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Are energy-saving light bulbs too cheap?

Energy-saving light bulb

Light bulbs are in the news again and it looks like their cost is about to rise. So should we all be rushing to snap up those ‘three for a pound’ deals while we still can – or does it pay to be more discerning?

How much do you spend on your light bulbs? This isn’t something I’ve considered much until now – after all, we’ve got loads of ‘free’ ones in the cupboard (courtesy of our energy company), along with more cheap ones from Ikea.

But, according to reports this week, the era of cheap light bulbs may soon be over. Why? Because traditional light bulbs are being phased out, causing stocks to dwindle.

Add that to the fact that light bulb mailouts from energy companies stopped last year (following a staggering 182m being sent out as a low-cost route towards meeting energy-efficiency targets) and it looks like keeping your home lit up is about to get pricier.

The true cost of light bulbs

So how could this impact our shopping bills? Where bulbs are currently available for 33p, costs could treble, with the cheapest light bulb going for £1.

While £1 may still seem affordable, it could be a high price to pay for the quality you’re getting (slow to light up, rubbish in cold temperatures, for example). And if you’re after real quality, a quick look at our Best Buys tells you that it already comes at a price.

But while none of the Best Buys give you much change for a fiver, surely the overall cost is worth it when you factor in the quality and longevity compared to the cheaper versions? And then weight this against the average life of traditional bulbs and they don’t seem so expensive after all…

Time to stock up?

Even if my argument hasn’t convinced you, we’ve got little choice other than to start switching to energy-saving bulbs. Traditional bulbs are already scarce – many supermarkets have already stopped stocking them and in September the 60W bulb will be following the same demise as the 100W and 75W bulbs.

We’ve already seen panic buying of dwindling traditional bulb stocks – will reports of rising energy-saving light bulb prices reignite those stockpiling shoppers? Or is it just time to switch on to the fact that today’s prices are artificially low and accept we have to pay more to light our homes in future?


I bought six Philips energy saving bulbs for 10 p each, so three for a pound seems expensive!

Low energy lamps generally contain a small amount of mercury and have a toxic coating on the inside of the glass tube, just like conventional fluorescent tubes.

When we buy new tyres part of the cost is to contribute to the cost of disposal of the tyre at the end of its life. The same should apply for all goods, especially those that require special disposal.

Absolutely agree!

I dislike being forced to have these bulbs which have a goodly number of drawbacks, even if they do save a little energy in the longer term.

Unless you get an expensive version (see Which? best buys and Hannah’s intro) they usually give out considerably less light than the traditional bulb that they are supposed to be equivalent to (this is due to a basic error in calculating the equivalent wattages, which you can read all the scientific details about on many web pages).
Similarly, all but the expensive ones (and not always 100% of them) have a vastly shorter life than the claimed “ten times” and similar used in advertising. This is especially true in fittings where they are switched on for prolonged periods, which of course is exactly where you want them most in order to save energy! Most of the ones I have been given in promotional packs have lasted less than 1 year, where incandescent ones have lasted 2, 3 or even 5 years.
My council refuses to empty the wheelie bin if they so much as think there is an energy saving bulb in it, and the centres for accepting them for recycling are very few and very far between in this area. Most shops do NOT want to take them back and are reluctant if you point out that they are obliged to do so if they sell them.
All, including expensive ones, appear to interfere with TV and Radio reception if used in table lamps near to the TV and Stereo and all seem to interfere with older CRT TV’s and computer monitors. They also interfere with Wireless computer network connections and, irony of irony, stop my Energy Monitor receiving it’s signal from the sensor on the meter!
They cannot be used with dimmer switches, so if you have dimmers installed already you face either having to stockpile incandescent bulbs, have an electrician take out the dimmers (why should we be forced to pay for something we didn’t want doing) or have an electrician replace dimmers with ones that can work with energy saving lamps (extremely expensive and again why should we be forced to pay?)
A great many decorative fittings and table lamps cannot physically accept even the newer, more compact, energy saving lamps – and again why should something we have paid good money for, or maybe even had handed down the family or bought as an antique, be rendered useless by government /EU dictat?

