/ Home & Energy

It’s the final switch off for incandescent light bulbs

Saturday 1 September was a day I’m sure many of you were hoping wouldn’t come. Yes, it was the day that the final incandescent light bulbs, 40 and 25 watt, were banned from sale.

Due to an EU directive, retailers will no longer be able to sell incandescent light bulbs of any form. Bans on 60W and 100W have been and gone, as I’m sure you know, but now 40W and 25W bulbs have joined them too.

It’s said that by 2020 the ban will save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU each and every year. The UK government has even said that it will save the country £108m between 2010 and 2020.

However, I know many Convo commenters aren’t happy with the switch off.

Poor performance of energy saving bulbs?

Apart from the annoyance of being forced by the EU into ditching your incandescent bulbs, many of you haven’t been impressed by the performance of energy saving light bulbs. Your complaints with the most common energy saving bulb (CFLs) range from the amount of time they take to warm up, to being difficult to dispose of responsibly.

However, Peter Hunt, chief exec of the Lighting Industry Association, has said the ‘phase-out has been very smooth’ and added:

‘Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong. The new LED replacements for halogen downlighters that have come on to the market over the past year work just as well, for example. Price is still a barrier, but that’s coming down almost daily as volume increases.’

Are LEDs the answer?

Ah yes, LEDs. These are said to be game changers – the energy saving bulbs that will answer all our calls. They’re said to be much more durable than other energy savers (lasting as long as 25 years), will reach full brightness instantly and some will work with dimmer switches. Of course, they can cost quite a bit more than your old incandescents or CFLs, but the price is coming down. And since they are even cheaper to run than CFLs, they should pay you back over the years.

If we have a look at the Philips MyVision 5W LED, although it will cost you a pretty hefty £12 to buy, it will only cost you 73p to leave on for 1,000 hours. Compare that to the cost of its 40W incandescent equivalent and you’d be looking at £5.80 for the same amount of time. So, presuming you have this one light turned on for 1,000 hours per year, you’d make back that £12 in under three years.

Still, it would be nice to see the price of LED bulbs dropping sooner rather than later – if they were cheaper would you happily give up your old bulbs?

No way around the ban

Some have mentioned that you can get around the ban by going to specialist lighting and hardware stores. However, Peter Hunt told the Guardian:

‘The law is clear: they should not be sold for household use. It says so on the packaging. Any retailer is risking a visit from government inspectors if they continue to sell them.’

So it’s best to steer clear of that then! Though maybe you’ve been stockpiling incandescent light bulbs? Or have you taken to energy saving bulbs like a duck to water?

Are you sad to see the end of incandescent light bulbs?

Yes - I don't think energy saving bulbs are up to the job (56%, 604 Votes)

No - I'm happy to move to energy saving bulbs (44%, 472 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,090

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Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I remain happy with CFLs, having been using them to save energy long before the phase out of incandescent lamps started. I am looking forward to high brightness LED lamps becoming available at an affordable price.

I regret that the government has still done little to help promote the advantages of energy saving lamps, and the manufacturers of lamp fittings should be ashamed of themselves for not providing fixtures intended for use with them. They should have started doing this twenty years ago.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

High-brightness LED’s are the answer for some of the applications in our house but it’ll be a long time before we shall be able to convert to them such is the long life of the existing CFL’s combined with the short duration of their use each day. We have quite a number of incandescent lamps that have not had to be replaced in over seven years and will probably last another three/four at the present rate; we also have quite of stock of replacement incandescents and will probably use them in the low-use fittings.

Given the purchase price of low-energy lamps it is a pity there is not more consistency in performance between the multitude of types available as mistakes in buying a poor lamp are expensive. I wish that all lamps from each manufacturer had roughly similar performance characteristics across the range but they don’t: I would prefer to stick to one brand and know what I was getting – handy when trying to match output across a number of light sources in a room. It would also be helpful if .greater prominence in the labelling and packaging were given to the lumens [light output] rather than the wattage [power input].

Profile photo of wavechange
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I think you will find that most lamps now have the brightness shown in lumens. That should have been done years ago. It is the only way of making meaningful comparisons between lamps of different efficiencies.

Maybe I’m one of the first to stockpile CFLs. I bought six or eight when they were 10p each in a couple of shops, a couple of years ago.

Profile photo of richard
Member

Nope – I bought them by the dozen when I switched over well over two years ago. Still have dozens/.

Member
wildberry says:
3 September 2012

Interestingly, Der Spiegel has recently (31 August) published an article on this very subject. Titled “Light-Bulb Ban Casts Shadow over EU Democracy”, it explores the origin and pursuit of this directive and its implications. As a stridently pro-EU publication, its conclusions are unexpected and therefore well worth reading. An English language version can be found at http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-light-bulb-ban-illuminates-power-struggle-in-brussels-a-852931.html.

After reading it, those who have swallowed reports from some, ahem, ‘interested parties’ (Mr Peter Hunt, for example) may wish to reflect on the enormous profits that are going to be made by these same parties, and on the likelihood that their conclusions may be neither totally subjective nor totally unsullied by ulterior motives.

When one reads about “game changers – the energy saving bulbs that will answer all our calls” perhaps one should be reaching for one’s metaphorical revolver . . .

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Note the use of the words ‘said to be’ 🙂 Have a read of our light bulb reviews, if you’re a member, to see how LEDs performed in our independent lab tests.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

Halogen bulbs in the standard GLS package are available for £2-£3 which will fulfil many peoples requirements for a traditional looking lamp.

I’m looking for a LED bulb for my outside PIR bulkheads – Compact Flusorescent dont like the cold – but trying to find one which emits light “sideways” rather than as a beam through the top is difficult mainly ‘cos this information isn’t provided.

Profile photo of wavechange
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It is disappointing that supermarket shelves are now full of halogen bulbs that can be used as direct replacement of old fashioned bulbs, plus all those halogen bulbs that were available before. Halogen bulbs are a bit more efficient and last up to twice as long, but they are incandescent lamps and use much more power than CFLs and LED lamps.

