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Myths on turning off fluorescent lights

We all understand that turning off lights saves energy and our environment (See Kill the unused lights), but what about the myths around fluorescent lights that keep a great many from turning fluorescent lights off to save energy? Well there is only a very small amount of truth in these and in most cases they do not apply at all.

Myth #1 - it takes more energy to light a fluorescent light than it takes to run it. - The turning on of a fluorescent light does require more energy during that fraction of a second of startup time than during an equivalent time of running the light. But, the startup process all takes place in fractions of a second and during that time uses only as much energy as about 5 seconds of running the light. So, if you've turned the light off for more than 5 seconds you've saved energy.

Myth #2 - Turning a fluorescent off and then back on will wear it out faster. - The turning on and off a fluorescent lamp does burn off the coating inside the tube, but this "burning off" process is normal wear on the light also occurring when the light is running normally. Turning the light on does burn off more coating during that fraction of a second of startup time than is burned off during the equivalent fraction of a second of running the light, but question is now, how many minutes of life have you removed from the bulb just to turn it on. So, thinking in terms of dollars and cents, at the average cost of 15 cents per KWH you use about 4-5 minutes of bulb life each time you turn on the light. This calculation however does not include the carbon you save the earth from, which the earth can't really bill you for, at least not in dollars in cents - well at least not yet anyway. So if it is strictly dollars and cents that drive you, you'll always save money by turning off the lights if you expect to be out the room more than 5 minutes. (This argument does not apply to normal incandescent bulbs.)

To support these facts here are a few links to the more, shall I say, technical details.

Myth #3 - Fluorescent bulbs are environmentally friendly. - Not true. While fluorescent bulbs do use less energy per lumen of light outputted they also contain the heavy metal mercury. These bulbs should always be recycled and never be put into the trash (ending up in a landfill, or an incinerator where the mercury then ends up coming out the smoke stack.) The compact fluorescents we've all come to know in our homes are even more of an environmental hazard as each bulb contains the micro-electronic power supply to power the light. These power supplies are not recyclable. Purchasing incandescent bulbs with electricity from a wind farm is far greener than a Fluorescent bulb can ever be. You see, the bulbs aren't the problem!

Bottom line, turn them off when you're not using them, because the fact is, if the earth does send us a bill the fees could be quite egregious.

If you really want to conserve consider light tube technology which channels natural sunlight into interior spaces.