Fluorescent lights emit bright light without becoming burning hot to the touch the way incandescent light bulbs do, and they are more energy efficient as well. Fluorescent lighting has become an extremely popular way to light offices, stores, homes, and warehouses. Today, fluorescent lighting can be used in rail and track lighting systems, as well as for task lighting and in three way lamps.

How Fluorescents Work

Fluorescent lamps use integrated electronics to allow electricity to excite electrons into releasing light photons. The main components of a fluorescent light consist of a sealed glass tube which contains a small bit of mercury and an inert gas, usually argon. The glass tube is coated with phosphor powder and houses electrodes at either end which conduct AC electrical current.

Electrical current flows through the electrodes when the light is turned on. This causes liquid mercury to change into its gas form. Electrons and atoms become excited and collide with the mercury atoms to become even more active. As electrons return to normal energy levels, photon light is released. Fluorescent lamps differ from incandescent lamps in that they require a ballast to regulate the current of electricity allowed to flow through the lamp. Modern, compact fluorescent light bulbs may have the ballast integrated to allow the bulb to be used in a normal incandescent lamp socket.

Conserving Resources with Fluorescents

A greater percentage of the energy used in fluorescent lighting goes directly into providing light, while an incandescent bulb loses most of its energy to heat. Not only do fluorescent lights run cooler, but they require 66% less electric energy to provide the same levels of light intensity and will last up to 10 times longer. This results in less energy consumed and less pollution.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs, but long term savings in energy costs makes up for the difference. Compact fluorescent light bulbs make this lighting more practical and attractive than the long tubes and overhead light fixtures that the technology was once limited too.

Disadvantage of Fluorescent Lighting

The only disadvantage to fluorescent lamps is that they tend to flicker, and do not provide a perfectly steady light. While this differentiation is not usually noticeable to most people, some people may be sensitive to these lights and complain of headaches and dizziness. The strobe effect of fluorescent lights may aggravate certain epileptic conditions and pose a safety hazard in workshops with spinning work apparatuses.