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Fluorescent Lamps

Introduction

Fluorescent lamps contain small quantities of mercury, an essential component, but are far more energy efficient than incandescent lights. Coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest sources of mercury emissions in Canada, and the use of fluorescent lamps in place of incandescent bulbs can reduce energy consumption and may, as a result, decrease overall mercury emissions during the lifecycle of the bulb.

All fluorescent lamps contain mercury as it is currently an essential component of the lamps. Currently there are no alternative lighting devices that are as energy efficient and affordable as fluorescent lamps. Consumers should look for low mercury, long-life lamps and dispose of end-of-life lamps properly. Another option is light emitting diodes (LEDs). These lamps are currently more expensive than CFLs, but offer even greater energy efficiency and a longer lifespan.

Useful Information:

Technical Recommendations Document on the Management of End-of-life Mercury-containing Lamps in Canada

Health Canada's Safety of Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Report on Health Canada Survey of Ultraviolet Radiation and Electric and Magnetic Fields from Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Natural Resources Canada's Fluorescent Lamps - Questions and Answers

Guide to Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations

Canada-wide Standard (CWS) for Mercury-Containing Lamps

 

Below is a list of the various types of lamps containing mercury:


Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Use: Compact fluorescent lamps are frequently used in place of traditional incandescent lights in the hospitality industry, offices, and home lighting systems.

Description: Compact fluorescent lamps have all the same characteristics as linear fluorescent tubes, except they have been designed to replace incandescent bulbs, which are common in residential, commercial, industrial, and accent lighting applications.

Fluorescent LampIdentification: Compact fluorescent lamps are similar in size to the incandescent bulb; however, the bulb has been replaced with a coiled, compact fluorescent tube.

Mercury content: Mercury content is generally between 1 and 25 milligrams. Environment Canada has published proposed regulations that would limit the mercury content in compact fluorescent lamps to 3.5 mg.

Alternatives: The compact fluorescent lamp is currently the most affordable and energy efficient lamp for its application. Another option is light emitting diodes (LEDs). These lamps are currently more expensive than CFLs, but offer even greater energy efficiency and a longer lifespan.


Fluorescent U-Tubes

Use: Fluorescent U-Tubes are used in appliances, ceiling fixtures, and display cases. They are useful when fluorescent light is desired, but the available space is too small for traditional linear fluorescent lamps.

Description: Fluorescent U-Tubes have all the same characteristics as linear fluorescent tubes, except they take up half the space of a comparable linear fluorescent.

Identification: Fluorescent U-Tubes can be identified by the distinct U-shaped fluorescent tube.

Mercury content: Mercury content is approximately 3 to 12 milligrams. Environment Canada has published proposed regulations that would limit the mercury content in fluorescent U-Tubes to 15 mg.

Alternatives: Purchase high-efficiency, low mercury lamps whenever possible. Pricing of U-tube lamps is comparable to regular fluorescent lamps. A ballast replacement may be needed to meet optimum operating requirements.


Fluomeric Lamps

Use: Fluomeric lamps are used as replacement lamps for incandescent systems for a variety of applications. High-wattage fluomeric lamps have long-burning life (up to 20,000 hours) and are ideal for high-bay lighting applications such as industrial lighting, repair shops, street lighting, building facades, security lighting, billboards, and sports arenas. Smaller lower wattage models are suitable for schools, stores, and display lighting.

Description: These lamps are self-ballast and produce brighter light than incandescent lamps. No ballast, wiring, or special fixtures are required to retrofit existing incandescent fixtures

Identification: Fluomeric lamps are not very distinguishable from regular incandescent lamps. They can be clear, white (frosted colour), and reflector flood (aluminum reflector with a frosted face). Product labeling and packaging should be examined to determine whether the lamp is fluomeric.

Mercury content: Mercury content is approximately 2 milligrams per lamp.

Alternatives: Alternatives to regular fluomeric lamps include other forms of mercury-reduced lamps. Regular fluomeric lamps can be replaced with more energy efficient mercury reduced units at a comparable price. The initial cost of a fluomeric lamp is considerably more than an incandescent bulb, but the lamp may be used for a longer period of time.


