Fluorescent lamps: parameters, device, circuit, pros and cons compared to others

Vasily Borutsky
Checked by a specialist: Vasily Borutsky
Author: Natalya Listyeva
Last update: May 2019

Modern fluorescent lamps (LL) perfectly cope with the lighting of large, residential, working and technical premises and can reduce the total electricity consumption by 50-83%, thus reducing utility bills.

In this article, we consider the performance characteristics of LL, their device, we will analyze the main advantages and disadvantages compared to other types of lighting devices. In addition, we give thematic photos and diagrams, as well as videos about the principle of operation of fluorescent bulbs and the features of their application.

The principle of operation and the device LL

A luminescent device is a gas-charging light source, where an electric discharge in mercury vapor creates intense ultraviolet radiation.

Compact modules of the luminescent type have a standard base, thanks to which they become a convenient replacement for bright, but more energy-consuming incandescent lamps.

How does a fluorescent light bulb work?

A special composition called a phosphor, consisting of calcium halophosphate mixed with additional elements, transforms its light into the light visible to the human eye.

After connecting a fluorescent lamp to the central electrical network, the so-called glow discharge is required to be maintained inside the glass bulb.

It makes it possible to ensure the luminescence of the phosphor layer in a constant mode and even during a short-term shutdown of the central power supply.

Fluorescent tubes of various shapes
Previously, a classic fluorescent lamp looked like a tube sealed on both sides, inside which there are mercury vapor. Instruments are now available in more diverse forms and configurations.

Instrument Design Features

A traditional fluorescent lamp is a glass cylinder with an external diameter of 12, 16, 26 and 38 mm, usually presented as:

  • straight elongated tube;
  • curved U-shaped module;
  • ring;
  • complex figure.

Legs are hermetically soldered to end edges. On their inner side there are tungsten electrodes that are structurally reminiscent of bi-spiral filament bodies built into Ilyich’s bulbs.

Lamp Trispiral
In some types of fluorescent lamps, more progressive trispirals are used, which are a twisted bispiral. Instruments equipped with them have an increased level of efficiency and a lower threshold of heat loss, which significantly increase the overall efficiency of the light flux

From the outside, the electrode elements are soldered to the metal pins of the metal capto which the operating voltage is applied.

U-like and direct devices are usually equipped with G5 and G13 sockets, where the letter coding means the pin type of the base element, and the digital one shows how far the working elements are from each other.

The electrically conductive medium located inside the glass bulb has a negative resistance. When a rise in current occurs between two opposite electrodes that requires limitation, it appears and reduces the operating voltage.

The circuit includes a normal fluorescent bulb throttle or ballast. He is responsible for creating the high-level impulse voltage necessary for the correct activation of the lamp.

The scheme of the fluorescent lamp
The figure shows the internal arrangement of a fluorescent lamp and clearly explains the basic principle of operation of its main constituent elements

In addition to this detail, EMPR is equipped with starter. It is an element of a glow discharge, inside which two electrodes are located, surrounded by an inert gas medium.

One of them consists of a bimetallic plate. In sleep mode, both electrodes are in open state.

Common types of light bulbs

The primary classification of products on a luminescent basis is made according to the level of base pressure. High-pressure devices are used for lighting installations of high power and outdoor street lighting.

Low-pressure lamps are used in everyday life to supply light to industrial, technical and residential premises for various purposes.

View # 1 - high pressure modules

High-pressure devices produce saturated light flux of good density. The inner surface of the flask element has a special phosphor coating of fluorogermanate or magnesium arsenate.

The working power of such fluorescent lamps ranges from 50-2000 watts.

High pressure fluorescent lamp
High-pressure mercury modules require 220-watt rated mains voltage for proper operation. Their ripple ratio is usually from 61 to 74%

A complete ignition of the lighting module occurs within 3 seconds. The service life of 80-125-watt products is about 6,000 hours, and lamps from 400 watts or more can last up to 15,000 hours with the strict observance of the operating rules established by the manufacturer.

View # 2 - low pressure products

LL low pressure is used to provide light flow of residential, technical and industrial premises.

Structurally, the device is a tube made of durable glass containing argon inside under a pressure of 400 Pa and in a small amount of mercury or amalgam. It is offered on the market in a wide variety of modifications and is equipped with two electrode elements.