In principle I like the idea of the energy saving lamp, and I do use the (expensive) ones in places where it is convenient for me. However I object to being forced to have something that, like so many products, is pushed onto the market before it has been adequentaly tested and improved.

Not withstanding all of the above, in answer to the specific question on cost, if we are going to have these lamps then yes, the price should reflect the cost of the recycling and therefore sadly yes, the prices at present are artificially low.

Mordenman says:
26 January 2011

I don’t follow your explanation of the anticipated price rise. Why should the loss of tungsten lighting mean the alternatives must cost more ? I can’t see why not getting a few freebies should have the same effect either. Are you telling us that the current stock are being sold at a loss, or is there some sort of subsidy involved ?

Yes and yes.

Mordenman says:
26 January 2011

Then who is doing the subsidising ? Tungsten lamps are already so scarce and pricey that there doesn’t seem a need for competition purposes.
I havent noticed many failures in the cheap ones in my outside lights which must be on at least 80 hours per week. I have change probably three in the last three years out of seven, switched, in some cases, by photocell. I was changing at least one per month when they were tungsten. The saving is not ‘little’ If tungsten last five years you must surely be down on voltage somewhere.
I agree that the domestic lighting industry is hoplessly slow at making fittings that accept the new shapes although the small coiled varieties go in all the difficult ones I have.
My biggest gripe, is that there is so little choice of colour temperature or colour balance. 40 years ago,you could buy fluorescent tubes with 4 or 5 different colour characteristics from northlight to (my favourite) de luxe warm white, to enable a suitable spectrum to be used. All I see now in these little blighters,is white or warm white. None are consistent, and this is a shame, because properly blended phosphor mixes, or however it is done, can produce a light vastly better than gas filled tungsten and even halogen fittings …… although I do concede that you have to live with it for a while to appreciate the fact that you can see the colours in your curtains better !!

Dave Derwent wrote:

“All, including expensive ones, appear to interfere with TV and Radio reception if used in table lamps near to the TV and Stereo and all seem to interfere with older CRT TV’s and computer monitors. They also interfere with Wireless computer network connections and, irony of irony, stop my Energy Monitor receiving it’s signal from the sensor on the meter!”

I have never experienced problems with interference caused by energy saving lamps, although the dimmer on my one remaining incandescent lamp does interfere with Long Wave radio.

These lamps have been in use for more than 20 years so equipment should be designed to cope. It is best not to have them very close, so having a table lamp on top of the TV or stereo is asking for trouble.

It will probably not be long before LED bulbs become affordable and bright enough to be useful for general use.

LED is certainly the way forward and should be the favoured system and the one receiving the subsidy and promotion.

Dan James says:
26 January 2011

I’m afraid I wouldn’t buy them if they wre three for 10 pence I live in a huge block of flats and all the residents are elderly like myself —and what elderly folks need is immediate good lighting not having to wait for the bulb to become brighter before they can make a move. As mentioned above they interfere with hearing aids and other electrical equipment. I have stocked up with the good old traditional 100w bulbs as I also find that the heat from them is not as some experts say “wasted energy” it is extremely useful for as other experts point out the central heating may have to be turned up a notch to compensate—if you don’t agree just hold your hand over one and see if they are wrong—- you will be surprised at the heat you will have been enjoying from your good old faithful 100w bulb.


I’ve bought low energy bulbs when they were first introduced around 20 years ago – they were very expensive but were low energy saving at least 50% running costs – some are still working.

They were not as good as incandescent lamps basically because the manufacture’s misinformation about light output.

However they now produce LEBs that do give instant start up – constant output – sufficient light output – and long life. The only downside is disposing of broken LEBs as no local shop provides a facility – which means driving several miles to the council dump – so I have a box in my workshop that is taken when full.

