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Jan 17

Are Fluorescent Lights Finally Fizzling Out?

I’m sure we’ve all heard that eerie sound of an overhead fluorescent tube light buzzing and flickering as it slowly falters and fails. Surely it can only add to the ominous nature of a multi-storey car park at night or an abandoned hospital ward. In the past half a century or so, new light sources have been significantly developed and now include the much safer and energy efficient LED tube lights.

The distinct dangers and short-comings of fluorescent lights have led to their replacement in various domains with LED tubes, now coming into action in offices, retail stores, hotels, car parks and hospitals alike. The old fluorescent tube lights are mercury based and produce UV light which is both unnatural to see by and uncomfortable to stand near. They are also a rather inefficient consumer of energy, since a very high voltage is needed to activate the discharge each time, a significant problem if the lights are frequently switched on and off. Problems are also found in cold environments which cause the lights to delay on illumination and flicker until stable. The high power requirement also means that the output will be lower when electricity is spread across a large number of lights, for example in a factory or warehouse. Finally, the glass casing of fluorescent lights makes them fragile, breakable and therefore dangerous, especially as the gases enclosed are poisonous.

So, the now well-developed and tested alternative is the LED tube which, although expensive in comparison, uses just 70% of the energy, lights up instantly and can last up to 50,000 hours, over four times longer than the crackling mercury vapour. LED tubes are also a much safer option as they do not use delicate glass casings, contain no noxious gases and remain cool to the touch. The materials used are also recyclable, from the aluminium heat sink to the polycarbonate casing, meaning less toxic waste and possible savings in the future. Their long lifespan also means less replacement costs and reduces the number of bulbs going into landfill.

Overall, it seems the fluorescent tube has met its modern day match. The bright lights of LED tubes are gradually spreading across commercial, industrial and domestic domains, replacing the buzz and flicker of the old overheads with a constant cool clear glow.

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