There are a lot of new lighting technologies to choose from these days, so ‘which one is the best one to choose’ you may ask? Hopefully, this article will help you make a more informed choice, depending on your needs.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) represent a new process in which we produce light, albeit with significantly increased longevity and energy efficiency over traditional incandescent lamps. CFLs have been lauded for their remarkable features. Unfortunately, as with most new technology, it also has its problems. CFLs contain mercury, a rather harmful element to the environment if not properly recycled correctly. CFLs are meant to stay on, rather than switched on/off periodically. By doing so, you decrease the life cycle of the CFL drastically, thereby limiting CFLs in their application (especially active motion or motion sensing uses). CFLs usually take a minute to warm up to its peak luminance. Despite their shortcomings, CFLs are a good choice if you plan leaving it on constantly. Personally, I think we’ll see more development with LED lighting than CFLs.
High Pressure Sodium
Known as Sodium-Vapor Lamps, it comes in two flavors: High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Low Pressure Sodium (LPS). These lamps are typically used mostly in large-scale lighting infrastructures across the globe. HPS/LPS lamps are known as the infamous light polluters to Astronomers and dark sky enthusiasts and financial ‘vampires’ to governments and tax payers. HPS lamps experience ‘cycling,’ which occurs when there’s a loss of sodium in the arc. For example, a HPS Lamp can start a low voltage, but as temperature rises during operation, the internal gas pressure from within the arc tube increases and more additional voltage is required to maintain its lumen or its brightness.
Low Pressure Sodium
LPS is similar to HPS, but usually has a significantly lower wattage and does not exhibit drastic energy consumption than its heavier cousin. If Astronomers had to choose, they would most certainly prefer LPS to HPS lamps and rightfully so. In fact, LPS lamps do not decline in lumen output as they age, typically consume less energy and they have been compared to Fluorescent lamps due to their low–pressure nature. The problem is, from a construction point of view, that the larger the LPS lamp you create, the more design and engineering problems increases dramatically. Though an efficient light, their construction issues and slight energy need (~10%) at their end-of-life cycle are costly to repair and maintain (similar to HPS).
Light-emitting-diode lamps represent the latest and greatest in lighting technologies. There are three options, the former two being presently not commercially available, organic light-emitting diodes, polymer light-emitting diodes and light-emitting diodes. These three are also known as Solid-state lighting, for they possess diodes, rather than electrical filaments, plasma (fluorescent lamps), or gas. As for the two former options, they’re quite amazing. Imagine super efficient bendable, paper thin light. We probably won’t see those two options commercially available for several years. As for Light-emitting-diode lamps, they’re similar, if not better, than fluorescent lamps. They contain no mercury, are easy to dispose of and also are quite easy to repair in large-scale applications (just replace the diode rather than the entire circuit). Of course, LEDs have their problems as well. The two big problems are its cost and its light output. As the process matures, LED prices should decrease significantly. As for light output, some studies suggest white LEDs produce light ‘too bright.’ While white LEDs are the easiest to make, other more difficult and colored LEDs correct that issue. Personally, I think this is the future of lighting and probably the best investment.
So there you have it. I hope this helps and of course, always research, research, research. That’s your power as a consumer. One last piece of advice:
Shield all your lighting, no matter what the application!
Without shielding, light still escapes into the heavens above.
Let there be night!