Purely for Dan – as the lamp heat is mainly in the ceiling – very inefficient – somehow I prefer low energy – higher efficiency – at source.. I certainly never had to “turn up” the central heating to compensate – and I do monitor temperature to around one degree. Thermometers in every room.

Interestingly I have never had any interference from LEBs except on initial switch on in the older LEBs – not now – but I do not place any light source very close to sensitive equipment. most of which contains interference suppression components anyway.

Incidentally I am elderly and never noticed any need to wait before moving after switching on any light ever..

I can agree with a large part of this: the old “jam jar” energy efficient bulbs are / were extremely reliable and I too have one or two in use which have started to dim slightly now as they are just about worn out, but in general these were very good indeed, if expensive to buy.

I perceive that the problem, as in almost all walks of life these days, is that corners have been cut in order to make the bulbs cheaper so that people will buy them. This probably accounts for the majority of the drawbacks such as shorter life, poor quality light and interference (the Phillips branded “Jam Jar” ones certainly have built in suppressors)

Hello, Some interesting comments there. Just in answer to Mordenman’s question about subsidy, yes CFLs are currently subsidised, Dave Darwent is right. They are subsidised under the Government’s CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction Target) scheme which obliges energy companies to promote energy efficiency measures. Compact Flourescent Lamps are currently eligible for CERT ‘support’ (paid for by consumers through a levy on their energy bills). The Government decided to stop unsolicited mailouts of CFLs last year, and soon CFLs will be removed from CERT altogether. Given that over 300 million CFLs have been distributed under CERT and the predecessor scheme – either discounted or for free – many are likely to be just lying in drawers unused. We at Which? agree that this is unlikely to be a cost-effective use of money which comes ultimately out of consumers’ pockets.
Thank you for your comments.

Our house has been fully converted to low energy light bulbs (LELBs) for about ten years now. Some of the older bulbs do need warming up, but they are gradually dying now anyway. Based on the performance of the earlier bulbs and looking at our stock of cheapies and freebies, we will have sufficient bulbs for the next ten years. I don’t care about the price of new bulbs. The newer bulbs that we have had to put in are far superior to the old ones and are fine for us and if their life is as good as they say, we won’t have to buy any until about 2021. By which time the price will have stabilised and technology will have moved to LED units that are even more energy and light efficient.
In fact LEDs are made using Gallium which makes up about 9% of the earth’s crust, but is expensive to extract and is usually a byproduct of aluminium from bauxite. – Not may people know that!

It’s good to see some chemistry on this discussion forum, but I don’t believe that 9% of the Earth’s crust is gallium. Reference please!

Disposal of “dead” bulbs seems a major problem , we are not supposed to put them in the normal rubbish but to drive to a council waste site – 35 mile round trip with no public transport access !

Modern bayonet- or screw-fitting energy saving lamps contain electronic components and these are discarded when a lamp has failed, even if they are still in perfect working order.

It would make more sense to have the electronics separate from the lamps, as in commercial and some domestic lamps (e.g. fluorescent tubes, 2D lamps)

If energy saving lamps are to be sold cheaply it makes more sense to subsidise those that create less waste. Electronic waste is such a problem that there are regulations covering its disposal.

Quite – and both CFL and LED energy saving bulbs are part of your WEEE. How do you recycle your WEEE? In Sheffield it is very hard to get rid of your WEEE safely and in line with the WEEE directive. Rarrar has the same issue (35 mile round trip is even worse than here in Sheffield, but we too have no public transport access to our nearest WEEE disposal site. There is a strengthening case to say that the government and the local councils are taking a rather different sort of WEEE…………..

