High Frequency Fluorescent Lamps

February 11, 2009


Ever since I moved into my flat in 1990, I have been using these “energy saving” bulbs. So I have observed their evolution, and seen their problems.

Many people dislike the fact that they come on initially very dim, and take some minutes to come to full brightness. Now that does have one advantage, for example in a bathroom in the middle of the night, it does not shock the eyes in the same way. In any case, this effect is definately more notible in some manufacturer’s models than others.

Others don’t like the multiple “D” shape, but there are those inside a round glass these days.

Some claim, in my opinion in error, that they induce migraine headaches. As a past sufferer myself, I discount this, because these work at high frequencies, not the 50Hz mains frequency that the standard “strip” fluorescent lamps do.

I have three gripes.

1. They don’t last the quoted 8000 hours. I find that some, the earlier models, would fail early due to solder joint failure in the high frequency balast or other parts in that area. Although much lower energy consumption, they still generate heat.

In fact the lower heat generation was one reason I used them, having had to rewire cables at my parents house where the old, incandescent bulbs had charred the cable to the point of danger (this was years ago, when it was still legal to do electrical wiring).

2. The dim starting. Bathroom aside, it is a pain, and it is hard to find which ones are more prone to it.

3. More modern units have a new failure mode. The first one to blow recently appears to have damaged the light switch on switch-on. The second, in my anglepoise-style lamp, took out the switch(*) and the fuse, again on switch-on. The third, last night, took out the entire lighting circuit. One moment the lights were on, the next, bang, no lights. Fortunately I had table lamps etc on, so there was still some light. This morning I had to replace the fuse wire at the junction box. Note that this time, the light was already on and working when it failed.

(*) I find it very annoying that it is impossible to buy replacement bulb holders to fit into desk-lamps (and I include from commercial distributors). The one in my anglepoise lamp is now rather fragile due to years of use with hot bulbs. But I was amazed to find that those commercial distributors did not supply the style of switch, either. In the end I discovered some at Maplin Electronics – so I purchased one and a couple of spares for the future.


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