In the past our kitchens might have been lit by one or two highly efficient fluorescent tubes and now it is common to have a myriad of halogen downlighters that use much more power.

I believe that the EU was planning to phase out halogen lamps after old fashioned bulbs have gone but there seems little indication of this.

With halogen lamps it is easy to make very elaborate light fittings with many bulbs and the potential to use LEDs for decorative lighting is immense. Are we really trying to save energy? I begin to wonder.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

At present the market is for CFL & LED lamps as replacements (often poor) for the GLS and candle shapes of incandescent lamps.
Hopefully sometime light fittings of all types actually designed to make full use of the new technologies will start appearing .
This has happened to some extent with lamps designed to make use of the flat shape of “2D” bulbs which are available in a variety of powers up to I believe 42watts and the T4 ultraslim fluorescent tubes often used under kitchen cupboards

Profile photo of wavechange
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Patrick

In your introduction you say that LED lamps work with dimmer switches. It depends on the lamp, and some come with a warning that they are unsuitable for use with dimmers. It’s one of the many useful things I have learned on Which? Conversation. 🙂

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Thanks Wavechange, I’ve made a tweak as you will be able to track LEDs down that will work with dimmer switches. Sorry about that 🙂

Profile photo of dave d
Member

The “ban” has got to be one of the least effective “bans” there has ever been since there are so many loopholes in it and ways around it as to make it a complete joke. Not least being the availability to purchase GLS bulbs in any quantity you like from a plethora of on0line suppliers inside and outside the UK.

CFL lamps are very variable in quality and performance (as Wavechange and I in particular, plus many others, have discussed ad-nauseam on earlier related convo’s), which is a great shame because back in the ’70’s and ’80’s the Thorn 2D lamps and the Phillip’s “Jam jar” CFL’s were quite fantastic and fairly priced too.

LED lamps are, as yet, too few in number, and too costly, to provide a sensible alternative and also, as rarrar has pointed out, the vast majority are highly directional and so of limited use in many fittings.

Lighting manufacturers are still making and selling the vast majority of fittings in a way that requires some sort of tungsten bulb to operate.

In short, the phase out of tungsten lamps is far from complete, far from smooth (I wonder which planet Peter Hunt lives on?! Maybe the same one as Michael Gove when he is telling us that the exams this summer were fair and accurate?!?!) and has been shambolically disorganised……rather like that other supposed energy-saving scam, SmartMeters! What is the common factor between these two?? Oh yes, driven by politicians rather that scientists!

Ah well. At the current rate of progress the tungsten bulbs I have in service have so far lasted on average 12 to 14 years each, and even though I have not intentionally stockpiled I seem to have enough left to last about another 25 years at the same rate. I also have some 1980’s “Jam Jar” cfl’s in service which show no sign of ‘going’ yet and a couple more of them in stock which I found in a closing down sale recently, and also about half a dozen other CFL’s, which are Crompton brand and, so far,m these have been the most reliable and long-lasting I’ve found. I reckon that means that I’ll probably never need to buy another light bulb of any kind until I’m in my late 60’s (if I live that long) and he money I’ll save by not buying any new bulbs will far outweigh any possible “waste” of electricity in the meantime!

Happy days!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

As Dave has said, there has already been a great deal of conversation about CFLs in earlier Conversations. Mine have always proved very reliable and I put this down to using them in well ventilated lampshades, which helps to avoid overheating the electronics in the cap of the lamp. You may find that some lamps are not recommended for use in enclosed fixtures.

Profile photo of thelm
Member

I’ve no trouble with most CFL’s (some in the past have had poor start-up times and brightness/colouration) and I always find it amazing that light fittings which are incompatible with CFL’s are still being sold in some places (especially closed fittings). For some older light fixtures the use of halogen bulbs is inevitable, but for now it’s better to be saving some energy than non at all. Hopefully LED technology will develop beyond the capabilities of CFL’s for a larger number of bulb types – since the technology has the greater potential w.r.t. compact and efficient lighting.

Member
lighthouse says:
4 September 2012

Energy saving is not the only reason to choose a light bulb you want to use!

Besides,
whatever the Household savings usually lauded, it is Society savings that might be relevant to legislators, not “what light bulb Johnny uses in his bedroom”!
As it happens, the society savings are next-to-nothing, for a variety of reasons.

1. Small Society Savings
Cambridge university Network, Scientific Alliance:

” The total reduction in EU energy use 0.54 x 0.8 x 0.76% = 0.33%
This figure is almost certainly an overestimate…
Which begs the question: is it really worth it?
The problem is that legislators are unable to tackle the big issues of
energy use effectively, so go for the soft target of a high profile
domestic use of energy …this is gesture politics.”

Cambridge University Network under Sir Alec Broers, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, the Scientific Alliance newsletter, involving physics dept professors etc
Similar figures from other EU sources, and for that matter the US Dept of Energy, grid electricity data breakdown (they use 4 categories), again as linked.
(continued)

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have been using CFLs for more than 20 years and it has saved me a lot of money.

I very rarely have to balance on a stepladder to replace a lamp.

I no longer have to replace lampholders damaged by heat.

Profile photo of ChrisGloucester
Member

lighthouse,

Whilst I agree with you that when it comes to overall energy efficiency and therefore reduction in use of fossil fuel produced energy the “legislators” (our own Government and the EU) arn’t really very good at it. They’re relying on private enterprize and the market (including profit orientated energy suppliers) to sort it out. Talk about asking turkeys to vote for Christmas?

And it’s true that universal use of low energy lighting will only reduce overall energy usage by a small amount, if only because lighting only makes up a small percentage of overall energy consumed. Most domestic energy consumption is of course used for space and water heating and it is in those areas where much more needs to be done to improve things.

However you cannot get away from the fact that replacing a 60w incandacent with a 15w CFL is a 75% saving both in energy and in the cost to produce the same light.
How can you say that’s not worth it? Of course it is.
Yes it is still a small percentage of overall energy usage but to me that only confirms how poorly the “legislators” are doing in other areas. It also highlights how much energy and money savings potential there must be in these other areas.
Personally I’d like to see council tax level reductions for improved energy efficiency. Perhaps also stamp duty reductions too. Some real incentive to offset the costs to become more energy efficient.
Making at least some saving by using cheap low energy lighting, although perhaps not worthy of the high profile it seems to get, is surely worth doing.
Not a phrase I really like to use but “every little helps”.