Here’s a couple of questions to get people’s grey matter revving up:

1) why is it that COLOURED tungsten bulbs are NOT being phased out on the basis that shops, pubs, clubs and so on “need” these to be retained? (R4 You and Yours, early spring 2010, I can’t remember exact date)

2) Low Pressure Sodium Discharge Lamps (SOX) – the ones that are a bright orange colour in street lights – are THE MOST energy efficient electrically driven light source known to man; so why are councils up and down the country replacing them with High Pressure Sodium (SON) or mercury vapour lamps in all street lighting, thus doubling (or more) the energy used for street lighting?

Surely if using energy saving lighting was GENUINELY going to “save the planet” then it would not be only domestic users that were forced to have energy saving lamps, but also all other users too?

Could it perhaps be that we are (as so often) not being told the whole story somewhere??????

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I have my own suspicions ……..

I completely agree. We need to consider all lighting and not just ordinary domestic light bulbs.

As you say, the bright orange street lamps are the most efficient form of lighting we have. These lamps also have a longer life than alternatives. The switch to high pressure sodium lighting is probably because the colour is much better. It does not stop there because an increasing number of almost white lamps are being used in street lighting. I assume that these are white SON lamps, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, these lamps suffer from higher purchase cost, shorter life, and lower light efficiency.

Maybe we should have tackled street lighting and office/commercial lighting before worrying about phasing out the old fashioned domestic light bulb. The rising cost of electricity is a good way of encouraging the public to switch to more efficient lighting, as long as we are all made aware of the cost of using traditional light bulbs.

I cannot answer the question why coloured tungsten bulbs are not yet being phased out. All I can say here is that while I agree with the general principle of phasing out tungsten bulbs, I don’t agree with the way the Government is going about it. For instance, 150 W tungsten lamps were removed from shops before there was any suitable plug-in replacement. (There is now – 30 W low energy lamps are available, but still not easy to find.) If a coloured light is required, it should be possible to make low-energy equivalents more widely available. Also, it is possible to get coloured covers that slip onto low energy lamps.

In the case of street lighting, though the low pressure sodiom lamp is overall the most efficient in terms of lumens per watt, the high pressure version is a much more compact light source, hence it is easier to use mirrors and lenses to direct the light where it is required – and not where it is not. So the effective efficiency of the high pressure lamp is much the same – and the light quality is better.

Commercial and corporate users have for years been continuously improving the design of lighting fittings and one rarely sees tungsten lamps used here. It is domestic users that are dragging their feet. In fairness though, I should say that the range of light fittings available in shops targeted for the domestic market is abysmal. Most of these seem to copy designs more suitable for ancient gas lighting, and even the more modern designs send light all over the place, including up into the light sky.

Denis McMahon makes some really good points and I agree with pretty much all of his post.

There is one point that I am a little uncertain on though: the one about the relative merits of the different types of street light bulb.

Denis states that with the use of mirrors, etc, these are as good os or better than low pressure SOX lamps. But doesn’t that imply that we are replacing whole fittings too (which I know to be the case) and isn’t that generating vast amounts of WEEE and causing monstrous waste of public money for what, by Denis’ own estimation, is simply achieving the same end result as keeping what we had?

This comes back to a point that I have made countless times in so many different places, not just on Which? convo, about campaigners rigidly sticking to just one (often quite small) aspect of a “green product” and conveniently ignoring many other aspects that actually undermine the case.

I absolutely and utterly agree with Denis’ closing point though: the range of domestic lighting products in shops now is minuscule compared to what was on offer in the 1980’s and early 90’s, so little wonder that low energy compatible fittings are not so easy to come by and people are keeping older fittings that may not 9or may) take low energy lamps because there is nothing else to buy that they would give house room to!

I agree with the points made about lack of domestic lighting products available designed for low energy lamps.
Some of us want light fittings, besides producing light, to be aesthetically pleasing and to fit in with our home’s decor and period.
Most of the articles about energy saving assume everyone will be happy sticking largish ugly LE lamps in our carefully chosen light fittings.

