FAQs: Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

What are CFLs?

CFLs are compact fluorescent lamps. There are numerous compact fluorescent lamps intended to replace traditional incandescent bulbs. Because of their small size, compact fluorescent lamps can be used in many existing incandescent light fixtures like table and floor lamps. CFLs are extremely energy efficient, using roughly one-quarter of the power of traditional incandescent bulbs. In addition, compact fluorescent lamps have a much longer lifespan, typically 6 000 – 15 000 hours, compared to 750 – 1 000 hours for a standard incandescent bulb.

Do CFLs emit UV light?

Yes, all fluorescent lamps emit some UV light. However, the UV levels emitted by typical fluorescent lamps, including compact fluorescent lamps, are extremely low.

Are there any other safety concerns? I’ve heard that CFLs contain mercury. Should I be worried?

Like traditional tube-style fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury to produce visible illumination at significantly higher efficiency levels than incandescent lighting.

Typical household compact fluorescent lamps contain less than 5 mg of mercury and do not emit mercury

while in use. The only way mercury could be emitted from a CFL is if the outer glass tubing containing the mercury breaks.

What is mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring element in the environment. Although it has some beneficial properties, it is a toxic heavy metal with potential health consequences that must be handled carefully.

What is the purpose of mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs?

Mercury is an essential component of a compact fluorescent lamp. The ballast, mercury, and phosphor coating inside the bulb all work together to convert electrical energy into visible light efficiently.

What should I do if a compact fluorescent lamp breaks?

If a CFL does break, ventilate the room immediately, and place the shards of the bulb in a heavy or thick sealable plastic bag. Then, wipe the area with a damp cloth and continue to dispose of the wrapped-up pieces of the compact fluorescent lamp as explained below.

Can I throw away my burned-out CFLs?

Can I throw away my burned-out CFLs?

Because compact fluorescent lamps are fragile, and broken glass and mercury content pose a health and safety risk, they cannot be recovered from the waste stream after disposal. As a result, compact fluorescent lamps should not be thrown into regular waste bins but instead kept separate and safely stored until disposal is possible.

General landfills are not designed to accommodate mercury release. Mercury must be treated (encapsulated in concrete or something similar) to prevent leaching and release into the environment, for example, through the atmosphere or groundwater.

How should I dispose of compact fluorescent lamps?

CFLs should ideally not be broken and should be stored in their original packaging or a plastic bag. However, in the event of a breakage, special precautions must be taken to clean up and contain mercury powder and glass shards. Then, you can dispose of your compact fluorescent lamps at participating retailers and collection points in your community. Care should be taken in transporting CFLs to minimise the risk of damage and prevent hazards to handlers at the collection point.

Compact fluorescent lamp collection points are currently available at Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay stores. In addition, check with your local municipality to see if other options exist for disposing household hazardous wastes.

How to safely store compact fluorescent lamps?

Ideally, CFLs should arrive unbroken at their destination. As such, the compact fluorescent lamps should be securely packaged in approved containers for storage and transportation. Manufacturers also suggest the packaging in which compact fluorescent lights are purchased be saved and used for repackaging upon disposal. However, if replacement lamp packaging is readily available, it can be used instead.

What CFLs do you have?

You can browse our comprehensive range of compact fluorescent lamps here.

Contact Krelum Lighting for more information

Compact fluorescent lights are energy-efficient, compact in size, offer longevity, have good lumen maintenance, can be dimmable, provide endless shapes and sizes, have low operating cost, and radiate less heat than incandescent lights. Krelum Lighting is a one-stop shop for all your lighting needs, including compact fluorescent lamps. Contact us for more information about the right lighting solution for your needs.