Member
lighthouse says:
4 September 2012

(continued)

2. Same coal often burned regardless what light bulb you use:

A further aspect re the supposed “massive savings’ is that surplus coal is often used anyway after 7pm when most lighting used, even in newer cycling plants, due to the issues of powering down at night from the higher daytime usage. In effect, the same coal is often burned regardless of whether your bulb is on or off – and coal is the main CO2 culprit. (DEFRA, APTECH referenced, same Tonn.ie link as above)

Just another among all the deception arguments used to ban patent expired cheap products to favor lobbying patent holding global corporations, singing hand-in-hand with well-meaning green groups about “saving the planet”.
And yes, the lobbying activities and the admitted profitability enhancement are also referenced and linked.

Profile photo of richard
Member

It is still possible to get incandescent lamps for “commercial use”. I have used CFL for years – but still have some bulkhead fittings are too small for CFL (the CFL glass envelope is too large) – so use incandescent 25W/15W from the local trade supply – they have said they are exempt,

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi Richard, I refereed to that possibility in the Convo, but it came with a warning:

Some have mentioned that you can get around the ban by going to specialist lighting and hardware stores. However, Peter Hunt told the Guardian:

‘The law is clear: they should not be sold for household use. It says so on the packaging. Any retailer is risking a visit from government inspectors if they continue to sell them.’

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Replacement bulbs containing a halogen capsule would probably fit and be the best option for bulkhead lights in occasional use.

Using CFLs in a bulkhead fitting (if they will fit) may condemn them to a short life as a result of overheating. For lights in frequent use a fitting with one or two conventional fluorescent tubes would be a more economical alternative.

Profile photo of dave d
Member

Patrick’s point is, I don’t doubt, correct, but policing sales of incandescent lamps would be all but impossible and cost so much as to be unrealistic and politically unpalatable.

Possibly more to the point, unless I have completely misunderstood, coloured and special shaped incandescent lamps are exempt from the bans (whatever wattage) for “commercial” reasons, and coloured lamps give far less light than pearl or clear lamps so use far more power for the required light.

Now, I’m only guessing, but I’d say that any savings made by forcing the public to use CFL’s or LEDS at home will be infinitesimal compared to the energy still used by these coloured and shaped lamps in commercial use, which rather tends to support ‘lighthouse’s’ first point above.

CFL’s in bulkheads often won’t fit and in they will, as wavechange says, they often fail early due to a combination of heat and the angle in which they are used.

All of which points back to the same two things that many of us have been saying for years now:

CFL’s have been made to poorer (cheaper) standards to make them acceptable to the public purse – hence difficulties that were not present with the earliest cfl’s (wavechange has frequently, eloquently, explained precisely why and how this is) – and the phase out of incadescents has been and continues to be a shambles which has been and is badly managed. Correct these two issues and the situation would be a world different, for the better.

Member

I find the light give out by CFL’s makes reading very difficult for me especially for fonts smaller than 14 – there is no ‘real’ light in them. LED’s may well be the answer but the price is not.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

As we get older many people find it more difficult to read in any form of artificial light. Try using a reading lamp close to the page.

Old-fashioned reflector lamps are still available and are ideal for reading lamps. High brightness LED lamps are still very expensive but smaller versions – which would be suitable for a reading lamp – are much cheaper and you can choose a either a warm white colour or the brighter bluish-white colour.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

When I was on holiday last year I visited a fair number of pubs and was disappointed by the number still using incandescent lighting. This summer I noticed that most of the pubs I visited had switched to low energy lighting, both CFL and low power LED, though the inefficient halogen reflector lamps are still much in evidence in some establishments.

I know that pubs are allowed to use old fashioned lamps but at a time when many are struggling to compete with supermarkets selling cheap alcohol, I am surprised that some persist in wasting money. My local is lit for more than 12 hours a day by a large collection of inefficient 15 and 25 watt incandescent bulbs and I have been told that it is the most expensive pub in the area.

Member
wildberry says:
4 September 2012

Good to know you’re still preaching the gospel, wavechange!

But I was sorry to hear of your disappointment regarding those Luddite pub-owners you came across last year. However, your innovative and wholly admirable drive to combine pub-crawls with research into the effects of non-PC lighting systems does raise serious questions.

Did you have time between your examination of the CFLs, low power LEDs, and inefficient halogen reflectors to take any additional notes while you were conducting your investigations? Do you, for example, happen to remember what the beer was like? Any good guest beers? Average S.G. ratings? CAMRA membership and so on? Also, did you notice any interesting differences between the pub-owners’ attitudes towards amateur lighting sleuths and towards their regulars?

Your later revelation that you “very rarely have to balance on a stepladder to replace a lamp” suggests that your weakness for ad hoc pub inspections is not affected by any concern about the destabilising effect of alcohol. There remains, however, some concern about your ability to assess accurately the statistics you seek whilst, at the same time, busily sinking pints (or litres).

Or perhaps you confined your intake to Babycham, dilute tonic wine, and cheese and onion crisps?

We, your loyal readers, have a right to know!

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I find I can see everything a lot more clearly after a spell in a good pub, with or without low energy lamps.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Your comments are rather irrelevant, wildberry, but I will answer briefly.

I did not inspect any pub that sold only keg beers. I might not be a CAMRA member and I did not drink enough to fail a breath test (even though I was not driving), but there are limits. No Greene King beer was drunk but I did try a good selection from smaller breweries during my holidays. Most of the pubs were managed or run by tenants, who may have less choice in their lighting than what beer they serve. My local pub is certainly owned but has been spoiled by replacement of Taylor’s Landlord with Bland GK beer. There are often dark corners where the owner has not kept up with replacing his old fashioned bulbs when they fail.

