/ Home & Energy

Specialist light bulb fittings stole my energy saving choice

While not ‘de-lighted’, I’m certainly not mourning the passing of the incandescent light bulb. I think energy efficiency is a good thing and have had no problems with low-energy bulbs. That’s until I moved house…

And thanks to an unnamed energy company and their CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction Target) requirements, until recently, I had a decent stash of CFLs. I reckon these would have lasted me another five years before I had to actually go and buy a new bulb.

But alas, my stash is no more. Well it is; it’s just no longer with me. The reason? I moved house into a new build property. And in order to meet ‘Part L’ of the building regulations – where 30% of lighting must be low energy – my house uses non-standard light fittings ‘to ensure only low-energy lamps can be used’. So it’s bye, bye to my bulb stash, hello three-pin light bulbs.

If you’ve not already met the three-pin light bulb, let me introduce you. While it may look like a normal low-energy bulb, it’s far from it.

The BC3 (to give it its correct name) is a non-standard, three-pin CFL light bulb, which meant my small stash of two-pin bayonets wouldn’t fit into my new home’s three-pin light fittings. So they all had to be donated to the future tenant of my old flat.

Where’s my choice of bulb?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against energy efficiency, I think it’s a good thing (but I know not everyone likes energy-saving bulbs).

I’ve been using low-energy bulbs since my Dad packed a few in my bag when I went off to uni. And I have nothing against the BC3 either. Except… I like choice. And in this case my choice has been taken from me. I can’t get these three-pin bulbs in my local shop and they cost more than I would expect to pay for a light bulb.

But more importantly, unless there are three-pin LED equivalents out there, I can’t upgrade to a more efficient bulb. And, to me, that seems to go against not only the rule, but the spirit of the building regulations.

I suppose I could change my light fittings, but the cost of getting in someone who knows what they’re doing without blowing the place up, would probably far exceed any savings I might make. And although the company offers an adapter to fit other bulbs, they’re only for what they call ‘standard four-pin CFLs’, which again isn’t a bayonet or screw fitting!

So, do any of you bright sparks out there have a solution for my light bulb dilemma? Or will I just have to sit in the dark?


P.S. Thank you for the information on the fluorescent lamps. I thought that maybe my eyesight was getting less sensitive!

I had the same problem and found that the flickering got a lot worse hours or even days before a fluorescent lamp failed. I could look into a room and spot the CRT monitor set to the wrong refresh rate. Many can detect the flickering but some find it really annoying.

Thank goodness I have never been annoyed by silly 3-pin light fittings. Two sizes of bayonet cap and two sizes of screw fittings is quite enough.

Colin says:
15 February 2013

Sorry but I have to correct some of the letters and replies to your query. The 3pin (3BC) bayonet that you are talking about is not the same 3pin (B22d3) bayonet that some of the replies are referring to. The 3BC is a fairly new energy saving option produced by MEM UK that has been in circulation for about 10years the most, and the other B22d3 has been used for many-many years in different applications, including street lighting, flood lighting, electric heaters and so on. The difference between them is the layout of the pins.

You have me confused Colin. I assume you are referring to BC3 lampholders (as mentioned by Jo in her introduction) and not 3BC.

Colin says:
15 February 2013

Yes sorry I’m referring to BC3.

In my house:
BC – 33
ES – 2 (damit! Couldn’t find a nice robust fitting with BC)

BC has always been the standard fitting as far as my experience goes in any property I have had experience of in UK.

Frankly, I haven’t found that the eco bulbs last very much longer than the incadescent.

And, luckily, It’s not too diffiult to continue to get incandescent as yet – just not from the mainstream stores.

BC is the UK standard. Buy Eco bulbs (CFLs) from the well-known manufacturers and you will get a much longer life and save electricity cw incandescent. If you don’t like CFLs there are energy-efficient (but not as good as CFLs) halogen bulbs made for mains voltage to replace ordinary incandescent.

Steve says:
16 June 2013

Hi. We’ve just discovered three BC3 fittings in our property. They are 15w each but want to change them to a lower 3.3w LED BC22 bulbs. Has anyone seen this and/or tried this:-


Not sure if I should try this..

I suggest replacement of the lampholder might be a safer solution than a bodge job. Apart from electrical safety issues, there is the risk of having a lamp falling out of the lampholder and breaking.

These seem to be a proprietary MEM lampholder with premium-priced lamps. As others have said, bite the bullet and change to 2 pin BC lampholders. Not a difficult job.

My daughter just moved in to new Housing Association property and it is all the new light fittings. Only problem is none of her light shades will fit. The diameter of the shade fitment is too small. We have tried to think of a way to resolve it so that she will not have to replace all her shades – they are not cheap – and the ones she has are really nice.

Are we missing something here – anyone any ideas??

Hello Val

It’s not entirely clear from your comment whether [a] the diameter of the lampholder is greater than the shade ring on the lampshades, or [b] the diameter of the shade rings is larger than the diameter of the lampholder [frequently the case if the shades were designed for use with a screw-type (ES) lampholder]. Either way, the two are incompatible without adaptation. In the case of [a], it would be cheaper to substitute bayonet-cap (BC) lampholders for the installed fittings. If [b] applies, then fitting reducing rings into the shade rings of the lampshades would probably be the answer; these are cheap plastic inserts that go on the shade ring before slipping it over the lampholder and they are available from some hardware stores and electrical departments.

