A fluorescent lamp, or fluorescent tube, is a low-pressure mercury-vapor gas-discharge lamp that uses fluorescence to produce visible light. An electric current in the gas excites mercury vapor, which produces short-wave ultraviolet light that then causes a phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp to glow.
A fluorescent lamp converts electrical energy into useful light much more efficiently than an incandescent lamp. The typical luminous efficacy of fluorescent lighting systems is 50–100 lumens per watt, several times the efficacy of incandescent bulbs with comparable light output. For comparison, the luminous efficacy of an incandescent bulb may only be 16 lumens per watt.
Fluorescent lamp fixtures are more costly than incandescent lamps because, among other things, they require a ballast to regulate current through the lamp, but the initial cost is offset by a much lower running cost. Compact fluorescent lamps are now available in the same popular sizes as incandescent and are used as an energy-saving alternative in homes.