I was on my annual holiday with university friends from the 70s. One was totally opposed to CFLs until two years ago, but now he has seen the light. 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
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John wrote: I find I can see everything a lot more clearly after a spell in a good pub, with or without low energy lamps.

We might need some more light relief if the tired old arguments resurface. 🙂

Profile photo of dave d
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I suspect that the issue with pubs might be that the breweries, already finding pubs unprofitable, are unwilling (or possibly even unable) to make the initial cash outlay required to buy the CFL and LED lamps and – in many cases – to change all the light fittings to take the cfls.

I’m no economist but I think this is the “commercial viability” which is referred to in the expemptions to the incandescent ban, presumably because companies, like breweries, have influence over politicians.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The pub companies that own many pubs are big enough to have some influence over government, but they seem to have been fairly unsuccessful in trying to influence governments past and present over other issues. I have no idea of whether they have campaigned over lighting because it is not something that greatly affects most pub users.

Profile photo of lombear
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Tiz good news – next on the list has to be non-rechargeable batteries!

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Controversial! We’ve actually talked about this before: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/why-dont-we-phase-out-disposable-batteries/

By the way, I’ve now added a poll to this Conversation everyone – I’m interested to see how it will turn out.

Profile photo of wavechange
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If we are to phase out non-rechargeable batteries then perhaps we can learn from how the replacement of old fashioned lightbulbs should have been handled.

For example:

– the government should have pushed manufacturers of light fixtures to start designing suitable products twenty years ago. What is needed is high quality electronics in the fixture and the lamp being the only part that needs to be replaced. This would avoid waste electronics and premature lamp failure.

– encouragement of the public to use low energy lighting to save electricity, maybe starting around ten years ago.

– more honest marking of the brightness of CFLs, so that users are not disappointed with the light output or time taken to reach full brightness.

– perhaps a subsidy on efficient lighting funded by a tax on less efficient lamps. That could still be done to promote sales of CFLs and LED lamps in preference to halogen lamps.

I have been an enthusiast for rechargeable batteries since the 70s. I’ve even got them in my seven smoke detectors, where they are not supposed to be used, but they work fine.

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Wavechange

I have several pieces of electronic kit that do not work with re-chargeable batteries at all – the terminal voltage is too low to switch then on.

Profile photo of dave d
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@Richard.

You are not alone, but this is Wavechange’s point: manufacturers should have been “encouraged” (co-erced or bribed if you prefer!) to produce appliances which work with the slightly lower voltage of rechargeables years ago.

Had this happened then, when members of the public tried rechargeables in them, they would work fine and not put the public off rechargeables.

It’s exactly the same as what Wavechage says about CFL lamps: if manufacturers, government and even the likes of Which? had been upfront and honest about the real equivalent wattages from 20+ years back, people would not have gone out buying 11w cfl’s believing them to be equivalent to 60W incandescents, got them home, plugged in and found that they were not bright enough.

I fail to understand why government, manufacturers and test organisations feel the need to lie or mislead over these issues: by doing so they just create ill-feeling and make the public resistant to change. The only explanation I can conjecture is that the savings are not very impressive when the real equivalencies are used and so incorrect ones are used to make savings look more attractive. Personally I feel that this is counter productive.

It’s the same with Boilers – on recent convo’s someone has posted that British Gas finally told him in words of one syllable that his new “more efficient” boiler would use just as much, if not more, gas than his old one, despite the advertising hype saying that there would be savings.

Now I come to think of it a further example is in Which’s latest magazine, with savings over the 8 year projected life of washers and driers amounting to only a few pounds – if that was expressed in savings per year, week or wash / dry it would be so small that no one would ever be tempted to buy a machine that was supposed to save energy.

AND YET …. the technology exists (and has done for decades) to make appliances that work on rechargeable batteries, CFL lamps that last a long time, work in cold conditions, work in enclosed fittings and give as much light as old tungsten lamps, boilers which really do use much less gas, washers and driers that really do use less power …….. but they cost a bit extra and that public is unwilling to pay.
Perhaps being Green really is a ‘luxury’ if you want to do it right?

[stands back and puts on tin helmet!]

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Richard

You are right about the problem of using rechargeable batteries in some battery-operated gadgets. It is down to bad design and if something does not work with rechargeables then you will not be able to use all the power available from a non-rechargeable battery.

There seems to be a lot of luck about whether gadgets will work with rechargeables. For example, I have found that various well known brands of cordless mice (thankfully not mine) that will not work on rechargeables but I have used four generations of Apple cordless mice that work very well indeed. So they should, at the price Apple charges.

I would like to see all battery-operated goods designed to work with rechargeables, except perhaps items where a non-rechargeable battery can be expected to last at least five years (e.g. remote controls and clocks). One of the drawbacks of NiMH rechargeable batteries is that the cell voltage remains constant around 1.2 volts, making it difficult to provide a battery condition indicator.

Children’s toys are frequently marked as unsuitable for use with rechargeable batteries. I assume that this is a safety consideration because of the greater risk of overheating if a rechargeable battery is short-circuited (low quality products that tend to be thrown around). I know several people who have had great success and saved a lot of money by using rechargeables for their kids’ toys.

If we are going to discuss batteries further we really need to do this in the right place as suggested by Patrick. 🙂

Sadly, CFLs suffered from what I regard as poor/dishonest marketing (though the marketing people would probably disagree). Most were promoted as saving 80% of the energy used by an old fashioned bulb. Some of the more recent ones will do this when they are new and when they have reached full brightness. It would have been better to claim a 70 or 60% saving. That is still very worthwhile and if we buy a lamp that is brighter than expected, that should encourage the customer to make further purchases.

Thanks, as always, for your comments, Dave.

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Wavechange

It was not bad design of the equipment – but maybe you forget that rechargeable batteries at the time were nowhere as good as they are now – they lost charge quickly and as such not suitable for many electronic devices.

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Dave D

The rechargeables of years ago (when the devices I posted about were made) were just not good enough – they lost charge too quickly in the quiescent state- So the manufacturers designed for the most suitable battery at hand – the non -rechargeable type . Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

CFLs are a different thing – they were sold purely to reduce consumption of electricity – and they do – The wattage was a misguided attempt to “inform” the consumer on it’s equivalent to the incandescent lamp.

