Low energy globes


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In just a few weeks time it's lights out for incandescent bulbs, banned from sale as the Federal Government steps up its cleaner greener image.

But just step into any supermarket or hardware store and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and confused by all the new fangled energy efficient lights and their labels. Show do you choose?

Dr Wen Soong from the University of Adelaide says there are three main globes to choose from with varying degrees of efficiency and cost.

“We have the halogen, we have the compact fluorescents and we have the led,” says Dr Soong.

All the globes tested matched the lighting power of a 60watt traditional globe with an arrangement which allows Dr Wen to measure the actual power used by the light bulbs so as they’re turned on 1 at a time they measure the power consumed by that light bulb.

But before his team puts each bulb to the test it might be worth considering what they're made of, are they safe, and how do we dispose of them?

Bryan Douglas who heads the Lighting Council in Canberra says the current stock have 90% less mercury than when first introduced, however the fluoro's emit uv radiation.

“The alternative for people suffering from these sensitive conditions…. is to use a product sometimes called a double envelope CFL and that protects or that prevents uv radiation from escaping from the interior of the lamp,” says Bryan.

The first bulb to be examined by Dr Soong's team was the halogen globe which looks a lot like the old incandescent.

“With halogen light bulbs we changed the design so we can operate the filament at higher temperature and we can more effectively produce light in a similar way as you see for car headlights,” says Dr Soong.

The halogen test globe uses 42 watts (42 watts = 60 watts). They're about double the price, lasting on average 2 years and 30% more energy efficient, knocking off around $6 a year per globe off your power bill.

Interestingly when plugged in to the machine the halogen was more power hungry than the label claimed.

“It normally uses 42w it actually uses perhaps closer to 44w,” says Dr Soong.

Then there's the compact fluorescent lights or cfl's.

“This compact fluorescent uses 12w which is only 1 fifth of what the incandescent uses. The big deterrent is the initial cost, about 8 times as much as the original globes, however they'll last about 8 times longer.

The real winner is the saving to your energy bill of up to $16 off per globe a year.

“We'll be saving 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year or equivalent of taking a million cars off the road a year so a very substantial saving,” says Brian.

Finally, the relative newcomer, light emitting diodes or leds.

“It was supposed to be 1w rating but when we plugged it in, we found it uses 2w.
However, Wen insists leds still lead the pack in terms of energy efficiency.

Until now, led's have rarely been used at homes apart from down lights or in the garden but that could well change with the introduction of these.

One of these leds will currently set you back about $90 but if you can afford it, apparently the real benefits emerge after installation as Led's can last up to 45 years and cost only a couple of dollars a year per globe to run.

Prices will fall however according to Dr Soong when manufacturing costs come down and sales go up.