Compact fluorescent lamp
The lowest temperature that low pressure LL can tolerate is -15 ° C. Therefore, for use in open areas, these light sources are considered irrelevant

Glass bulb may have a variety of diameters. The light output level varies depending on the power of the device itself.For its correct operation, a throttle starter is required. Average life is 10,000 hours.

Features of compact LL

Compact-type LLs are hybrids combining some specific distinguishing features of incandescent lamps and luminescent characteristics.

Thanks to advanced technologies and expanding innovative capabilities, they have a small diameter and small dimensions, typical of Ilyich bulbs, as well as a high level of energy efficiency, which is typical for the LL line of devices.

Varieties of compact fluorescent lamps
Compact-type LLs are produced under the traditional E27, E14, E40 caps and are very actively pushing classical incandescent lamps out of the market by providing high-quality light with significantly lower energy consumption

CFLs in most cases are equipped with an electronic choke and can be used in specific lighting fixtures. They are also used to replace simple and familiar incandescent lamps in new and rare lamps.

With all the advantages, compact modules have such specific disadvantages as:

  • strobe effect or flickering - the main contraindications here relate to epileptics and people with various eye diseases;
  • pronounced sound effect - during prolonged use, an acoustic background appears that can cause some discomfort in a person in the room;
  • smell - in some cases, products emit caustic, unpleasant odors that irritate the sense of smell.

The latter position is more often observed in nameless crafts of Chinese origin, and the first two often suffer even branded appliances made in accordance with all the rules and modern requirements. We ranked the best CFL manufacturers in this article.

Basic color temperature spectrum

The color of the glow is one of the most important parameters, which directly depends on the composition of the phosphor that converts ultraviolet radiation into light.

Today, the most common are 7 definitions of the shades of the flow produced by fluorescent lamps:

  • Forehead - natural white with a noticeable cold tint;
  • LDC - natural daylight with improved color rendering quality;
  • Ltb - warm white;
  • LD - traditional daylight white;
  • LB - classic white;
  • LETS - natural with the highest quality shades;
  • LHB - plain cold white.

For residential premises where a person spends a lot of time, shades of warm colors or natural daylight with an increased level of color reproduction are suitable.

White and day tones, as a rule, are present in office, work, industrial premises, offices and classrooms. They contribute to concentration, increase brain activity and improve overall learning and productivity.

The coldest shades are used in medical institutions, laboratories, hospitals and technical rooms. They give objects extra clarity and enhance visual acuity.

Colored fluorescent tubes
Luminescents for meat display cases of food stores are distinguished by a specially selected spectrum of pink radiation. It emphasizes the natural shades of the product, making it more attractive in the eyes of customers.

Color components added to the phosphor allow you to get pink, blue, green and other unusual lamp shades.

Such devices are used for design, advertising and commercial purposes. With their help, they create an original glow, necessary in a particular individual case.

We wrote more information about the color temperature of light, the features of human perception of color and the nuances of choice. in the next article.

Strengths and weaknesses of devices

Like any technical fixtures designed for lighting domestic and working rooms, fluorescent lamps have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Based on this information, you can determine where it is more reasonable to use them, and in which cases it is worth giving preference to light sources of a different plan.

Positive aspects of lamps

The main advantage of luminescent products is considered to be increased light output and a good level of efficiency. They provide the room with lighting that does not irritate the eyes, and demonstrate normal endurance even in conditions of intensive use.

Incandescent lamps and compact luminescent module
The module is approximately 5 times higher than the basic power of a conventional Ilyich bulb. And a 20-watt luminescent gives a luminous flux equal to what a 100-watt incandescent lamp provides

A variety of temperatures of light shades, similar in scale to natural sunlight, make it possible to choose a suitable lighting device for various purposes and for rooms of any purpose.

The light flux emitted by the module is not scattered, but scattered. A calm, pleasing to the eye radiance comes not only from the tungsten filament located inside, but also from the entire outer surface of the bulb.

This allows the use of luminescent sources both for creating general background lighting and for organizing zone light.

