorescent tubes are made up of a long glass tube with metal fittings on each end where electricity is passed into them. Inside the glass tube is a small amount of magnesium and an inert gas (a gas which does not normally react to stimulation such as heat or electricity), usually argon. The inside of the glass is coated in a phosphorous powder. When electricity is passed into the metal caps at each end, it excites the magnesium inside the tube. Magnesium atoms then release energy in the form of ultraviolet light, which is invisible to the naked eye. When the ultraviolet light hits the phosphorous coating, the phosphorous begins to glow, creating light.
LED Lights : LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. Unlike both fluorescent and incandescent light sources, LEDs do not contain a gas or a filament of any kind. Instead, the entire LED is made up of a material called a semiconductor. This material is solid in nature, which makes LEDs a little more durable. When electricity is passed through the semiconductor material, the electrons inside begin whizzing about which releases energy in the form of visible light.
Advantages of LEDs over Fluorescent Tubes
Now that we understand how both light sources work, we can more accurately discuss the advantages LEDs hold over fluorescent tubes. These include:
- Long Term Cost : It is true that LEDs are more expensive initially than fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights, but they can provide huge potential savings over the long term. While incandescent lights last for a paltry 800 to 1500 hours, and fluorescent lights last up to 10,000 hours, LEDs can last up to a staggering 60,000 hours. This can provide substantial savings as a result of fewer replacements needing to be bought.
- Maintenance : The amount of time spent replacing bulbs, especially in larger buildings, can be counterproductive. Due to the longer lifespan of an LED bulb over a fluorescent tube, maintenance and replacement times can be reduced markedly when LEDs are used.
- Noise : Fluorescent tubes are notorious for being noisy, especially if they have been used for a significant amount of time. They tend to emit clicking and popping sounds intermittently, but most annoyingly, they can produce a low buzzing sound. Since fluorescent tubes are often used in offices and working environments, this can be distracting. LEDs do not have this problem and operate silently with no annoying quirks or noises.
- Colour : Fluorescent lights are notorious for their colour profile. While some fluorescent tubes now use a different type of phosphorous powder to produce a warmer colour, most fluorescents produce only a cold blue/white light. It is stark and not very welcoming. LEDs on the other hand provide all manner of different colours easily for any purpose. This is what makes LEDs so adaptable. They can be used in almost any environment or lighting situation.
- Environmental Impact : Fluorescent lights by their very nature must contain a small amount of mercury. This metal and vapour is extremely hazardous to both humans and the environment. If it is ingested or inhaled it can cause serious complications and as such must be disposed of safely. LEDs are completely safe and do not contain such poisonous materials, putting home owners and parents at ease while knowing that they are not contributing to pollution.
- Instant On : LEDs light up as soon as an electrical current is passed through them. Fluorescents do not do this and require time to flicker before staying on. Not only that, many fluorescent lights do not provide optimum illumination levels until they have been running for a few minutes. LEDs provide instant light and instant full illumination.
- Energy Consumption : LEDs consume far less power than fluorescent tubes. While fluorescents are technically energy saving light sources compared to incandescent bulbs, when contrasted with LEDs there really is no contest. LEDs use less electricity which is better for the environment and your pocket.
- Durable : Because LEDs are not made of glass and are hollow inside, they are far less fragile than both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. This makes them much more durable and less likely to being rendered inoperable due to being dropped or bashed accidentally. It also removes the dangers of broken glass in such circumstances.
- No Heat : While fluorescent tubes emit less heat than incandescent and halogen bulbs, they still produce much more than LEDs. LEDs are lukewarm to the touch and therefore carry less risk of causing an accidental fire or burn.
Fluorescent tubes are a great lighting option for those wishing to pay less initially for their needs. LEDs, however, provide long term savings, great performance, variable colours, and do not contain any hazardous materials. After reading the above, it is easy to see why so many businesses and home owners are turning to LEDs as their number one choice for lighting.