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75W light bulbs banned – time to switch on energy savers?

Energy saving and broken traditional light bulbs

Like it or not, we’ll all have to embrace low-energy lighting sooner rather than later – especially when traditional bulbs are to be banned. So what is it about the humble energy saving light bulb that still gets us so fired up?

An EU ban last year on ultra-bright traditional 100 watt (W) bulbs was greeted with shouts of consternation and a stampede of stockpiling shoppers.

Now the death knell has been sounded for its 75 watt cousin. As part of an EU initiative to phase out less efficient light bulbs by 2012, shops will no longer be able to buy new stock of traditional clear 75W incandescent light bulbs from 1 September.

Shops are only able to sell-off existing light bulb stocks – so when they’re gone, they’re gone. According to reports, ‘panic buyers’ are hitting the shops once again.

Under the spotlight

Despite their money-saving and eco-friendly credentials, poor old energy saving light bulbs can’t seem to shake off a reputation gained early on. Too dull, too slow to warm up, too expensive, and too unsightly a shape for a chandelier…

Things are – excuse the pun – looking a bit brighter these days. In the Which? test lab, only a few energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) really struggled to get started, and all lived up to their light output claims. More shapes and varieties are available now, too.

Halogen bulbs, meanwhile, offer a light more closely aligned to traditional bulbs, and relatively-new LED bulbs provide a third energy saving alternative with lots of potential.

Light bulb lamentations

But energy-efficient bulbs are far from perfect and, apart from their environmental benefits, they can put off consumers.

The light quality from a CFL still doesn’t give the same effect as a traditional bulb. Halogens aren’t as efficient as CFLs, and don’t last as long. LED bulbs are more expensive, and – at the moment – have a low light output that can’t replace old-style bulbs on a like-for-like basis.

And it’s still hard to find affordable energy saving lights for your dimmer switch.

The problem seems to be that technology isn’t quite keeping up with legislation. In September 2011, the same fate awaits 60W bulbs. And the year after that, all traditional light bulbs are for the chop.

Are we – and the little energy saving light bulb – ready for the changeover?


I switched to energy saving light bulbs years ago – but the light output was not similar to incandescent for reading. But the newer 18w do compare well to the old 100 watt type – but I think they look stupid on the candelabra – so much so it is no longer used – even for parties.

I am in favour of .saving energy though. It’s a pity there’s not an energy saving TV.


hi Richard,
yes,all the bulb need change to energy saving ones,and LED light is the trend.both indoor and ourdoor lighting projects.
there has energy saving TV now ,you know there are so many LED TV in the market,the brand include SONY,HITACHI,and so on.


Many new flat screen TVs are now using LED backlights in place of CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamps).

The advantages of LED backlighting is low power, less heat and less loss of brightness with age. It also allows for my slimmer panels.

Typically, a new 40″ LED TV may average 80/90 Watts consumption.

B O,Connor says:
6 November 2011

There is an energy saving device fitted on all tv’s, it is called on “OFF” switch!


Actually there isn’t an off switch on all TVs, though there should be. The topic has been discussed at length on another Which? Conversation.


I think the legislators are targeting the wrong things. A 60W light bulb is really not that much of an energy waster. They should instead educate people to use more powerful appliances less. Take the kettle, for example. At 2400W, it uses as much electricity to boil two cupfuls (90 seconds) as keeping a 60W light on for an hour. So why do people insist on filling up the whole kettle? You may as well keep the lights on all night for the amount of energy you’d waste by boiling the whole kettle. Be frugal with your kettle, turn the iron off before finishing your last shirt, mow the lawn less often, hurry up when using your power shower. Then you won’t have to worry about the tiny bit of energy used by your light bulb.


We have an interesting Conversation on what actually makes a difference in saving power and the environment. Bulbs might make a relatively small difference, but when you add it altogether from all households it can make a big impact. https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/can-small-changes-help-save-the-environment/


I don’t believe that the legislators have thought this through very well (surprise! surprise!). The humble incandescent light bulb gives out a good quality reading light, is extremely simple to make and is easily dimmable. This makes it infinitely better than any CCFL you care to compare it against.

If the legislators really want to save energy, then it is those ghastly Halogen downlighters they should ban. They use up to 50 Watt each and provide a tiny pool of light. I have neighbours with 10 in their kitchens and 12 in their lounges. That’s 22 x 50 = 1.1 KW just to light 2 rooms.

If these legislators really want to save the world, then banning the manufactures of halogens and forcing them to be replaced with LEDs would be a far better proposition that taking away the traditional incandescent bulb.

