It all depends on the use
By far the greatest environmental effects are caused by actually using the lamps. An important factor here is the source of power used, since an incandescent lamp run on electricity generated by a hydroelectric plant is less polluting than an energy saving lamp running on the European power mix. "By choosing to power lamps with electricity generated in an environmentally friendly way one can achieve more in ecological terms than by simply replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps," clarifies Roland Hischier.
But energy saving lamps do have an ecological advantage. This is shown by the determination of the environmental break-even point, which is the time for which a lamp operates in order to inflict a certain degree of total environmental damage. Using the European power mix, which is produced mainly by fossil fuel powered generation plants, both incandescent lamps and energy saving lamps reach their environmental break-even points very quickly - after some 50 hours - due to the significantly higher power consumption of the tungsten filament bulb. With the Swiss power mix this point is reached after 187 hours. But with a typical lifetime of about 10,000 hours for a compact fluorescent energy saving lamp (compared to some 1000 hours for an incandescent bulb), the purchase of such a lamp pays for itself very quickly in an ecological sense.
|Contact: Roland Hischier|
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)