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Richard

I have been using rechargeable batteries since 1970, before they were in shops, and I know quite a lot about self-discharge and other characteristics. However, your comment referred to terminal voltage and so did my response.

If one brand of a product will work on rechargeables and another will not, one of these products is badly designed in my view. Let’s end this discussion, which is off-topic.

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Wavecjhange

Interesting I was doing electronic research in the early 1960s – so I know quite a lot too (got a degree in it) we were using or trying to use them in our developmental research portable military equipment. My response was about the reason for not using rechargeables – it was nor bad design of the equipment but lack of suitable rechargeables.

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Here is the Conversation if you wish to discuss this further: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/why-dont-we-phase-out-disposable-batteries/

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I didn’t realsie that this new thread had appeared and so I posted the comment that follows in the older area. Had I known I would have posted here a while ago.

I have just installed four dimmable LED bulbs to replace the four halogen bulbs which were a very bad experiment. As I wrote elsewhere, they cost much more than either CFLs or incandescants and are far more expensive to run than the former and only half as expensive as the latter. When the purchase price is factored in they are far more expensive that either. The do have the advantage over CFLs of instant starting and they can be dimmed – but these extras are surely not worth paying so much for.

The LEDs I bought were E27s, which fit into a normal bayonet or ES holder and will accept any shade that a flourescent will. They do look a little strange – but then so did CFLs when we first came across them. They are rated at 8 watt and this light output is said to be equivalent to a 60 watt incandescant. They have a life expectancy in excess of 25,000 hours – so should outlast two to three CFLs and 25 Incandescants.

So how are they? My first impressions a very good. They light up immediately with a very white light and, if anything, are brighter than I expected. They dim quite well down to about half-light but then go very dim. Whether that is the dimmer I am using or just these particular bulbs I can’t say – but 50% dimming is good enough for me.

The obvious disadvantage is purchase cost. At around £15 each they are a significant investment but the savings over only a year will cover that investment and from then on it will be savings all the way. They are rather heavier than I expected as well – certainly more than a 60 watt incandescant – but most fitments have a pretty good safety margin – mine are certainly taking the loading. The instructions also warn against the heat generated – but to me it seems no more than a cfl and far less than an incandescant.

So I will be replacing my CFLs over the years – although with the stock I have and the time they last that might be a tidy while.

Member
wildberry says:
4 September 2012

It’s not the first time I’ve been accused (quite correctly) of irrelevance, Wavechange. In fact I happen to believe that there may sometimes be a bit too much relevance in this world.

And, come to that, I have often credited you with having a not altogether dissimilar Weltanschauung from my own. Your dismay at the imposition of “Bland GK” together with your benign reference to the dark corners where the errant landlord has neglected to replace his bust bulbs reinforces my suspicion. But my joy is shattered as you go and spoil it all by commending (or pretending to commend) a chum who has succumbed to the false spirit of the age.

“Seen the light”, indeed!

As I am in an amiable mood, however, I choose to interpret that as a ‘sting in the tail’, inserted just to tease.

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I would like to suggest that all future Which? reports give priority to quoting light output in lumens and the colour temperature, whatever kind of lamp is being described. Now that old fashioned bulbs have gone, quoting power consumption in watts is useful as a reminder how inefficient halogen bulbs are, but not of much relevance to comparative light output.

I have not bought any LED lamps myself (still too expensive) but some bought by friends have had no indication of light output – only the power consumption in watts. I presume that this is done to conceal how little light cheap LED lamps actually produce.

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I fully agree with you Wavechange. Getting replacement lamps to match the “tone” [colour temperature] of other bulbs in the same room is an expensive game of trial and error even if you can get the light output more or less to match. I am fed up with having to replace all three lamps in a central light fitting in order to stop it drawing attention to itself with a glary bulb or a dull one. This was hardly a problem with incandescents. However, as you say, it is not incorrigible if the output and tone were stated prominently on the packaging and if Which? emphasised the importance of this in its testing. Knowing whether a lamp consumes 8 Watts or 11 Watts is no longer important – anything less than 20 Watts is a massive energy saving in most cases.

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I’m going to get accused of Which? -bashing here, and I apologise in advance to Patrick and his colleagues.

Which? don’t often mention factors which seem glaringly (pardon the pun) obvious in reports.

I believe this to be for two reasons – but I’m open to being corrected –

1) Which? members and testers are, I believe, predominantly middle-class and predominantly based in the (relatively) affluent South-East. This means that they tend to shop at comparatively costly places and buy relatively costly brands. This has been especially apparent in CFL and LED lamp tests over the last two years or so when it has been pointed out by many convo participants that most or even all of the brands of lamp tested are unheard of north of Watford and when the shops selling lamps on test were chains not found in many parts of the UK.

2) the factors which are of greatest interest to the majority of review readers don’t lend themselves easily to producing a convincing test report which will come out in favour of the products on test (for example, as John Ward correctly states, colour rendering is important to users, but it has no measurable effect upon efficiency, energy consumption., life span, etc., so it’s not really worth Which? bothering about in tests.

I know that there will be some Which? members (like me) who are not middle class, not well off and not from the South East, and I apologise for the generalisation in point 1. I also know that there will be some (maybe many) Which? staff who push their colleagues to refer to the important factors in reviews an I acknowledge their efforts, but wish that they were more successful.

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That’s rather prejudiced, Dave. Just because the Which? team can write English that does not make them middle class. 🙂

I believe that colour temperature is really quite important to consumers and even if this does not affect the amount of electricity used, there is a marked effect on light output.. Whether it is a CFL or an LED lamp, higher colour temperature lamps emit a lot more light. Traditionally, most people have preferred 2700K lamps, which equates to the colour temperature of good old incandescent bulbs. Many are now very happy with the higher colour temperature of halogen bulbs and I have seen an increasing demand for CFLs of around 6000k. You know much more about the availability of CFLs than I do, but I’ve seen the hight colour temperature CFLs mainly in offices and public buildings.