AdamW says:
2 September 2010

Energy saving lightbulbs seem to me to be nothing more than another way of making money.

They’re still stupidly expensive for anything that gives out a reasonable amount of light, and I don’t know where this fallacy originated that they last longer than old bulbs. The boxes for the ones we have proudly boast a 10-year life-span, but in reality they tend to last less than 2 years – even in rooms where they’re used very little; traditional bulbs in those same locations lasted 5 years or more.

One room here requires a 30 watt CFL to be anywhere near as bright as the 150 watt traditional bulb it replaced, and hardly anywhere seems to sell them – only one store in our local area stocks them, while the limit everywhere else seems to be 18 watt, which is way too dim and eyestrain-inducing. And to be perfectly honest, I’m far less concerned about saving energy than I am about saving my eyesight.


I am not against low energy light bulbs, in fact I use them in several outdoor lamps which are left on overnight as a security measure, so they do have a valid application.

I do not, however, enjoy being dictated to by the government, especially when I consider their motives invalid. For one thing, energy saving light bulbs are often not as effective as tungsten lamps. For another, they usually do not look quite right or are physically too large for a particular location (we have tungsten candle-shaped lamps in our living room; the low energy equivalents would be too large). Finally, the use of energy saving light bulbs in some applications (for example, where they are routinely switched on for a short time only) is not an effective way of saving energy.

If the government are really so interested in saving energy, why do they not target such things as shops/offices where lights are left on all night for no apparent purpose? Why do they not improve existing roads, build new roads, or make other improvements to our transport infrastructure? Traffic jams, with the concomitant unnecessary burning of fossil fuels (and atmospheric pollution) must rate as a somewhat greater waste of energy than a humble light bulb.


Unfortunately I do feel that Which? could have done much more to protect consumers from getting into this mess with products we don’t want at prices we can’t afford and which don’t do what they said they would. I believe Which? was championing these new lamps from the outset, much to the satisfaction of the manufacturers and the theorists in the green movement especially at the European level. There is a place for the CFL’s and we have several in places where they are sensible but in many situations they are either impractical or unsuitable or just plain undesirable. Despite the claims of the manufacturers [and indeed as evidenced by Which?’s lab tests] that the new lamps last ten times as long, start quickly, and do not weaken over time, my experience suggests otherwise and so it seems does that of others contributing to this conversation. I do not consider the higher purchase price is offset by the savings in electricity charges; some of the old lamps [bought for around 20p several years ago] in this house are still giving excellent service because – hasn’t anyone noticed? – we actually don’t need to have the lights on all the time. There could even be a tendency to leave low-energy lights on longer than tungsten ones to avoid the shaky start and slow light build-up in places like halls and staircases. For safety and convenience reasons I do not want to have to use CFL’s in a windowless bathroom, the loft, the garage, the cupboard under the stairs, the shed, and so on. Most hotels we stay in seem to have halogen lamps recessed in the bathroom ceiling; they are dreadful – inadequate output, unattractive downward cone of light that puts shadows in the wrong places, prone to failure in the middle of the night. As Clint [above] observed, there are many more effective ways of improving energy efficiency, and economising generally than interfering with things that, in the domestic environment, are largely a matter of personal choice. It annoys me that we have to pay through prices and taxes for energy wastage in shops, offices and public buildings, especially overheated shops that leave their doors open, and then be told what sort of light bulbs we can use in our homes. Perhaps we should also be told to spend a fortune replacing our tungsten Christmas lights with LED types or better still not switch them on at all – certainly no commercial or public establishment should be allowed to switch on their illuminations before the tree in Trafalgar Square has been lit up [18 December is soon enough!]. Happy Christmas everyone!


I don’t agree with the disproportionate measures being targeted against the use of incandescent light bulbs. The authorities seem to be asking us to stop using a reliable technology and instead to accept an under-developed, and as yet inferior, technology in the form of the expensive fluorescent lamps which take an age to reach anything approaching a reasonable light level (hopeless for rooms like bathrooms where you go in, need the light and are out again before it reaches a suitable level). And even when ‘warmed up’ these lamps still don’t provide the light quality we are used to or which we desire.

With regard to this problem, I believe further development of LED lamps is the way forward. We are already seeing these used successfully on cars and buses (still waiting for a viable LED headlamp though), and bike lights come in various forms, many using LEDs, to varying degrees of success. I have to say the bike light options are still way over-priced, (I haven’t worked out why it costs £40 to £50 for a reasonably bright LED front bike light, when ordinary hand-torches with similar beams can be bought for a fraction of the price).

