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Are you still using halogen bulbs?

While we’ve already seen the EU phase out energy guzzling traditional incandescent bulbs, the time is now coming for a decision on the end of not-so-eco halogens. The question is, when?

The Member States of the EU will vote on whether to go ahead with the proposed 2016 ban of all bulbs with an energy classification of C or lower, which will effectively ban halogen bulbs, or delay the phase-out until 2018.

The reasons for the debate are simple enough. There are concerns over the price and quality of the bulbs that would remain on sale.

In a show of the European Commission’s willingness to compromise and remain flexible on eco-regulations the proposed delay was suggested by the Commission themselves.

Energy saving light bulbs

The aim of the long-running programme is to ensure all bulbs available in the EU have at least an energy efficiency class B rating. That means halogen bulbs wouldn’t be up to scratch, only using about 10% less energy than an old-style bulb. This would leave the market with only CFLs, using 60%-80% less energy than incandescents, and LEDs, using 90% less.

While the next stage of the programme will undoubtedly save huge amounts of energy for Europe, it may raise a few concerns if your house is lit with halogen bulbs.

In our survey of more than 1,000 Which? members, half told us they still have halogen bulbs and more than two in five have halogen spotlights. However, Chris from our previous light bulb Convo was pleased when he made the switch:

I replaced 14 halogen bulbs (50W GU10) a year ago with the LED equivalent. They have always been perfectly reliable and just as bright as the halogen originals […] Any lamps that I buy from now on will definitely be LED.’

What would be left on the market?

How will the halogen phase-out affect you? While you can get a Best Buy LED for less than £5, it’s still a large jump from the cost of a halogen bulb. Although, it’s worth noting a LED’s lifespan will stretch far beyond that of any halogen so there’s still be money to be saved.

Then there are the issues of compatibility. LED and CFL bulb technology still isn’t up there with that of halogens in some key areas. You may find issues with compatibility with existing circuits and dimmer switches. And the warm up time of some CFL bulbs mean you may spend the first few minutes in the dark, even though you switched the lights on. Plus the colour rendering of LED bulbs can still leave a little to be desired.

Do you think the EU commission should hold off until 2018? Or is bulb technology ready for a 2016 ban of halogen bulbs? If you use halogen bulbs, are you now going to invest to get them replaced?


I see that the ban on halogen lamps has been delayed until 2018 and then will only apply to certain types of lamp: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/04/ban-on-inefficient-light-bulbs-delayed-by-two-years-401170/

While I believe that LED lamps will ultimately be the way forward, there are problems with reliability and radio interference, which have been discussed in various Conversations.

I’m surprised that the Which? article is not doing more to promote CFLs, since they are cheaper and have fewer problems than LEDs.

Essentially it has been recognised that LEDs will not be be fully available to replace halogens by 2016 – including on price and quality. Common sense in the EU for once.

I am quite happy with the idea of moving to LED bulbs just to avoid the unnecessary heating they supply during warm weather. LEDs themselves may have a long life but it seems to me that the weak link, where quality seems to suffer, is in the embedded electronics. I have yet to buy an LED bulb which has lasted more than six months – not economically viable. For example, I bought two 12 watt Paul Russells bulbs off eBay two months ago and both have failed within the last week. Manufacturing reliability has a way to go yet.

You could start with replacing the lower power lamps first. Lower power lamps produce less heat. Electronic components work best if not overheated. I have noticed lamps equivalent to 100W disappear from some shops, so maybe there were problems.

Electronic circuitry should be designed for the anticipated environment. In fact modern consumer electronic components are generally very happy at temperatures exceeding 100 degC or so – they have to be able to withstand temperatures much higher than that during the PCB fabrication process. Yet of the bulbs I have bought, oddly, it is the higher power ones which have seemed to me to be more reliable. Still, the direct experiences of myself are far from being statistically significant!

As a hobbyist, I have seen plenty of premature failure of electronic circuitry that has run hot, and thermal cycling may be partly to blame. I have not studied domestic LED lamps but it worries me that the caps can become too hot to touch.

I would like to see more light fixtures where the LEDs and electronics is separate, since that will prevent the heat of the LEDs affecting the electronics, and this is common in commercial lighting. Obviously that’s not easy with lamps that are direct replacements for the old fashioned light bulbs. The popular ‘filament LEDs’ seem a good design because the LED strips are at a distance from the electronics in the lamp cap.

It would be very interesting to find out which makes, types and styles work best. So far I have been lucky with various brands – all familiar brands – but I have kept every receipt just in case.

I’ve been using LED lamps for about 10 years now. In my house LEDs are gradually replacing compact florescent lamps. Only a few, infrequently used. lamps are still filament or halogen types.

