Updated 30-X-2011
Lamp Nomenclature
Fluorescent Colours
Early History
Operating Principle
Phosphor Types
Gas Fillings
Lamp Lifetime
Switching Frequency
Ambient Temperature
Operating Frequency
Dimming Operation
Lamp Designs
T12 Argon
T8 Krypton
T5 Krypton
T5 Miniature
(Very) High Output
Rapid Start
Instant Start
Non-Linear Tubes
Compact Fluorescent
Lamp Designs
Switch Start
Tandem Switch-Start
Semi-Resonant Start
Rapid Start
Instant Start
Resistor Ballast
High Frequency
DC Operation

Lamp Lifetime

It is relatively complex to specify the lifetime of a fluorescent lamp, because it depends on several variables and can be defined in different ways. Contrary to other light sources they do not always reach an abrupt failure point, but gradually lose their initial performance as they age. Often the light output may decrease so much that the tube is considered useless and must be replaced even though it is still producing some light. The useful lifetime of linear fluorescent lamps can vary from 6,000 hours to 60,000 hours depending on its construction, the operating conditions and type of control circuit.

There are two key mechanisms which determine the life of a fluorescent tube. The first is a question of mortality and relates simply to exhaustion of the electrodes at the tube ends. When this point is reached the lamp will fail to start. Lamps do not all reach this point at the same time - minute variations in manufacture lead to some achieving a longer or shorter life than others. The useful lifetime is expressed in terms of a mortality curve, which illustrates the percent surviving lamps as a function of burning hours. This is illustrated for Halophosphate and Triphosphor T8 in the diagram below. The rated lifetime is usually given as when 50% of the tubes can be expected to have failed.

The second measure of lamp life is that of lumen depreciation. This is quite rapid for the older halophosphate coatings, whereas modern Triphosphor materials achieve an admirable lumen maintenance. End of life is generally specified when the luminous flux has dropped below 70% of the original value.

Figure F14 - Fluorescent Lamp Mortality Curve - Halo vs Tri