As we know, CFLs are certainly more efficient and longer lasting than incandescent lamps in most cases. We also know that CFLs have that lovely Mercury issue, and recycling them can sometimes be a major pain in the rear. Another thing you might not know is that the compact fluorescent lamp also has a weird two component-one-piece design with a bulb (the glass envelope, the curly thing) and a ballast (down near the screw base). In essence, the design makes sense: a powerplant/starter and a fluorescing source.
Well, think of a typical fluorescent fixture, with four foot tubes. When you replace a tube, you’re just replacing the light emitting part, not the whole ballast. If you’ve ever changed out a ballast, you’d know that it’s buried up inside the fixture, and not that easy to access. The other bit of weirdness with the ballast is that they will last upwards of 50,000 hours – but the fluorescent bulb lasts upwards of 5,000 hours. CFLs are the same way – the ballast WAY outlasts the bulb, by a factor of ten. So most times you chuck a CFL, you’re throwing away a spent bulb and a usable ballast. This isn’t always the case, but most times it’s the case.
A company called 3E Technologies has invented (but unfortunately not yet produced for sale) a CFL that they called the Smart Lite, with an efficiency of 65 lumens/watt, or a 62.5% improvement over existing CFLs. The best thing about thew Smart Lite? When the bulb stops working, you twist it off of the ballast, recycle that sucker, and twist a new bulb onto the ballast. Smart Lite claims a 50,000 hour ballast and 10,000 hour bulbs.
It’s a start! There’s a video on the 3E Technologies website for Smart Lite – it’s quick, but it shows how the Smart Lite bulb replacement works.