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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?

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

Aussie voice says:
20 August 2011

In April 2000 I bought a dimmable 60watt incandescent bulb from the “Philips IQ Smartbulb Range”. It was a bit expensive at almost $4. I am still using it 11.5 years later. It is used regularly in our loungeroom.

Also in the Philips IQ range:
Motion-Activated Bulb- which was for indoor or outdoor areas. It would turn on briefly (3 minutes I think) then turn off unless light switch used to keep on. Life span 10-15 years at time of writing.

Power-Saver Bulb- this would automatically turn off after 10 minutes. Life span 10-15 years at time of writing.

Philips discontinued production about the time I bought mine. There are websites dedicated to this obsolete light bulb.

D Bradfoield says:
20 February 2014

Halogen light bulbs. What are the dangers, how hot do they get and are they a fire hazard.
on the packaging it shows a diagram indicating that the bulbs should be .5m from a surface,
others .8m from the surface. No one at B&Q, Waitrose or our local electricity wholesalers
can give me an answer I don’t know of a light fitting where you have a domestic bulb half a metre
from a surface. anyone out there can help me. please email;.

The 0.5 or 0.8 metres probably refers to the minimum recommended distance of the halogen bulb from flammable material. This will depend on the wattage of the lamp and it is easy to check if the surface is getting too warm.

When using a halogen bulb in a lampshade or other fixture, check for the maximum wattage permitted, just as you would with an old fashioned light bulb.

Halogen bulbs emit a small amount of UV and good quality desk lamps will have a glass filter to cut out the UV radiation. Halogen lamps used for room lighting are too far away from the eye for UV to be a problem.