Fluorescent lighting
For use in places where the lighting turns on automatically, according to the signals of motion sensors, luminescents are not suitable. They are limited by the permissible number of inclusions for a certain time period and, if activated too often, can fail

The service life of fluorescent products varies depending on the model and reaches up to 20,000 hours or up to 5 years.

However, the buyer should be aware that this lamp produces this resource only under the following conditions, such as:

  • the presence of a sufficient amount of high-quality power without jumps and drops;
  • quality ballast;
  • a certain number of activations, usually not more than 2000 for the first 2 years of use, which is only 5 inclusions per day.

Violation of these basic conditions will significantly impair the efficiency of the lighting device, and significantly shorten its life.

Greenhouse fluorescent lighting
Modules can be used to illuminate greenhouses. They provide natural light as close to sunlight as possible, do not consume much power and exhibit good resistance to voltage surges characteristic of suburban power supply networks

The energy consumption level of luminescent is almost 5 times lower than that of traditional products, so they can be attributed to energy saving light sources.

With their help, it will be possible to effectively illuminate a large room, without spending a lot of money on utility bills.

The working temperature on the surface of the flask does not exceed 50 degrees. This makes it possible to operate the lamp in rooms where increased requirements are imposed on fire safety.

The main disadvantages of the modules

The first big drawback of products is excessive sensitivity to temperature extremes. They react strongly to the movement of the mercury column and may stop working when the temperature drops below -20 ° C.

Heat exceeding +50 ° C, far from the best way affects the functioning and seriously limits the range of use of these light sources.

Moisture resistance is also not a plus and does not allow widespread use of products in bathrooms and sanitary facilities.

Fluorescent lamps
Over time, the phosphor in lamp bulbs degrades and the radiation spectrum changes. At the same time, the light output level of the device decreases and the efficiency decreases markedly

Sometimes the light flux itself is also considered a drawback, having a linear, uneven spectrum that distorts the natural shades of objects in the room.

Not everyone feels it visually, but for those who pick up this minus too clearly, lamps with a phosphor close to a solid, more natural spectral color are sold.True, their light output is significantly less.

There are situations when the luminescence flicker with double the frequency of the supply network. This problem is solved by some improvement of the device, in particular, the use of Electronic ballasts with a suitable level of the capacitance of the smoothing capacitor of the rectified current at the inverter input.

But the fact that manufacturers are trying to save money and do not equip the devices with capacitors of the required capacity is somewhat disappointing.

Screwing a fluorescent lamp into a cartridge
Household LL modules feel best when the ambient temperature is in the range from +5 to +35 ˚С. When the thermometer demonstrates lower performance, the start-up of the device is significantly more difficult, and the operating time is significantly reduced

The need for an additional starting device also slightly reduces the popularity of lamps. They definitely need either an excessively noisy and rather bulky inductor with a low reliability starter or a more advanced electronic ballast, which has the function of adjusting power, but at the same time costs a lot of money.

Another weak point of luminescence is high sensitivity to inclusion. During the direct activation of the lamp on the electrodes, a special composition burns out and crumbles, which ensures the stability of the discharge and protects the inner tungsten filament from overheating.

Constant inclusion significantly reduces the life of the device. In addition, a noticeable flicker appears to the eye, and the edges of the lamp bulb darken and lose their aesthetics.

Chemical hazard to health

One of the main disadvantages of fluorescent light sources is the chemical hazard. The lamp bulb contains highly toxic mercury, and its amount ranges from 1 to 70 mg.

Vapors of this substance can be harmful to the health of people who are constantly in rooms lit by LL type devices.

Disposal of toxic elements of fluorescent lamps
The integrity of the spent lamp must not be violated, otherwise toxic mercury will enter the external environment. A penalty is provided for unauthorized disposal, so it’s better to transfer the product to a center that processes elements hazardous to nature and humans

When a module fails, it should never be broken or sent to an ordinary ballot box. Its necessary dispose of in accordance with regulations and rules clearly described in applicable law.

For example, take them to landfills where toxic materials are taken from the public for their proper destruction or recycling.

Comparison with other light sources

LL-type products are significantly different from both obsolete incandescent lamps and progressive LED ones.

Compared with the first, they consume 5 times less electricity, while providing the same level of light flux saturation. But LED devices are somewhat inferior in power in combination with energy consumption.