However, I think the focus for legislation should be on other appliances – which use vastly more power than light bulbs. Perhaps we should make all ‘standby’ features illegal – so people actually have to stand up and switch them off properly.

And there has been a positive focus on making many household appliances more efficient, with the energy labeling system to show consumers which ones are the most energy efficient. This has been so successful that the authorities are now reviewing the grading system because most appliances on sale now achieve the top ratings.

Of course one of the biggest ‘sinners’ in terms of wasteful household appliances has to be the tumble drier – which in my view should be banned outright. And anyone owning one should be asked to cut the plug off.

LongleyDave says:
10 September 2010

I agree with all the comments about CFL lamps being a very poor alternative to Tungsten and LED being the real way forward. However, most of all I agree with the remarks that Which? has failed us on this issue (sorry Which? but it’s true), that saving our eyesight is more important than savingthis tiny amount of energy and that the Energy Saving Lamp drive is a financial con.
I too have CFL’s, Halogen and LED’s in appropriate places, but they do not last. I have been successful in obtaining some free replacements for very expensive branded ones with 10 year lifespan proclaimed on the carton which barely managed 18 months in higher use areas such as outside security lights and main living rooms, but I only got replacements after involving advertising standards agencies. We cannot be expected to do that every time a lamp fails.
However. my greatest concern about CFL’s in particular is that they have a huge environmental impact when they are disposed of, which in my unscientific opinion far outweighs any benefits in use.
If we want to make real energy savings then it is the commercial users who need to be targetted, not the domestic ones.
In particular street lighting is a problem as there is now a massive trend to replace Low Pressure Sodium (SOX) lights (the bright orange ones) with High Pressure Sodium (SON – the pale yellowy ones). SOX is THE most energy effcient electric light source known to man and yet nationally millions of SOX fittings (not just the bulbs but the whole street lamp head) are being replaced with SON. SON lamps are still pretty efficient, but nonetheless they use roughly 1.5 times as much power as SOX and the vast amount of needless waste generated by replacing the fittings cannot be forgotten if we are serious about environmental impact.
There you have just one example of how ANY good that is done by domestic users having to put up with poor quality, rip-off value CFL’s is outweighted thousands of times over by corporate users.
’nuff said!


Dave Evans and LongleyDave above – good points, though not sure if I agree with 100% of either.
Dave Evans – the labelling system that you say has been so successful is flawed: Which? are (I think 0 Which? staff please correct me if I am wrong) campaigning for a better system because the current one is hard to understand, doesn’t appear to force like-for-like comparisons and has loopholes.
That aside, you are absolutely right about targetting higher use appliances first.
My personal real gripe is the “patio heater” – both electric (as fitted outside so many pubs and cafes now for the benefit of smokers) and LPG. How anyone could ever allow these to be sold and fitted in the first place is beyond me and they should certainly be rendered illegal. The Electric Ones are probably most relevant to this thread and are an example of what LongleyDave has said about commercial users counteracting any small good that domestic users do.
My suspicion is that all energy saving efforts would be welcomed and embraced far more enthusiastically if we saw them being applied fairly to all user types.
Lastly, can someone tell me if the rumour that I have heard from some electrical retailers is true that although plain household incandescent bulbs are to phased out, COLOURED ones (as used in pubs, etc) are still to be available due to “commercial pressure” – in other words, we can upset the home user because they don’t count but we can’t upset big pub chains, etc., because they swing too much [political] power. If this IS confirmed then I think we can safely say that all accusations of the domestic user being unfairly abused hold water.


The article briefly mentions problems with non-filament lights and dimmer switches but no mention is made of the fact there is also a problem with automatic timer light switches. I have my lights timed to come on when it gets dark (so as to make it less obvious that my property is unoccupied while I am at work). These don’t work with low-energy bulbs either.

Even with lights that are not on timer, several of my light shades don’t work with low-energy bulbs and with th banning of pearl bulbs as well, using no shade at all is also not as good these days.

Caslon says:
19 September 2010

The authorities and manufacturers really shot themselves in the foot over low-energy bulbs. The WRONG CONVERSIONS are used all the time. The bulbs give wattage equivalents, but wattage is simply a measure of how quickly the juice is used up. The quantity consumers should look for is LUMENS, i.e. the amount of light the bulbs push out. For the guidance of consumers, a ‘traditional’ 60W bulb gives out 720 lumens and a 100W bulb gives 1,320 lumens. The equivalent CFL bulb to an old 100W is 23W rather than the 18 or 20-watt (as advertised on the packet). This ought to be more widely known.

My pet gripe about energy wastage is the whole retail industry: shops without windows, shops who leave their doors open in the depth of winter, heating the street…..