Linear Fluorescent Lamps

Use: Fluorescent lamps are commonly used to illuminate offices, stores, warehouses, street corners, and homes.

Description: Fluorescent lamps are sealed glass tubes that contain small amounts of mercury (an essential component), inert gas, and phosphor powder coated along the inside of the tubes. Fluorescent lamps are highly efficient, using electric discharge through low-pressure mercury vapour to produce ultraviolet (UV) energy.

Linear Fluorescent LampIdentification: Fluorescent lamps generally range in diameter from 2.54 to 3.81 centimetres (1 to 1.5 inches); and in length rom 0.61 to 2.44 meters (2 feet to 8 feet). Mercury-reduced fluorescent lamps can have a green band or writing at the ends.

Mercury content: Content ranges from 3 to 12 milligrams (mercury-reduced lamps) to 10 to 50 milligrams (non-mercury reduced lamps). Environment Canada has published proposed regulations that would limit the mercury content in linear fluorescent tubes to 5 mg.

Alternatives: Purchase high-efficiency, low-mercury lamps whenever possible.


Mercury Vapour Lamps

Use: Mercury vapour lamps are frequently found in several high intensity discharge (HID) lamp applications. They are used as farmyard lights, for street lighting and general floodlighting, and in parking lots.

Description: The lamp consists of a glass envelope with a pinched quartz glass tube and various metal electrodes within. An electronic current is passed through to form an arc to display light.

Vapour LampIdentification: Light emission is identifiable by a bluish glow. The quality of colour rendition is not as good as metal halide or high-pressure sodium vapour lamps.

Mercury content: Content varies with wattage from 25 milligrams in a 75-watt lamp to 225 milligrams in a 1500-watt lamp. Environment Canada has published proposed regulations that would limit the mercury content in mercury vapour lamps to 50 mg until December 31, 2015, after which time this type of lamp should be phased out due to new energy efficiency requirements affecting their ballasts.

Alternatives: Purchase high-efficiency, low-mercury lamps whenever possible. Metal halide and fluorescent lighting systems provide more efficient alternatives to mercury vapor lamps.


Metal Halide Lamps

Use: Metal halide lamps are used to light sport stadium fields and other areas where a very bright light is required.

Description: Metal halide lamps are the brightest light available and are frequently found in several HID applications. They offer better lighting than mercury or sodium vapour lamps. Metal halide lamps can take up to 5 minutes to light up after being switched on; or 20 minutes if turned off and on again (ignition and restrike). This light emits a bright white light close in quality to incandescent lamps. Lights must be matched up with ballasts. These lamps are not interchangeable with other high intensity discharge (HID).

Identification: Consists of glass envelope with a pinched quartz glass tube and various metal electrodes within. An electronic current is passed through to form an arc and then a light display.

Mercury content: Content varies with wattage from 25 milligrams in a 75-watt lamp to 225 milligrams in a 1500-watt lamp. Environment Canada has published proposed regulations that would limit the mercury content in metal halide lamps to 40 – 150 mg depending on the wattage.

Alternatives: Purchasing high-efficiency, low-mercury lamps whenever possible requires minimal cost. Retrofitting existing systems with non-mercury alternatives can be costly with a lengthy payback period (e.g. solid-state lighting).


Sodium Vapour Lamps

Use: Sodium Vapour lamps are economical high intensity discharge (HID) lamps used for street lighting and general floodlighting and in parking lots.

Description: Sodium vapour lamps consist of a glass envelope with a pinched quartz glass tube and various metal electrodes within. An electronic current is passed through to form an arc and then a light display. There are two general models of sodium vapour lamps: high-pressure sodium (70-1000 watts) and low-pressure sodium (35-180 watts).

Identification: Light emission is identifiable by a yellowish glow.

Mercury content: Mercury mass varies with wattage from 20 milligrams (35-watt lamp) to 145 milligrams (1000-watt lamp). Environment Canada has published proposed regulations that would limit the mercury content in high pressure sodium vapour lamps to 40 mg.

Alternatives: Purchasing high-efficiency, low-mercury lamps whenever possible requires minimal cost. Retrofitting existing systems with non-mercury alternatives (e.g. solid-state lighting) can be costly with a lengthy payback period.