The issues surrounding fluorescent lighting

fluorescent lamps

By Anthony Parkinson, Technical Compliance Manager, Ansell Lighting

Led by the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, the production of fluorescent lamps is set to be banned in the UK from 25 August 2023. The directive, which aims to restrict the use of hazardous materials, rules that mercury can no longer be used in lamps as well as other types of electrical and electronic equipment due to the potential risks it poses if released into the environment. Only HPD lamps and special purpose lamps are exempt from the ban and will be produced for another three to five years.

A powerful, developmental neurotoxin, mercury can cause significant health and environmental problems. Whilst perfectly safe to use in lighting sources when undamaged, if a fluorescent lamp breaks or is disposed of improperly, the mercury it contains can contaminate its surroundings, posing a risk to human health.

A familiar item in homes, offices, schools and hospitals, fluorescent lighting was originally created in the 1930’s and became a popular source of lighting due to its energy efficient properties when compared with incandescent and halogen alternatives.

However, as technology has improved and LEDs introduced, fluorescent lighting has naturally seen its popularity dwindle with property owners and managers opting for lighting solutions that are cheaper to operate, kinder to the environment and easier to dispose of.

The benefits of LED lighting vs fluorescent lamps are well publicised. Being up to 80% more energy efficient, LED is cheaper to operate and far more environmentally friendly than its predecessor. LEDs also offer heightened controllability, allowing different colour temperatures and intensities to be set which in turn impact energy use. They also have a significantly lengthier service life and so offer far better value for money over their lifespan.

With such a significant change to legislation on the horizon, now is the ideal time to discuss lighting system upgrades to LED with customers.

Whilst wholesalers will continue to stock CFL, T5 and T8 lamps until supplies are exhausted, it is fair to assume that their availability will undoubtedly dwindle as time moves on, increasing purchase prices and ongoing maintenance costs in turn. Many customers will be unaware of the legislation that is due to come into play and so sufficient forewarning will support them to take the decision to upgrade lighting systems before these factors become a problem.

This, coupled with current economic pressures and soaring energy costs, means the case for switching to more energy efficient technologies has never been clearer.

That said, the complete upgrade of a lighting system may seem like a costly expense to many, so consumers are generally seeking to simply replace a fluorescent lamp with an LED equivalent in its current fitting.

Whilst possible, this comes with potential safety risks and is something installers may choose to discourage. In some cases, once fitted, existing lighting systems may require adaptation to ensure that they are operating correctly with an LED lamp. This will require further costly evaluation and testing and can prove to be unsafe. LED replacement tubes are also up to 30% less energy efficient than a complete LED installation so the cost savings and environmental benefits are much reduced.

Customers deliberating over whether to make the change to LED should be made aware that the initial outlay for a new lighting system should be recovered in just two to three years alone, from savings incurred on energy bills.

With the writing on the wall for fluorescent lighting, its clear to see that the RoHS directive will undoubtedly make a positive, lasting change to the environment and our pockets. Installers have a real opportunity to help to drive this change and to educate customers on the adjustments that need to be made to accommodate it.

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