The "T" designation in fluorescent bulbs tells the consumer the diameter of the glass tube. The diameter does not relate directly to the brightness of the fluorescent bulb.
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The T rating of a fluorescent bulb denotes the diameter of the tube in eighths of an inch. A T12 bulb would be 12/8 of an inch --- or 1.5 inches -- in diameter. The smaller T3 bulb would be 3/8 inch in diameter and the T8 bulb would have a 1 inch diameter.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) have been the main driver behind the recent growth of T3 fluorescent tube products. The average life of a CFL is 10,000 hours while the life of a comparable light bulb is 1,000 hours.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages the use of CFLs but also warns us they contain mercury. An average size CFL contains 4 mgs of mercury compared to 500 mgs in the older types of oral thermometers. None of the mercury escapes into the environment unless the CFL breaks.
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