Fluorescent tubes are most commonly found in office and factory environments – they produce a clean, diffuse white light, feature a long life cycle, are reasonably cheap to operate and are relatively easily replaced. The quality of the light is not considered to be particularly attractive, however fluorescent tubes are very effective for properly lighting large areas.
How fluorescent tubes work
Fluorescent tube lamps are what’s known as gas discharge lamps. The way they work is relatively simple in practical terms, but difficult to understand without some knowledge of physics and chemistry. In a nutshell, a current is passed through a tube filled with argon gas and mercury vapour, which is coated with a phosphor coating. When the mercury vapour is excited, it releases energy in the form of ultraviolet light, which then reacts with the phosphor coating to emit visible light from the globe.
Click here for a more detailed technical description about how fluorescent globes work.
Cost efficiency with fluorescent tubes
Fluorescent tubes, while not tremendously expensive, also require control gear (or a ballast) to operate. The cost savings generated by the lamp’s long life and greater efficiency can typically offset this additional cost, depending on the application.
The major problem with fluorescent tubes comes at the end of their life. Fluoro tubes contain mercury, which poses a health risk and cannot be discarded with the rest of your garbage. If they aren’t properly disposed of, the mercury from fluorescent lamps may be released and contribute to air and water pollution.
While each fluorescent tube only contains a small amount of mercury, and while this amounts to no more than a pen tip per lamp, the Australian Government has initiated a scheme to promote the recycling of mercury-containing lamps.To avoid unnecessarily contaminating our eco-system with more mercury, recovery and recycling is the only safe, efficient and effective way of disposing your fluorescent tubes.