The EMC properties of these bulbs are horendous. I have a little problem with hearing, and wear wireless headphones when watching television. I have fitted energy saving bulbs in our light fittings, and have to turn off the lights in order not to suffer interference through the headphones. I am also a radio ham, and turn off lights in various rooms in order to clear interference on reception. I am surprised that these things have passed EMC regulations! Probably the government doesn’t want us sitting in complete darkness when incandescent lamps are phased out.


While I do use energy savng bulbs in several rooms in my home I find that their output is just not good enough for my very dark, north facing dining room which even on bright sunlit days needs lighting if you want to be able to read in there. I currently have two ceiling lights (one at each end of a 7meter long room) and use 100watt bulbs in them. When my very small supply runs out I will be forced to change my light fittings for chandelier type ones which will each have five bulbs, Can anyone tell me where the saving is there? It certainly isn’t to my pocket. Even then the light just isn’t the same and I fear that many older people with deteriorating eyesight are going to suffer greatly.


Wendy – I think you have hit the nail right on the head here: the change to CFL bulbs is about making more profit for the manufacturers of the lamps and the fittings, and if we do manage to save a rather paltry amount of energy along the way that’ll be a bonus.


Just thought I’d add 2 comments for anyone who is still reading this thread:
Firstly, well done B&Q – they now have notices up pointing out that the equivalent wattage ratings are “rough guidelines only” and also have some helpful guidance which echo’s Caslon’s point above.
Secondly, with the return of darker evenings I have started using lights again and, predictably, some bulbs have started to fail. Interestingly in my Sitting room the 250 Watt (yes, 250 watt) incandescent bulb that was in the fitting when I moved in in 1986 is still working fine, and yet in the table lamp beside the sofa I’ve just had to put in the 4th 18Watt CFL in 5 years. The 18 Watt bulb is nothing like as bright as the 250 Watt one in the ceiling fitting, but no matter: the point is that 4 CFLS to land fill in 5 years is fairly obviously a much greater environmental impact than 1 250 Watt bulb in (so far) over 24 years, never mind the energy savings.
Feels like a no brainer to me ………. or am I being very naive?

Malcolm M says:
9 November 2010

I have the new bulbs in all of the locations that I think that they are appropriate, for but have many fittings for which they are just not suitable. As mentioned by others above, this includes exterior fittings, dimmable fittings, timer switched and in crystal chandeliers. There are no replacements available for coloured bulbs, “pigmy bulbs” or “night lights” (8w tungsten) and my electric fires need the heat from a 60w fireglow tungsten bulb to turn the rotating flicker effect.
My main objection is “big brother” banning the sale of tungsten bulbs. If the price of the new bulbs was subsidised such that they were much cheaper than the old ones, simple economics would ensure that we used them, without the need for a ban.
Has anyone else noticed that most retailers of light fittings still use the old tungsten bulbs in the items that they have for sale? As they have them all lit up for show purposes it would be a big saving in their electricity bill if they used the new low energy bulbs. Perhaps the fact that all of their fittings look much worse with the new bulbs has something to do with it?

Richard T says:
19 December 2010

If the goal is reducing energy consumption, surely it would be better to tax low-efficiency bulbs and put that tax money towards energy saving measures that result in a bigger reduction per unit of cost? That would give us the freedom to use the bulbs we want, and (if the tax was set high enough) would save more energy overall than banning the bulbs.


Where do you dispose of these energy efficient lamps, the packaging is marked not to put them into the bin. I took mine back to Tesco when it failed to dispose of it and buy a replacement and was told they do not take them back to dispose of them. I thought the retailer that sold the electrical product had to accept the product back for recycling.


Hello – and great to see the comments still going on this thread!

@canonach – if a shop sells energy-saving lightbulbs then it is required to help people recycle them. That can be by offering a free instore take-back service or – as happens in most cases – the retailer opts to pay towards a council-run recycling site. The staff member you were speaking to in Tesco should have told you about your nearest options, but you can find out from your council or by entering your postcode into the Recycle Now website (http://www.recyclenow.com/).

Also, both Ikea and Sainsbury’s (just the larger stores I think) have instore lightbulb recycling points, so if you were planning a trip to either of these stores you could drop them off then.

Hope this helps.


