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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Environmental Assistance and Customer Service - Advantages

Environmental Assistance and Customer Service

Fluorescent Lights

Advantages of Using Fluorescent Lights

Compact fluorescent lights and other fluorescent light bulbs are an extremely energy-efficient lighting option. CFLs arethree to five times more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs.1

All fluorescent lights require some amount of mercury to be able to function. However, using high efficiency fluorescent lamps to replace incandescent lamps or older fluorescent lamps saves energy and actually results in a net reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.2 The recycling and disposal of fluorescent lamps, particularly from non-household sources, further increases the net mercury benefits of fluorescent lights.

The lamp industry has made significant changes in mercury-containing lamps since the 1990s.3 The average mercury-containing lamp manufactured in 1990 contained 43 mg of mercury. In 2003 that level was 11.4 mg of mercury. Increased lamp life also leads to mercury reduction. Lamps are now available with a 20 to 50 percent increase in lamp life compared with products available in 1990. In addition, increasing use of longer life lamps has helped to decrease total mercury use by lamp manufacturers.

Increases in lighting efficiency result in lower emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. For example, as cited by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association3, the 150 million T8 lamps and electronic ballasts that have now replaced the older style T12 lamps save annually: 

  • 48 billion kilowatt hours of electricity
  • 66.8 billion pounds of CO2 emissions from the fossil fuel portion of the electrical generation
  • Millions of pounds of each of the major air pollutants such as nitrogen-oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds
  • 1,262 pounds of mercury from the combustion of coal and oil.

Similarly, the compact fluorescent lamps now being used to fill 150 million “incandescent sockets” save annually: 

  • 6.75 billion kilowatt hours of electricity
  • 9.4 billion pounds of CO2 emissions from the fossil fuel portion of the electrical generation
  • Millions of additional pounds of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates and carbon monoxide
  • 178 pounds of mercury from combustion of coal and oil.

Tips for reducing the mercury hazard in the use of lamps

  1. EPA Mercury-Containing Light Bulb (Lamp) Frequent Questions.
  2. National Electrical Manufacturers Association Recycling Household CFLs.
  3. National Electrical Manufacturers Association Lamp Industry Product Stewardship.
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