Dave says:
3 November 2013

Replace the fittings, it is simple (two wires), cheap (normally < £5 a fitting, normally about £2.99),
You only need to take out the two downwires – the rest of the stuff can stay on the ceiling, but a new rose, the only bit you actually need is the wire and bulb holder – this is easily put in the place of the existing one.

Colin says:
23 August 2013

I hate the ES or SES lamp holders, I prefer the European bayonet fittings but it seems that mass production and cheap products are winning over good quality and now even over some British lighting manufacturers.

Dave says:
3 November 2013

European bayonet? Quality? Please, I don’t know who you work for but please. The bulbs last 10% of the time of an old incandescent bulb if you are lucky (mostly not that long). The fitting is cheap and nasty. The 3 pins provide no extra use and weaken the design compared to a 2 pin. The bulbs are harder to fit (only one position works).
If you want to pay through the nose for nothing feel free to convert your entire house and spend £15 a light bulb, but I have changed the stupid 3 pin fittings for proper ones.

Dave says:
3 November 2013

Without reading the comments let me state a few things.
a) The bulbs are stupidly expensive and it will pay you to immediately replace all those stupid 3 pin fixings with either screw or standard 2 pin bayonets. This is a trivial exercise (less than 5 minutes per fitting) and easily handled by anyone with eyesight (brains optional, it is so simple).
b) The whole thing is the UK government setting out to jointly bend the British over a barrel and to support German manufacturing (the only people that make the bulb).
c) The ‘environmental’ benefit is zero because of the cost to the environment of transporting these bulbs.
d) There is a petition on the epetitions website to get this stupid law removed. It is pointless, damaging to British industry, expensive to British consumers and bad for the environment (I’ve just ditched two fittings and replaced them – this adding to the CO2 footprint by the required manufacture and disposal).

Keep your light bulb stash, replace the fittings, it is cheaper and better.

Steve says:
3 November 2013

Hi. Could you point a ‘simpleton’ like me how to change to a 2-pin fitment? Video link, perhaps? I’ve never had to do this before now!

MIG says:
14 June 2014

Moved in a house with BC3 fitters. 2 of those lamps are in the hallway. I asked the agent to change the lamps, as in the check in sheet its clearly stated that they dont work, and he said he does not supply lamps for those. So i will leave them like that since I don’t need the light.
P.S. This is a UK standard non related to EU legislation etc etc. Working and living in many countries in Continental Europe and never came across this type of bulb. In fact this is the reason for a sole low quality overpriced supplier of these lamps in UK. I

KingJohn says:
29 November 2014

All this fuss, and it only takes seconds to bind a bit of metal, then the 2 pin bulbs fit fine!. Just turn off the mains supply before you do it, google it lots of info out there

I realise this is an old thread, but I came up with a solution to this problem which is cheap, easy and doesn’t involve damaging the fitting (and so is suitable for renters, like myself), which I wanted to share:
1. Go on Amazon/Ebay etc and search for a “B22 to E27 adapter” or “B22 to Edison adaptor” (it’s the same thing). This is an adapter to allow full-size screw-in bulbs (which are widely and cheaply available) to be put in a normal UK 2-pin pendant fitting. They cost less than a pound each.
2. When it arrives, get a pair of pliers and yank one of the two side pins out of the adapter, so it has only one pin.
3. Insert the adapter in the pendant in your ceiling. You will need to check the two electrical contacts are lined up as there are 3 choices of pin slot to put the one remaining pin in.
And voila! You can now put cheap, widely available screw-in bulbs in the ceiling. 🙂 because it has only one pin securing it, the bulbs lean at a slight angle, but they are secure and many lampshades will hide the lean if it bothers you.

Not a good solution as the lampholder is not fully engaged, will not necessarily make proper contact, and this can lead to overheating.
As GLS lamps are no longer available on sale – except perhaps illicitly – just bite the bullet and change the lampholders to BC or ES. A relatively easy job if you are familiar the precautions needed when handling electricity. Turn off at the mains, ensure you strip the insulation on the existing cable (if necessary) only as far as necessary (your new lampholder should have instructions that show how to do this), twist the wire strands so no “whiskers” are outside the terminal, and tighten the terminal screws properly. Make sure the wires go around or through the strain relief.

You can buy BC3 LED lamps very cheaply on ebay from China and Hong Kong, they just take a few weeks to arrive.

Hannah says:
31 March 2017

We have 5 BC3 light fixings in our new build council flat. One bulb died after only 6 months of use and then we realized the cost of buying new bulbs, over £7 each, not impressed as the bulbs are supposed to last for years

Hello! this light bulb is really energy efficient. I use it and a lot of LED strip lights (some of these https://www.bestadvisers.co.uk/led-strip-lights (yep, LED isn’t so efficient) to light some places that i want to light (some bookshelves, bar, paintings etc.) )

Darcey William says:
28 October 2021

Hi, just cut two pins off the bulb and insert as usual.
The pins are purely for mounting purposes and don’t make any difference.
The bulb still fits and one pin supports the bulb just fine

That is not a safe electrical arrangement and should not be done. See the advice from malcolm r a few posts above.

People who live in rented accommodation needing a replacement BC3 lamp but cannot buy one should request a replacement from their landlord or request a replacement fitting that will accept an LED lamp which will be more economical than a CFL lamp and last longer as well.