Sorry, you folk that hate CFL bullbs, but I can’t sympathise with most of your objections. I’ve been using fluorescent lamps, and a few LED ones since they first became available. Yes, I have had the problems of short lifetime and being slow to get to full intensity, but there are bulbs now which last better and start up quite quickly. Yes, I’ve had problems with radio interference, but shifting the radio a couple of inches solves that problem. It seems to me that if you take care to buy the right wattage bulb, you can usually get pretty much the same light as from the equivalent tungsten bulb. I can now buy bulbs in most sizes and fittings – large and small screw and bayonnet, reflector and candle, too. Only two types currently seem unsatisfactory – the miniature CFL reflectors have been a waste of money – too dim and a very short life – and the expensive multiple LED reflectors just dont give enough light yet unless you install lots. No one here has mentioned the advantages of CFLs, apart from the large energy savings. They need to be changed much less often provided that you buy a decent make. This is a huge advantage if you support a disabled or elderly person and have to travel to them every time a bulb fails. Then there is the point that because CFL bulbs run cool, they don’t burn plastic sockets or burn lampshades, saving electrician’s bills and shade replacements. I suggest to people that hate them – try again using the right bulbs from a good supplier in fitments that are usually turned on for extended periods. You could be pleasantly surprised and also save a lot of energy.

You might have been unlucky with a miniature CFL reflector lamps. I’ve only bought one, but it has lasted far longer than ordinary 40W reflector lamps. Reflector CFL lams are relatively expensive, so I don’t think they could be regarded as being sold too cheap.

You raise a good point about the longer time span between replacements and indeed when my father died 14 years ago one of the first things I did for my mother was to fit CFL’s in every fitting that would accept them for precisely this reason, and it has been a big help.

However, CFL’s don;’t run cool at the base of the bulb where the starter circuit is, so the advantage that you refer to is only partially there. This was highlighted last October when my mother had her house rewired and the electrician showed her the perilous state of the lamp holders, some of which neither of us had looked at closely for over 7 years where bulbs had not failed, and so we’d not noticed that they had deteriorated so much that as soon as he tried to remove the bulb the whole thing completely fell apart. Some of these were in fittings that had only been bought new after my father died, so within the last 14 years.

YOu also mention the savings in fittings that are in use for long periods of time, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on that one because, as I stated in a post further up this board, it is in those fittings that I have been able to observe the premature failure of a great many CFL’s of many brands and ages, as opposed to fittings that are used for shorter periods of time. Indeed, only since reading this board, I have noticed on the carton of a Phillips branded CFL that was bought within the last 6 months a bit of small print against the quoted expected lifespan which states that this is based on the lamp being energised for 3 hours per day in a non-enclosed fitting, This seems to suggest that the manufacturers are well aware that the life is shortened by prolonged use.

Thank you Dave Derwent for your kind comments. To answer your point about replacing low pressure SOX lamps with something that achieves only a similar result – around where I live I see no evidence of wholesale replacement of serviceable SOX fittings. Newer high pressure sodium fittings are installed as piecemeal replacement of defective fittings that need to be disposed of anyway. So one sees roads lit predominantly with low-pressure sodium lights with the odd high-pressure one dotted here and there. Where there is a road lit entirely with the new type, it is where lighting has been newly installed on previously unlit roads. At least that’s how it is round where I live. I can’t speak for everywhere.

Some have made the point about the time it takes a compact fluorescent lamp to reach full brighness. This I agree used to be a problem in certain areas, e.g. for outside lights with movement detector actuation, it took a while for me to find lamps that would reach satisfactory brightness in a few seconds, especially in cold weather, but I have now. And a slow increase in brightness can sometimes be an advantage, for instance in a bedroom. Switch on the light during the night and it is much more comfortable in allowing your eyes to adjust to the light.

And here is an interesting point. Have you noticed how the interior lights of modern cars deliberately fade on and off gradually, owing to clever electronics? Why should this be a desirable feature in a car but so undesirable, according to some viewpoints, inside a house?

