In this post I will look at compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL, or curly-Q light bulbs), light emitting diodes (LED), incandescent light bulbs, and a halogen light bulb. Light bulbs like anything else will either use a linear or non-linear load. In doing so you will be able to see what linear and non-linear means and how this all relates to the dirty electricity in your home.
For each of the bulbs that I have mentioned I tested with the following set up. The graphs were obtained with a Fluke 190-202 Scopemeter. To test the light bulbs, I used a standard desk lamp plugged into a surge protector. Also plugged into that surge protector was a Stetzerizer Microsurge Meter (this will measure the amount of high frequency voltage transients (dirty electricity) in GS units, as well as a Graham Ubiquitous Filter. Each time that I changed a light bulb (which only took one person) I turned on the light 3 times and so the before and after GS numbers are an average of those three attempts. The blue line that you see in all of the graphs will be the voltage and the red will be the current.
The first light bulb that I tested was a 60W incandescent light bulb made by Sylvania. The result is shown in figure 1.
This is what is known as a linear load. As you can see from the graph the voltage and current are rising and falling at the same rate. In regards to the creation of dirty electricity, the before and after reading on the microsurge meter were the same at 12.3 GS units. Unlike some of the bulbs to come all incandescent bulbs will be good bulbs to have in your house.
The next light bulb to look at is a halogen. Incandescent and halogen are very similar and really a halogen light is a more efficient version of an incandescent. The halogen light bulb that I used for figure 2 was a Westinghouse 40W Eco-halogen.
As you can see this is also a linear load. As you would except then the microsurge reading was the same before and after I turned on the light at 12.3 GS units.
Now enter the non-linear loads. The first light bulb to look at is the CFL. The CFL in this case used in Figure 3 was an 18W Westinghouse.
Non-linear is when the voltage and current use are not proportional as they are in this case. You can see this because there are many places where the current (red line) is flat. This is also how you create something that is energy efficient, in most cases. The downside is often you add dirty electricity to your environment. In this case the before GS reading was 12.6 however when you turned on the light the average GS reading was 56. This was just one light bulb, now think of what a home filled with these will do to your readings. In addition, CFL light bulbs will also emit a radio frequency (RF) which also adds to the EMF pollution in your home. This bulb and really all CFL bulbs are something to stay away from.
Another CFL light bulb tested was the 30W Full Spectrum Bulb. This bulb also emits an RF as well as creates dirty electricity. The graph in Figure 4 shows how it uses current.
The average GS reading before was 12 and when this light was turned on, the average GS reading was 87.6. Once again, keep in mind this was just one light bulb and you don’t want to be above 50 GS units anywhere in your house.
The next type of bulbs to look at are the dimmable and non-dimmable LED light bulbs. The light bulb in figure 5 is an 8.5W Sylvania non-dimmable LED.
As you can tell from the graph this is also a non-linear load. The average beginning GS value was 11.3 and when the light was turned on the average GS reading was 19. This also creates dirty electricity, however it is better than the CFL in that is doesn’t create an RF signal and produces less dirty electricity.**
The next bulb is also by Sylvania and is a 9W Ultra LED dimmable. This is also a non-linear load and its graph is shown in figure 6.
I did not test the dimmable qualities of this bulb because I don’t have any dimmers in the house, nor use any because they create power quality issues in your home. The before and after GS reading in this case were the same at 13.6. In this case, and this case only, this would be an acceptable bulb to have.
In summary, incandescent and halogen light bulbs will always be your best option if you are trying to avoid creating dirty electricity in your home. I would never recommend any type of CFL lighting system. LED can or can’t be good when it comes to dirty electricity. Know that not all LED’s are the same and can vary from brand to brand. The best way to determine if a light bulb creates dirty electricity is do what I did here and plug a lamp (with the bulb you are testing) into a surge protector along with a Stetzerizer Microsurge Meter. The microsurge will initially go up, because of the arc created when making a connection. However, if the readings stay higher than what you started at, don’t use that light bulb because it is bad. If it goes back to your initial reading, then you have something usable. This is something that you are going to have to test with every LED light bulb, because they are not all made the same. You would not need to test every incandescent or halogen though because these are considered linear loads.
**It should also be noted that as you continued to turn on and off the 8.5W LED the GS reading did not change after a while after having the light on. The before and after reading were the same. The averages listed above are what could be considered a cold reading. Meaning the light bulb and lamp sat off for a couple minutes and then were turned on. Once I discovered this I repeated it for each bulb and this was the only one that had different readings.