Up to very recently CFLs were incredibly cheap (e.g. 2 for £1). Now that conventional bulbs are disappearing the subsidy(?) has been quietly dropped. So, if you haven’t got your CFLs already , it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg!!

pootle42 says:
23 January 2011

We moved entirely to CFLs when we moved house in 1992. I think the only ‘ordinary’ lamp in the house is a half silvered 60 watt. In our experience they do last LOTS longer than incandescent bulbs. After we’d moved in I didn’t have to change a single light until 1999 – although we have subsequently changed a few which had gone noticeably dim. The biggest problem we had (and still have to some extent) is the small number of light fittings that work sensibly with non incandescent bulbs.

Also there very few low energy lights with a narrow beam that matches what you can get with 20w or 50w reflectors. Some recent LED lamps though are much better in this respect.

I’ve never understood people who put halogen downlights in the kitchen – the last place you need another kilowatt of heat beamed down from the ceiling in summer is the kitchen.

I have recently started using more LED lamps – the LED strips from IKEA are really good for shelving and other local lighting.

Dimming is still a problem, but we fixed that by using multiple lamps and just turning on an appropriate number. There are a few dimmable options now, but we haven’t bothered.

laurernce miller says:
27 January 2011

Why are so many commentators surprised by the fact that a second-rate technology is supported by Goverment? The classic example of the condensing boiler for home heating, should be sufficient warning.. The minister in the previous administration responsible for its forced introduction, was obviously conned into believing the hype (not difficult!). While I do support the need to conserve energy and research into new technology, I feel we are too ready to believe the next prophet that appears with the latest world-saving idea or product, particularly if he, she or it emanates from Brussels. I always remember the old Latin Tag – ‘Cui bono?’ – the manufacturer, the politician, the beaurocrat or who?


I’ve been using CFL’s for years and yes the early offerings were not very good. In fact the very cheap ones from the supermarket are not that much better now.
However you can get good ones that come in a variety of sizes and power ratings, although I’d say a 60w equivilent is really more like 15w CLF rather than the commonly advertised 11w.
I prefer a cleaner crisper white light rather than the orange things for sale in the local stores. Full spectrum (6500 rather than the common 2700). I buy all mine from ebay cheaper than the rubbish in Tesco and B&Q.
LED’s will be the future lovely clean light but too expensive at the moment.

I’m all for low energy lighting. It’s sensible not to waste energy. Having said that low energy lighting is way down the list if you really want to cut carbon. Yes 60w down to 15w sounds like a lot but overall low energy lighting saves very little carbon compared to the difference between a well insulated house and one which is not.
For this reason banning the old conventional bulbs we’ve used for years is a drop in the ocean. Yes every little helps but the issue is not worth the hype it seems to get. Ban the sales of houses without adequate insulation and then you’ll get legislation that makes a real difference.

I’d let people who want to carry on with incandesent bulbs, mostly older people, and focus more on real carbon savings.

Pawel says:
16 February 2011

I try LED bulbs which being made by Ledon. There is no difference between LED and incandescent bulb. Really well made, good performance, money well spend.


I fully agree with the comments above about the rising popularity of LED bulbs. These have undergone a massive change in the last couple of years and you no longer need to buy those lamps made of clusters of little glass bulbs that give off that horrible bluish light.
The new LED bulbs are generally referred to as SMD bulbs (Surface Mounted Diode) and give off a bright, wide angled beam similar in colour to the old tungsten bulbs, but at a fraction of the energy usage and without all that heat. The new bulbs are also dimmable for around 10% more cost.
I was one of those people who had a kitchen full of halogen down lighters that burned almost a kilowatt of power and raised the temperature of the room in summer to an unbearable level. The new SMD bulbs are exactly the same size as the old halogen ones but the power consumption has dropped from 50 watts to 4 watts and from 20 watts to 2.2 watts depending on bulb type. So for the whole room the power consumption has dropped from 880watts to only 79 watts, the problem now being that it can be too bright! Heat production is now minimal and I’ve recently been informed that the GU10 downlighters are now available dimmable without needing any transformers. These bulbs are not cheap but I reckon I will get my investment back within 2 years.
If you are interested I found them to be very reasonable at websites called Simply LED and Ultra LEDs
I believe LEDs are definitely the way lighting technology is going to go. When is Which? going to test LEDs and SMDs for it’s magazine?


I’ve just bought a couple of LED GU10 fitting bulbs as a trial for my kitchen, both rated around 5w. One is wide angle and gives a diffuse light. The other is ~35deg and gives a a strong focused beam. Early experience is good – the colour temperature is about right, start-up is virtually instantaneous and the light level is on a par with their 50w halogen predecessors. The acid test will be lifetime. Both bulbs were not cheap (£8 and £11) but with a claimed lifetime of 50000 hours they should easily pay for themselves.
Like Colin, I’d like to see Which? testing these urgently – they are a real advance for energy saving