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A recent e-mail from the Which? Connect team contained some dreadful howlers but I expect that’s because they’re stuck in a gloomy room somewhere in the basement and starved of light while someone does an experiment there to see how much can be saved by using the lowest level of low-energy lamps.

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The team were probably just going through a bad spell. 🙂

It would be interesting to know what lighting levels people are happy with in the home, and whether this is affected by colour temperature.

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Hello all, thought I’d chime in here and shine a light on our light bulb testing. I’ve had a chat with our testers – we pick the bulbs we feel are popular at the time and try and pick from a broad price range. However, there is a problem with cheap bulbs – they often aren’t around for very long. Our testing can take a long time, and so we pick the bulbs that have staying power and will be on the shelves when we publish the results. I do think your claims Dave are unfair and aren’t really a reflection of the reality – much of our work is for those who aren’t well off, such as with our unit pricing campaign – people are counting the pennies and we want them to be able to work out what’s best value.

Secondly, as I explained in the Convo with LED light bulbs – they can pay you back overtime. However, I can see that that’s not always what you want (not everyone can afford to splash out on a house full of £12 bulbs even if they pay you back!) so let’s hope they drop in price quickly.

Thirdly – lumens and colour temperature. We do list claimed lumens in the reviews, but I expect you’d like to see the actual lumens performance. We test both lumens and colour temperature which feeds into the scores we give for bulbs, so I’ll talk to those working on light bulbs to see whether we can bring this out more prominently in reviews. Thanks.

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I have seen, on the Which? website or in the magazine, a photo of CFLs under test without any form of shade. That will provide more cooling than in most typical applications. My hypothesis is that premature failure is linked to overheating of electronic components in the lamp cap. I would be very grateful if this could be looked at. I have mentioned this before but would not expect your experts to read all my rambling comments.

I recall that in the last tests, lamps were switched on and off 30,000 times. That might be appropriate for testing car indicators but it seems a bit over the top for household lighting.

The explanation about not testing cheap lamps makes sense and is obvious when you have pointed it out. It’s something that Dave might have worked out, but I hadn’t and I guess there are many members who have been wondering why Which? has focused on more expensive types.

I look forward to the next report on low energy lighting, whatever that covers.

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Thank you Patrick for your input on the output. I am hoping that the manufacture of lamps will settle down so that testing can more easily compare like with like. We have grown up with a family of lighting performance for the standard incandescent types [40/60/75/100W :: Clear or Pearl plus a Warm or Soft Tone option sometimes]. In concentrating on a small range of input values the manufacturers are overlooking consumers’ needs for consistency of output. Some of this is attributable to high purchase prices relative to the incandescent bulbs – to achieve a more competitive shelf price some manufacturers are compromising performance and disguising this in the packaging by emphasising the Wattage figure and making the Lumens number far less prominent. For instance, some 7W CFL’s are superior to another manufacturer’s 8W versions at the same price; the customer thinks they will get better value from the 8W lamp [the increased energy consumption on an already-low level being negligible] but might end up being disappointed with its performance. The performance of supermarket own-label lamps is particularly unpredictable and the output value is often far from obvious [and can differ between lamps of the same Wattage if sourced from different producers].

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Joe Wilson says:
7 September 2012

Broadly supportive as long as the halogen equivalents are still available – some CFB’s just aren’t bright enough for working from in a home environment without office style reflectors and decor.

I do wonder whether this one size fits all EU legislation really makes sense though. In northern europe a lot of the ‘wasted’ energy went as heat so although energy from light bulbs will be saved – energy spent heating homes will increase – especially during cold summers!

I’m sure much bigger savings could be made through building gas fired power stations near large conurbations which are 50+ miles from the nearest power station – vast amounts of energy are lost in the grid supplying these communities far greater than the savings from light bulb heat.

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The heating issue has been discussed many times. The heat is not usually in a place that is of benefit. If you sit under a reflector reading lamp all the time, the heating effect will be useful.

It’s an interesting suggestion about where to site power stations. I had not realised that losses at grid voltage were a major factor. Shall we toss to see whether it is your backyard or mine we build it?

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D.M. Clark says:
7 September 2012

Take to long to maximise brightness. Seem to be getting more expensive rather than otherwise. Two or three years ago you could get a 100w equivalent energy efficient bulb for 79p in Kwik-save. I can’t find them at anything like this price now!

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H.Richardson says:
7 September 2012

I use so called 60W CFL as a 40W.The EU is overstating the light output ! One gets used to being short changed by lots of organisations.Its a way of life.
Roll on cheaper LED`s which have no warm up phase.

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Wiseman says:
7 September 2012

For years retailers have been excessivly charging for energy-saving bulbs. I have seen instances of big retailers eg B&Q charging £8 for 4 bulbs then discovered the equivalent in Poundland for £1 a pair. Don’t expect prices in big stores to come down anytime soon.

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Fair comment if you are comparing exactly the same product. There are some cheap lamps on the market and I’m not sure how safe they are. I would be worried about fire risk.

I bought some Philips CFLs for 10p each from B&Q, albeit more than a year ago. I’ve seen the same ones on sale for more than £2. I will agree that B&Q is not usually the cheapest source.

If there was more demand for CFLs there would be more competition and prices might fall. The trouble is they last so long, at least for some of us. Even if you had to pay £10 per lamp you would recoup this in electricity savings. That is easy to calculate.

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I think as far as pricing is concerned, the fact that for the first umpteen years of the aggressive campaigning to get us all to change over the Energy Companies were subsidising the cost of CFL’s so that they were being sold more cheaply in the shops, a fact which seems to have escaped the notice of many of the population until prices started to go up …..oddly at the same time that the first tungstens went off sale, what a strange co-incidence that was?! …. is probably why the larger stores are still selling at over-inflated prices. (I.e. to keep their profit margin where it was when the lamps were being subsidised.)

Of course, the cheap lamps in pound-shops may (or may not) be inferior quality too, I don’t know.

