Sources & Auxiliaries
 
Last Update: November 1, 2011
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Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent lamps are the dominant light source in commercial interiors and, even though they have been commercially available for over 70 years, they continue to see important developments and improvements.  The dominance of fluorescent lamps in today’s market is tied to their performance: these lamps provide a compelling combination of high efficacy, long life, good color, and cost effective application.  These characteristics are explored and discussed in this section, along with a discussion of new and emerging technologies in fluorescent technologies.  These advances include high output and long life linear fluorescent lamps, a new generation of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), high-efficiency or premium electronic ballasts, and induction lamps.

Fluorescent Lamp Technology
Fluorescent lamps emerged from the lamp laboratories as commercial products in 1937-38 and began to be used in quantity after World War II. By the 1950s, incandescent lamps were no longer the norm for new general lighting systems in commercial and industrial applications, and by the 1960s, more than two-thirds of the light (lumen-hours) generated in commercial and industrial facilities in the United States was being produced by fluorescent sources.
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Science of Fluorescent Lamps
A fluorescent lamp is a low-pressure mercury discharge lamp in which an electrical discharge produces UV light which is then absorbed by the lamp phosphor to produce visible light. The color and color quality characteristics of the visible light are a function of the specific phosphors that are utilized. A ballast is necessary to initiate as well as to maintain the fluorescent discharge. Figure 1 illustrates the anatomy of a fluorescent lamp.
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Linear Fluorescent Lamps
Linear fluorescent lamps are the standard-bearer for fluorescent technology. While the linear fluorescent lamp market is very mature, it is also quite dynamic with innovated as well as incrementally improved products regularly entering the market. The high volumes associated with the linear fluorescent market have ensured that performance enhancements are implemented in these lamps first.
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Energy-Efficient Fluorescent Ballasts
Fluorescent ballasts have seen two major developments in recent years that have led to significant improvements in efficiency. The first was the transition from magnetic ballasts to high-frequency electronic ballasts. This transition saw the successful increase of lamp/ballast system efficacy by as much as 30-40% along with the added capability of additional features at low cost. These features include fluorescent lamp dimming, enhanced control capability and improved lamp life performance.
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Application Guidelines – Linear Fluorescent Systems
Today’s T8 systems are clearly an excellent choice, and T5 systems may also be an excellent choice, depending on the system's cost and the lamp's thermal operating conditions. T5 lamps are designed to emit their peak output about 10°C higher than T12 or T8 systems, with the idea that smaller lamps will be designed into smaller luminaires with more concentrated heat.
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Compact Fluorescent Lamps
CFLs are defined as single-based fluorescent lamps of bent-tube construction. Developed in the late 1970s and introduced to the U.S. market in the early 1980s, the first models were designed to be used as retrofits for standard incandescent lamps. Integral lamp-ballast combinations with screw-in Edison bases provided convenient and inexpensive alternatives for lamps used in hotels, apartment complexes, schools and other long burning-hour applications.
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CFL System Performance
As with linear lamps, CFL system efficacy depends on the ballast type used and the luminaire's thermal characteristics. Less important, with the growing use of amalgam lamps, is lamp burning position.
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