Compact fluorescents have come a long way from the flickering, unflattering light they once were. They are now available in a wide range of light temperatures, are longer lasting than incandescent lights and are more energy efficient. CFL's have a lamp life of about 10,000 hours and use approximately 80% less energy than an equivalent incandescent.
CFLs are energy-efficient and long lasting, but they aren’t without their problems:
Enter the light-emitting diode, or LED. They’ve been commonly available for years in bicycle lights, torches, garden lights and other applications, and are also available as downlights. They're very energy-efficient, can be very bright and don't contain mercury.
Most LED general lighting service lamps now available are relatively low-light output – comparable to a 25W or 40W incandescent – but brighter 60W equivalent models are also now available. We’ve included some in this test.
For more information about saving energy, please contact Technilux.
The environmental benefit of the phase-out of inefficient lighting has been widely publicised, but CFLs aren’t without impact — they use more energy to produce and contain mercury, which could spell problems if it’s not recycled. So what’s our overall verdict?
A life cycle analysis of CFLs published in The Environmental Engineer concluded that CFLs are the better choice for the environment, mainly because they use electricity much more efficiently. As for the mercury they release at the end of their life, the analysis found that the production of incandescent lamps contributes five times more mercury from burning coal for electricity. This was even the case in Tasmania, where hydroelectricity dominates, although involving much smaller quantities.
Environment groups are generally supportive of the initiative overall. “CFLs are not completely green in every way, but on balance they have a much lower impact than incandescents,” according to the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Since November 2009, incandescent bulbs (apart from a few specialised sizes and types) have not been available for sale in Australia as part of the government’s drive to reduce energy consumption and lessen the impact of electricity production on the environment and economy. They have been replaced by CFLs in most domestic lighting applications.
Early CFLs, which CHOICE first tested back in 2000, cost up to $20 or more and were slow to warm up to full brightness. Now, they're cheaper to buy – typically about $5-$10 per lamp – and run; they're also faster to warm up and have fewer failures.
Incandescents are still available in very small sizes, but will be phased out as CFLs and LEDs in these sizes become available.
Note: most people probably still refer to CFLs and incandescents as "light bulbs", and think of a "lamp" as the light fitting on their bedside table. In fact, as pointed out by CHOICE members in the comments, "lamp" is the technically correct term for what we used to call light bulbs, and the report uses this term accordingly.
Phase-out of incandescent bulbs
The federal government’s incandescent light bulb phase-out program applies Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) to lighting products. Products that don’t meet MEPS will be restricted from sale.