I do know that with every other “green” initiative or technology that I’ve had anything to do with, you have to buy the more (or most) expensive of whatever it is to stand a chance of making any real savings in the long run. I’m stopping short of saying that I believe that to be the case with CFL’s because I simply have not, and won’t for some time be, used enough of them. I have have a good number of bitter disappointments with cheaper CFL’s, especially the less-well-known brands, and I’ve had fantastic experiences with the Old Phillips ones, but bitter disappointments with newer Phillips ones. At present the best I have first-hand experience of are Crompton and Sylvania ones. Since mum’s house was re-wired almost 2 years ago all of her lights have had these brands in and all are still operating, even though she has lights on an awful lot of the time. That said, they still have had to be 30w plus to give the level of light that she used to get, and still requires for reading an needlework, from 150w and 250w tungstens, and getting hold of 30w of higher cfl’s is not as easy as I think it should be.

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By and large in most circumstance I am happy with the change. However where the wall light fitting has a clear glass “shade” a clear glass incandesent bulb has no equivalent substitute.A very expensive change or an ugly replacement.

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Brian Rex says:
8 September 2012

Every wall light switch in my home is a dimmer switch. Despite initial assurances all replacement bulbs appear to be non-dimmable. I have accumalated a largesh store of the forbidden product which, because most lamps when switched on are on low-dim, probably use as little power and last as long as the new lamps. This is with the excepion of LED lamp which should be availabe to use with dimmer switches.

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You are right in saying that dimming an incandescent lamp makes it last very much longer but your guess that it will use much less power is completely wrong. Incandescent bulbs operated below full brightness are extremely uneconomical, though this is not well known. I am surprised they have not been banned for this and other reasons.

The traditional use of table lamps and wall lamps with smaller lamps at full brightness is far more economical. Dimmable CFLs can flicker. Beware that some LED lamps are unsuitable for dimming.

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I am strongly in favour of saving energy and am generally comfortable with the performance of CFLs. My big gripe is that, to my knowledge, there is no CFL replacement for the “golf-ball” lamp. I have a set of 12 wall and pendant light units designed for golf-ball lamps; the smallest double-coil CFL is too tall and looks ridiculous in the fittings. I will be obliged to replace all the fittings when my stock of lamps runs out – and that’s a waste of the planet’s resources and energy which will take some time to offset by using CFLs in new fittings. CFL designers must do better!

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Unfortunately, it is unlikely that CFLs will be made small enough to suit your needs, rocky. The problem is that the designers of light fixtures failed to plan ahead in the last 20 years. LED lamps might prove suitable.

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Bell make some excellent LED gold ball lamps – exactly same size as tungsten ones and available in white and many colours. Only one they don’t do is clear. They’re real glass and they don’t have a huge electronics unit at the base. In fact, they are indistinguishable from Tungsten golf ball lamps.

Only down side that I know of is that they are only available in up to 4 watts LED, which are claimed to be equivalent to 25w tungsten but I’d say they are more like 15w tungsten. Might still be worth investigating for multi-light fittings.

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Actually, I do also have a couple of CFL gold ball lamps. The actually globe is the same size as a tungsten golf ball, but the electronics unit at the base is quite large so may not be any use for your fittings rocky. These are (so far) the most long-lived cfl’s I’ve ever had and I use them in fully enclosed “brick light” exterior fittings. They’ve done longer in there (two years by the end of this year) than any other CFL’s I’ve had in the same fittings. Can’t remember the brand but they were not a big name brand. Got them in a local independent department store in a sale. If I remember, I’ll have a look inside one of the brick lights at the weekend and post the brand for you.

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I’ve bought several LED GU10/MR16 bulbs for my kitchen, bathroom and hallway. I bought them in ones and twos over a period of time. The first ones were expensive, dim, blue, and ugly (up to 36 individual LED elements). The newer ones were cheaper, brighter, yellower (which I prefer) and more attractive (only between 1 and 3 individual LED elements).

I avoided CFL for a long time because they used to be slow, dim, and harsh. I now have a few and they are tolerable although I don’t like the special disposal requirements.

I also have so-called ‘low energy’ halogen bulbs in living room and bedrooms. But I plan to replace these with LED.

I’m very happy with the improvements in LED so far. If they get better, that will be great.

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J Hughes says:
14 September 2012

I live in the Far East where mini-fluorescents have been de rigeur for years. They seem to fail, though, way before their ‘guaranteed’ life span (write the date of installation on the base!). And often the very same component.

In the past year economically priced LED lights have become available and boy, are they good!

Out the window with the old complaint of the mini lights are too harsh white light. No more “can’t be dimmed”.

In addition to the simple task of dimming, the bright white light can be modified by replacing a few white LEDs with red and orange and yellow LEDs to achieve the light ‘colour’ as in warm white, etc., that you desire.

And the running costs … laughable … and quickly pay for the light added cost (at present) of LED lighting. Have an outside spot or floodlight – check out the LED versions. Money in your pocket.

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How come a comment I have just posted here has installed itself in the September listings?

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I changed all my bulbs back from CFLs to incandescents; My vision was failing, the rest of the family were complaining about the same thing, it just became difficult to see properly. We tried different CFLs nothing changed, 2 reception rooms have multi bulb chandlers and up-lighters, even with all bulbs lit it felt as if we were in perpetual twilight, It was worse than the old gas lamps and candles [for those who remember]. As soon as we changed back we could see properly again. Just 1 60W clear incandescent lamp enabled us to see properly when 10 CFLs failed to.
I have no idea if it is something to do with the wavelengths that make up of the white light being loaded at different ends of the spectrum, but I fear if I continue to use this type of bulb I will go blind.
Having read this, maybe It’s time to get out the old RS catalogue and start experimenting with LEDs again.

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I think the problem is partly related to using small CFLs rather than larger ones. They have been created to meet the demand for direct replacement of incandescent bulbs but CFL ‘candle bulbs’ are rather pathetic and perhaps appropriately named.

Whereas an incandescent bulb produces a continuous spectrum, a fluorescent lamp emits light at certain frequencies depending on the phosphor coating on the inside of the tube. Looking at a typical CFL through a hand spectroscope I can see a complex spectrum including purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.