I’ve never suffered a failure of any LED lamp but I can remember one or two early failures of compact fluorescent ones.

However I do not, and would not, ever buy lamp bulbs on eBay. As I see it, there is no need to do that, because I can get these items from local shops.

I use local shops too. I often use eBay for inexpensive products and have rarely been disappointed, but would not take the risk of buying mains voltage electrical goods from an eBay trader, an unheard of Amazon Marketplace trader or a market stall. I would rather pay more and hopefully avoid the risk of buying dangerous or counterfeit products.

I investigated the light in my old Bosch cooker hood because I thought one of the bulbs had failed. It is marked 2 x 15W but there is only one lampholder. There is plenty room so I fitted a LED lamp and that has made a great improvement.

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That’s about it. Mosfet, SMT, SMPS and TCR might be everyday terms for some of us, but maybe they could be considered a bit technical for others.

To be fair I did say “generally happy,” not “always happy,” at high temperatures. That apart, perhaps what is needed is the adoption of some sort of military spec components for these lamps. The adoption of high spec components for such mass production items as lamps would inevitably reduce component cost and might result in lamps that consistently deliver the reliability that is inhered in LEDs. What would be very interesting would be statistics on the precise nature of LED lamp failures.

That would interest me too, marlbenn. In my younger days I used to dismantle consumer electronics to find out the cause of failure. I saw evidence of overheating and failure in early CFLs, though in some cases the lamp had come to the end of its life. More recent CFLs tend to be more difficult to dismantle and CFLs are fast being replaced by LEDs.

Some have dismantled LED lamps and found the LEDs still working, but there are so many makes and models that it might be difficult to produce useful data.

I was wary of moving from CFLs to LEDs, not only because of concerns about reliability but because of reports of radio interference but my experience has been much better than expected, with a variety of lamps sold in local shops: Philips, Diall, Status. I don’t like the fabulous lifetime claims made by many manufacturers. Unlike many, I had very good experience with CFLs too.

It would be interesting to test how well LEDs cope with voltage spikes in the mains, because they can cause failure of poorly designed electronics.

That is interesting, wavechange. I already have a high mains voltage, frequently hitting 250V. All my computer and related equipment is supplied via a UPS, and every few weeks I hear it ding as it cuts in and out for a couple of seconds, and that’s obviously only when I’m nearby.

My original issue was with two identical bulbs failing virtually simultaneously. That makes the supply an obvious suspect I suppose. Maybe I should think about a type 2 surge protection device near my consumer unit? Mmm. Food for thought.

(PS, short, medium, or long?)

If two lamps fail simultaneously, that could be a coincidence or caused by a spike/surge/transient, possibly thousands of volts but extremely short duration. Lightning is an obvious cause but local inductive loads such as refrigeration compressors can produce smaller spikes.

Like you I use a UPS on my desktop computer. That guards against brief interruptions in supply and the one I have is supposed to provide spike protection.

In the UK our mains voltage is nominally 230 V and the tolerance is -6% to +10%, meaning that a voltage of of between 216 V to 253 V is permitted.

I have wondered whether over-voltage is a problem with LEDs. In the early days it was a problem for those living off-grid and dependent on generators and storage batteries. To cope with over-voltage and spikes, specialist companies introduced 12 V LEDs that operated between 10 and 30 V and included spike protection. I have no idea of the voltage tolerance or spike protection in ordinary domestic LEDs for use on mains power or 12 V (e.g. MR16 downlighters).

I have not heard about surge arresters being used in the home but it’s something I know nothing about.

I suggest having a word with neighbours and see how their LEDs are performing. You might be unlucky.

My luck continues. I just bought two LED exterior security lights. I installed the first one and switched on. Thirty seconds of light, five seconds of flickering, and then dead. There’s no problem with getting a replacement, but it’s the hassle, especially of something more than a simple bulb change.

You are not having much fun. All sorts of lamps can fail prematurely. I fitted an outside light for a friend and one of the halogen bulbs failed not long after.

I wonder if you are just unlucky or if neighbours are having LED lamps fail.

I would like to use LED bulbs in my dimmable uplighters but, if I understand correctly what I have read so far, there seems to be no real replacement for these just now (Sept 2018). The problem seems to be with dimmer switches which won’t work with LED bulbs. I prefer uplighters to central room lights and do not want to have to throw away the three excellent standard uplighter lamps that light my rooms at present creating very pleasant ambient lighting. I would be glad to hear from anyone who could offer a solution to this dilemna.

If you buy dimmable LEDs and replace your existing dimmers with ones designed for use with LEDs you should not have any problem. I’ve done this twice in my own home and twice in a friend’s house.

With uplighters you need to be careful about the physical size of lamp so that they are not visible and in the case of small wall uplighters there may be limited space.