Is Xenon Lighting Environmentally-Friendly?


These days we hear a lot about green light sources. Over 70% of households in the U.S. use spiral CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) to save energy. If you’re committed to going green in your home or business, you’re probably familiar with the LED (Light Emitting Diode) too. LEDs can be up to 90% more efficient than standard incandescent light bulbs.

But are these the only two choices we have for green lighting?

Xenon light bulbs, while not usually on the tip of our tongues when it comes to energy efficiency, can be a very environmentally-friendly option in certain cases.

What is Xenon Lighting?

The xenon light is a kind of incandescent light bulb. It has the familiar tungsten filament within its glass envelope, which glows when electricity flows through it. What makes the xenon light bulb special is the xenon gas within the glass envelope. Regular incandescent lights burn out so quickly because air oxidizes the filament, wearing it away until it burns out. When the air is replaced with xenon gas, this doesn’t happen as much; the gas slows down the filament’s degradation.

How Long To Xenon Lamps Last?

Xenon lamps last an average of 10,000 hours – 10 times longer than regular incandescent lights, and 5 times longer than halogen light bulbs. When choosing between these, the xenon lamp is the less wasteful, more sustainable choice. (To compare, CFLs have a max rated life of 15,000 hours, and LEDs can last between 25,000 and 60,000 hours).

How Efficient Are Xenon Lamps?

The xenon gas also allows the lamp to generate more light using less energy. When excited by electricity, the gas itself glows bright white. This makes it easier for the light to achieve its lumen output. On average, xenon light bulbs are about 33% more efficient than regular incandescent light bulbs.

Where Can You Use Xenon?

Xenon lights are commonly found in homes and businesses, used for task lighting, accent lighting, cove lighting, and under cabinet lighting. They’re also a common source for car headlights.

How You Can Go Green with Xenon Light Bulbs

1. When Using a Dimmer…

A dimmer switch is one of the most environmentally-friendly lighting accessories you can invest in. When you dim your lights, you’re always saving energy and extending the rated-lives of your lights. If you dim a light bulb by 10%, you’ll save 10% of the energy it normally takes to power that light, and the light bulb will last twice as long. If you dim by 50%, you’ll save 40% of the energy you’d normally use, and your light bulb will last 20 times longer! Less electricity, less waste. Period.

Xenon light bulbs are compatible with standard dimmers, but there are many CFLs and LEDs that aren’t dimmable at all. Unless you have a special LED/CFL dimmer and the compatible light bulbs, LEDs and CFLs will malfunction, degrade, and become less efficient if you use them with dimmers. In this case, xenon lights would actually be more sustainable.

2. In Unstable Environments…

If you’re lighting an area prone to voltage fluctuations, xenon lighting is also one of the greener choices, especially when compared with fluorescent lights.

Xenon lights are very tolerant of unstable voltages, which results in a longer rated life. However, voltage spikes can shorten the rated life of a fluorescent, sometimes dramatically.

3. When Recycling…

Xenon light bulbs are much easier to dispose of especially compared to CFLs. You should always recycle your light bulbs, but because CFLs contain mercury, they require special treatment. If one breaks around you, follow these steps: Grab gloves and a mask to protect yourself from the dust, and collect the broken pieces into a sealed container with a damp paper towel. Turn off your central air or fans for 15 minutes, and take the container to a CFL recycling center. For more information, check out the EPA’s cleanup instructions.

Xenon light bulbs don’t contain any mercury, so they’re much easier to recycle. If one breaks in your home or building, you won’t have to worry about exposing yourself to harmful toxins, or introducing them into the atmosphere.

Article by Annie Josey, a writer at Pegasus Lighting, a lighting shop that specializes in educating people about ways to save energy with lighting – from the most obvious to the most obscure. To learn more ways to go green with your lighting, you can connect with Annie on Google+.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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