Mordenman says:
20 February 2011

I remain unconvinced that the cost of low energy bulbs will rise significantly, even when this obscure subsidy is removed. How is it managed I wonder considering the great variation in price there is alredy. I am a bit disappointed that no one else seems to notice, or at least be bothered by, the inconsistency in the colour content of CFL sources. Our bedside lights have identical 18w bulbs and if you stand at the foot of the bed and look, one is noticeably pink in colour, the other a slight green tint. The effect on what you are looking at from these supposedly similar lamps is very apparent. Try it. Take a coloured magazine cover and see what effect the spectrum has on the way it looks. Maybe not ….. you might get annoyed by it as I am !!

In reply to your point, Mordenman, about the price of low energy lamps – at present there is a plethora of them, especially around the 11 W size, in both supermarket shelves and household cupboards – thanks partially to all the “freebies” we have had and also because they do last a lot longer and need to be replaced much less frequently. Basic market forces of supply and demand apply. I don’t favour the idea of setting a minimum price. We are supposedly a competitive market place. Resale price maintenance had a good purpose in the early post-war years, but it was abolished long ago, to the delight of Which? and other consumer organisations.

Replying to your point about the colour differences in your bedside lights and your earlier post about colours available for fluorescent tubes, manufacturers are unlikely to imitate exactly the colour of tungsten lamps, and I don’t think they should even try. I’d like to see wider available of compact fluorsecent lamps in other “whiter” colours. I tried a daylight lamp round various rooms in my house – I admit I was taken a bit aback at first by the appearance, but now I have then in several rooms and I no longer notice the overall colour. What I do continue to notice is dynamic colours of various articles (including magazine covers) – blues are bright and radiant; yellows are solid, not pale and washed-out.

I believe one reason why other colours have not been promoted for the domestic market is because of the way the eye perceives colour, regardless of whether the amount of light is actually sufficient to see well. Blue tints are perceived as less bright than yellow tints. Hence, with CFLs struggling to match the claimed brightness of tungsten equivalents, manufactures promote the yellow tints to try to reduce this problem. Of course no marketing department is going to admit that!

It is unlikely that the big supermarkets and d-i-y- outlets will stock alternative colours in the near future. They are still trying to move huge stocks of existing types, at a loss, so will not want to risk burning their fingers again on products of unproven demand. If you look around, you may find them in independent hardware and electrical retailers, by mail order or on-line.

The 3 for a Pound low energy bulbs in the supermarket really are rubbish. They should be paying you to take them.
Much better quality low energy bulbs are available, they work out at a bit more than 33p each but they are available at reasonable prices.
I prefer the “daylight white” or “full spectrum” versions. A more clear crisp light than the horrid orange glow supermarket offerings.
I get mine on ebay where most types are available, spot, candle, bayonet, screw, GU10 etc. and all at good prices.
Why can’t supermarkets stock decent low energy bulbs. More people would be happy to use them if decent ones were available.

Mordenman says:
10 April 2011

I think this will be my last comment …. In the days of film cameras, tf you took a snap in tungsten lighting using a daylight film, you would have seen the true colour cast produced. It also demonstrated the amazing way ones brain automatically corrects for it. Due in part, I believe, because we know what colours things really are in daylight, hence you can apparently make out some colours in low pressure sodium lights, which are almost pure monochrome orange. (See the spectrum in the Philips lighting catalogue)
Anyway, I’m off to try and find a source of ‘full spectrum bulbs’…………..any with less green would be nice !

marivah says:
17 June 2011

I would like to see indications on the packaging of CFLs regarding which ones are suitable for use with PIRs . It is not always clear whether they should be used in such devices, although warnings are given about use with dimmer switches, etc..