Comparison table of lamps of different types
The table clearly shows in numbers how much more profitable to use more modern sources of high-quality lighting instead of traditional Edison bulbs

True, the incandescent lamp burns with the same intensity for the entire period of operation, while luminescent loses part of its saturation due to the burning out of the inner layer, which reflects ultraviolet light.

LED products during operation gain some dullness due to the degradation of the working diodes. And in some models it is possible to adjust the brightness of the lighting with a dimmer.

In incandescent lamps or luminescent such a function is not provided. But this convenient mode in LED devices is not free and you will have to pay an additional amount for it.

In terms of structural fragility, incandescent and luminescent lamps are similar, since they have a glass bulb. Ice modules in this regard are more resistant to shock and mechanical damage.And the absence of any harmful and toxic elements inside makes them much more attractive for operation at home.

Lighting lamps of different types
The highest costs for the entire operational period entail the use of incandescent lamps. Luminescent use energy within reasonable limits, and LEDs make it possible to reduce costs to the lowest possible levels

As for the financial side, initially an incandescent bulb costs less than others. However, given its working life of only 1,000 hours, this can hardly be considered a pronounced advantage.

The base price of luminescent is higher, however, and they serve much longer. As reputable manufacturers say, they last for 10,000-15,000 hours if the number of daily activations does not exceed 5-6 times.

LED modules can boast even better performance, but you will have to pay a lot more for this pleasure, and this is not advisable in all cases. Although the tendency to replace some light sources with others, is observed everywhere. About the need to replace fluorescent bulbs with LED ones and the procedure for doing this work we wrote here.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

What is the principle of luminescence? A detailed explanation of all the nuances of the operation of economical and energy-efficient lighting devices:

What are the main differences between fluorescent elements from simple and traditional incandescent lamps. Comparison of power, light flow and energy consumption of two modern lighting products:

What are compact energy-saving fluorescent bulbs? How they work, how many watts they consume and for what purposes they are used:

The luminescent type device is a practical analogue of a classic incandescent lamp. With its help, it is possible to provide a high-quality light stream to a room of any size, while reducing energy consumption. It will last a long time and will not cause any significant trouble to the owners.

Then, when the lamps work out their life, they will need to be disposed of, and in exchange to buy new, more advanced modules.

What type of bulbs do you prefer and what do you think of fluorescent bulbs? Share your opinion with other users, tell us what you see as the main advantages of LL, and what, personally for you, is a significant drawback of these devices.

If you have good theoretical knowledge on the topic of the above article and want to supplement our material with useful nuances, please write your comments in the block below.

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Visitors Comments
  1. Artyom

    Given my own experience in operating various types of lamps, I would prefer luminescent ones. The key factors for me are the too short life of incandescent lamps and the personal intolerance of the LED type of lighting. It hurts my eyes, besides it seems somehow cold and unnatural. Moreover, all homeworkers agree with me. I would like to know: what does this effect consist of, or is it just an individual perception?

    • Expert
      Vasily Borutsky

      Hello. There are several versions from scientists.

      The higher the temperature of the color spectrum, the stronger the irritation to the retina.It is recommended to use LED lamps with warm light, a radiation temperature of 2500-3200 K. If the indicator is greater, this lamp should be discarded. In addition to physiological factors, this moment is also neurological in nature - warm yellow light is characteristic of sunlight, but there is no cold white in nature.

      LED bulbs with a flicker frequency of 8-300 Hz also have a bad effect on the nervous state, however this applies to bulbs that do not have built-in filtering. In addition, LED lamps, according to recent studies, reduce the production of melatonin, this is a special hormone that is responsible for stabilizing sleep and daily cycle in general, and also has an antioxidant effect.

      But in general, the question of the harm of such lamps is not yet sufficiently developed and studied. Whatever it was, if you are uncomfortable and uncomfortable with those, then why torture yourself, it’s easier to really take an alternative.

  2. Mitya

    I replaced all the bulbs in my apartment with fluorescent ones, immediately felt 60 percent energy savings. The phosphor is very pleasant to the human eye, the lighting in the rooms is much better and more efficient. You can choose the lighting that is pleasant to the eyes, the flow of light is diffused. Of course, financially they are more expensive, but then immediately feel their benefits.