LED lamps may well be the answer for you, and they seem to be evolving fast. I remember choosing some new-fangled LED panel indicators from the RS catalogue (probably still Radiospares in these days) in the 1970s. I don’t have any mains powered LED lamps but those in torches etc appear to produce a continuous spectrum.

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“White” LEDs are in fact blue / ultra violet LEDs with a phophor to convert it into a visible spectrum, but still with the peaks you get with fluorescent lamps.
I doubt the fluorescent spectral distribution is the cause of the problem – they are pretty good at having a good spectral distribution with modern phosphors. I suspect it is using CFLs of too low power – as wavechange says, small physical size does only permit low light output. If you can fit larger lamps, check that their light output (given in Lumens on the package) matches or exceeds that of your incandescent (allow 12 to 14 lumens per watt for a traditional incandescent bulb, and 15 to 20 lumens per watt for the more efficient tungsten halogen lamps that you can still purchase – these may be a better solution for you than CFL)

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Thanks Malcolm. I have a feeling this is the second time you have told me how white LEDs work. 🙂 One thing I have noticed is the subtle differences in colour available, already greater than we have seen with CFLs.

Having had a look at prices, if I wanted to replace small bulbs I would choose halogens until better LED lamps are available and the price has fallen.

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As I mentioned previously, I have replaced some CLFs with LEDs and they seem to do everything I want. They turn on immediately, are dimmable and give a nice white light. My only criticism is that they are relatively low in light output and I need to use two in each lamp holder to get an acceptable level.

This does mean buying adaptors that allow two lamps to fit into each lampholder and this task is made difficult since these adaptors, once so common, are no longer sold in the UK (although nobody seems to know why this should be). They are readily available in the USA and Canada, which is where I bought mine – although they are, of course, ES fittings and so a bayonet to ES adapator is also required, along with ES-cap lamps.

They are pricey at present, but I should recover the cost in less than a year on electricy savings and their expected life – several times longer than CFLs – should ensure that replacement will not be needed for some years.

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I remember your comments about lamp adaptors in an earlier Conversation, Richard. I would not be surprised if we see these adapters reappear in the UK. It could be some time before we see affordable LED lamps that provide equivalent light output to an old fashioned 100 watt bulb and many of us are keen on bright lighting.

I am surprised that you don’t find CFLs reliable. Using them on dimmers, in enclosed fittings or small lampshades, or in outdoor lighting are good ways of killing them prematurely, but the well known brands used with reasonable ventilation generally last a long time for the people I know.

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LEDs supplied in replacement bulbs seem to be in limited powers from the major manufacturers. Philips do a 17W to replace a 75W incandescent for example, with the bulk 11W and below (60W and below incandescent equivalent) and 4W round and candle versions. So the light output is generally restricted. A characteristic of LEDs is that they are temperature sensitive – as you make them more powerful by putting in more current, they get hotter and the light output efficiency falls significantly. So buying a high power LED lamp from a non-mainstream source may not give the results expected. And if the controlling electronics are integral, they will likely have a shortened life if too hot.

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These are the factors I am concerned about, Malcolm. Now that you have reminded me about the phosphors in white LEDs, I wonder if they will deteriorate with time, as with fluorescent lamps of all types. That does not seem to be a problem with the low power LED lamps produced in recent years, but I do wonder what will happen when more power is pushed in to achieve the light output of say a humble 100 watt incandescent bulb.

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I didn’t mean to suggest the CFLs aren’t reliable – I have had good service from mine although I have had maybe three fail in the past 7 years (which is when I went over to all CFLs in my bungalow). But LEDs are supposed to have a service life of over 50,000 hours – probably five time as long as a CFL.

So the £12 – £14 cost of an LED does begin to make more sense, even in replacement costs. And when you consider that the power consumption is only of the order of 8 watts the cost savings really add up.

So far as light output is concerned, an 8 watt LED – presently the highest rated bulb I could find – has an output equivalant to a 60 watt tungsten incandescent – so the two in each of my fittings give a light output equivalent to rather more than a single 100 watt incandescent.

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It’s not difficult to see the overall cost benefit of low energy lighting and if this had been publicised better rather than forcing people to switch, the transition could have been a lot less traumatic.

I know people who have hoarded incandescent light bulbs before they disappeared from the shops, yet are now using CFLs by choice. It’s a strange world.

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Wavechange, I think your fears are correct – high temperature reduces the phophore light conversion efficiency, so high power LED devices are probably better with a cluster of lower power LEDs than thrashing ones to high powers. A 100W bulb equivalent seems around 20-25W LED, which, because they are such small devices individually, requires very effective heat sinks and distributed LEDs to maintain efficiency.

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Malcolm – if you know of any decent and up-to-date information about these practical considerations I would be very grateful for references. As with fluorescent lighting, it would be good to separate the control electronics from the source of heat, but most householders are still looking for a direct replacement for a bulb.

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Wavechange, you could start with the major lighting manufacturers websites – say (without advertising I hope!) Osram, Philips, Future Electronics where you should find product and technical data. You might also find this of interest: http://ledlight.osram-os.com/knowledge/standards-regulations/ (or search for Energy Star LED).

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A warning came with my LEDs that they shouldn’t be used in fully-enclosed luminaires. They don’t get all that hot but the electronics are quite warm to the touch even in my open pendant lampholders and I can imagine that, without airflow, they could overheat.

For the moment I am using CFLs in my bathroom globe luminaires and they seem to be OK for the moment. Of course, it is by nature of their use that they are not on for lengthy periods – probably 30 minutes at a stretch would be the longest.

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Brian Sandle says:
1 April 2013

As a tennant leaving a property I need to replace an outdoor bayonet fitting incandescent bulb in a totally glass-enclosed fitting. Is there a policy about that?

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If you have an incandescent lamp then I’d just replace it. It’s their sale that is banned. Otherwise you could fit a halogen or CFL lamp – just make sure they physically fit (CFLs can be longer than incandescent).

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Brian Sandle says:
1 April 2013

Thanks, so I’ve put in a 75w incandescent and the surround glass gets too hot to hold. Didn’t have 60 or 40.