Whether a Compact Fluorescent Lamp can be used with a Passive Infra Red sensor depends, I suggest, more on the design of the sensor than on the lamp. A similar comparison applies to time switches. I have been using CFLs on both time switches and a PIR sensor for many years without problems.

Briefly, if the sensor or time switch has electromechanical contacts (which may be actuated by solid state circuitry) to switch on or off the load, than a CFL should be OK. This includes most time switches that plug into 13 ampere sockets, including the rather old-fashioned, but still available, rotary turret-switch type. PIR sensors that connect permanently to the mains should be OK too.

Time switches that fit on the wall in place of ordinary light switches will not do. They require a resistive load in series to power their own interrnal electronics. A tungsten filament lamp (including halogen) provides this; a CFL does not and will likely cause malfunction.

Many CFL manufactures are over-cautious on this point, to cover themselves against warranty claims. In practice, most time switches and PIR sensors will work with CFLs.

Lloyd Williams says:
24 October 2011

When I built my home in the late 1970’s I had dimmer switched installed at most switch locations. That is now becoming a problem as I have not found a CFL that will work with them. My solution to this was suggested by my local hardware store. 150 watt bulbs are not effected and in many places I can use them in a dim mode and this will provide the correct amount of light and so far I am getting good life out of them.

Dimming ordinary incandescent lamps can prolong their life considerably, but it is a false economy. By far the biggest cost is the electricity used, not the price of the lamp.

If a 150 W bulb is dimmed to give light output equivalent to a 60 W bulb, it will consume a lot more than 60 watts. It will cost you more that using a 60 W bulb would.

Although the anti-green lobby is forever pointing out that CFL lamps cannot be dimmed, I find in practice this is not a major issue because dimmer switches are not widely used. They do have their uses, particularly in conjunction with reflector lamps, but I am wondering why Mr Williams is apparently using them so widely and what he is trying to achieve.

A big room can be lit in a subdued but very cheerful manner with two or three table- or standard- lamps fitted with low-wattage lamps and placed to cast light where it is most wanted. Whereas to light the same big room from a single central lamp dimmed creates a dingy, dowdy appearance. Similarly, fit out a kitchen with under-cupboard lights and you hardly need a central light; working surfaces are brightly lit but you have a stunning overall atmosphere of light against dark.

Anyway, if your really want CFL lamps that can be dimmed, they are available (see Which? reports). They cost a little extra, but still work out cheaper than tungsten filament bulbs of similar light output.

Glynteg says:
10 January 2012

It really depends on the type of light you are talking about. Some CFL lights are very expensive. Last August we bought 5 x 3-spot kitchen light fittings with CFL bulbs (GU10 fittings). We bought them because we thought they would last a long time and we liked the design. At the time the bulbs were over £9 each but have since come down to about £5. We have been very disappointed by these bulbs. Firstly, they take a long time (about 2 minutes) to come to full power and more importantly, **13** of the 15 bulbs have now failed. This has been a VERY expensive mistake. Having now read comments on the web about this style of bulb we have come to the comclusion that they are not meant to be turned on/off !!! and they need air circulating around them. I note that the pictures Which? show of their testing show all the bulbs without any shades. Lets face it, nobody has these bulbs bare in their homes so why don’t Which? use shades. I suspect their results might be quite diffeent.

If you look at reviews of reflector bulbs (e.g. on Amazon) you will see that others have had the same problem.

I contacted Which? about the pictures you mention and hope that future tests will be carried out under more realistic conditions. It is very well established that certain components used in electronic circuitry will fail much sooner if allowed to get hot. Desktop and laptop computers use fans to prevent overheating and would not last long without them.

If fixtures are designed so that the electronics are kept separate from the heat generated by the lamp, the reliability will be much higher, as is seen with modern fluorescent tubes with electronic control gear. The problem is trying to produce lamps that are direct replacements and a similar size to incandescent bulbs.

Manufacturers are partly to blame for not pointing out the need for ventilation of CFLs. I hope you can get a refund.