/ Home & Energy

Why are you phased by the light bulb phase out?

Smashed energy-saving light bulb

When we wrote about the phase out of incandescent light bulbs recently, the response was overwhelming. So what got people’s backs up? I trawled through hundreds of comments to pick out the main complaints…

Your complaints ranged from cost to being left with less choice. Having tested energy-saving bulbs for the latest issue of Which? magazine, this topic is fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d try and tackle each of these issues one by one.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t address all the issues raised in our previous Conversation. Others included claims that energy-savings bulbs aren’t as bright, can’t be used with dimmer switches and don’t always fit light fittings.

1. Energy-saving bulbs don’t last as long as claimed

This can definitely be true if you have a bulb that’s poor for longevity, or doesn’t like being switched on and off frequently. The regulations only require 50% of a bulb’s sample to achieve the claimed lifetime – cold comfort if your bulb is in the half that didn’t.

Which? energy-saving light bulb tests show big differences between bulbs in terms of how long they last and how they cope with being switched on and off. We test three samples of each bulb and, at worst, all three fail long before our 30,000 on/off switching test is over. The best of the bulbs have all three samples working at the end of the test.

It’s the same with longevity – the top performers’ samples survive 5,000 hours continuously turned on – the equivalent of five years’ use. But poor performers will see some, or even all, samples fail before that.

2. Health side-effects including migraines, UV radiation and mercury

The most common type of energy-saving bulb, CFLs, do contain mercury, but only a small amount. An average CFL has no more than five milligrams – and would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen. Breakages are easily dealt with if a bulb breaks, as detailed in our advice guide.

UV radiation is only potentially a problem if you sit very close (within a few centimetres) of a CFL-type bulb for prolonged periods. For migraine sufferers, using a different type of energy-saving bulb altogether (i.e. a halogen or an LED) or using a CFL with an outer surface as well as an inner (i.e. not a stick-shaped one), will also help.

3. Loss of heating from traditional incandescent bulbs

Incandescent bulbs did waste 85% of their energy as heat, but this is still a very small amount – the heating effect on any room would be negligible. Even using a higher-powered bulb of 100W would only give you around 85W of heat.

Compare that to a typical fan heater rating of 2kW and factor in that many of the bulbs will be in exactly the wrong place to heat a room – on the ceiling – and incandescents seem to be an inefficient method of heating!

4. No overall saving of energy

Some of you were concerned about the energy used to manufacture energy-saving light bulbs, but a 2009 Defra study found that incandescent bulbs had the highest environmental impact of all types of bulbs. That’s because “energy in use” is the key factor, and incandescents are much less efficient than energy-saving bulbs.

Our recent light bulb tests showed the same trait – that the most efficient bulbs were also the most environmentally friendly over the whole lifecycle of production and disposal, because energy used while the bulb is on is the most important factor.

5. Don’t tell us what to buy, give us a choice

It’s obviously annoying for a lot of people not to have a choice of which bulb to buy. But the phase-out is a “done deal” and although it forces us to buy only certain types of light bulb it does force us towards bulbs that will save us money and use less energy.

6. Energy-saving light bulbs are more expensive

The savings from energy-saving bulbs are nothing like as obvious as the extra cost of buying them in the first place, but they will save you money in the end.

We’re looking at ways to calculate payback times for all the bulbs we show test results for. In the meantime, any energy-saving bulb should more than pay for itself, but the amount will depend on various factors, especially how long it lasts.

Based on the bulb being on for 2.7 hours per day and electricity costing 14.5p per KWh, we calculate a 100W incandescent bulb costs around £14 to run for a year. An equivalent CFL energy-saver (such as the Osram Dulux Superstar 30W) would cost £3 or £4 in the same conditions, depending on how much light it emitted (watts being only a measure of how much power you pay to put in, not how much light you’re getting out).

7. CFLs are hard to dispose of

It’s true that disposing of CFLs isn’t as easy as incandescents – you can’t just chuck them in the bin because of the mercury. But we’re used to recycling much of our waste now, so isn’t it just a mind shift that’s needed to get into the habit of recycling bulbs too?

Recycling CFLs can be done at any Ikea, Homebase, Robert Dyas, 250 larger Sainsbury’s or at council facilities. Or you can find your nearest recycling points by typing in your postcode on Recolight on Recycle Now.

Do my responses make any difference to your view on the light bulb phase out? Do you think the phase out is all bad news or can you see some positives to the change?


I have been using energy saving bulbs for over 20 years and they have saved me a lot of electricity. As far as I can remember I have only had one early failure and one that I broke when handling it by the fragile glass spiral (my fault for ignoring the instructions).

I would be grateful if Which? would test a wider range of CFLs in future, since they are not expensive and the last test did not include some very popular types from major manufacturers. It would also be worth investigating the reasons for frequent premature failure of CFLs. I suspect that use in enclosed fixtures and lampshades causes overheating of the electronic components, but we do need alternatives to the incandescent bulb for these applications.

I wish the government had promoted the cost savings of CFLs and put an environmental tax on incandescent bulbs rather than phasing them out. I am really disappointed that manufacturers of light fixtures have done so little in the past 20 years to make products better suited for CFLs.

Thanks, Richard. When you test the spotlight CFLs it would be interesting to know how much light they put out compared with other CFLs. I suspect that they are less efficient. I have also heard that one brand is particularly unreliable, though I have no personal experience.

It would be interesting to have a preliminary report on dimmable CFLs which are becoming affordable in the UK. I have been discouraged from buying them from the limited information I have seen.

Oddly, Wavechange & Richard, CFL spotlights is one area I can offer a tiny bit of *all positive* news on.

I have a Crompton 30Watt CFL Par 38 spotlight bulb in a floor-standing uplighter behind the TV cabinet. The lamp in that has been in for over 7 years now and although I rarely use it in the summer months (roughly between Easter and October Half Term), it’s on for 6+ hours each day in the remaining months of the year.

It gives a very pleasingly bright, warm-white, light, very similar to an old Par 38 incandescent, but barely emits any discernible heat and uses only 20% of the energy of the 150W incandescent PAR 38’s I used to use in this fitting.

The only negative point I have about this particular lamp is that when it was new it used to take about 5 minutes to fully illuminate and now it’s quite old it takes about 10 mins for the first two of the 4 “U” tubes inside to light fully and the remaining two come on about an hour later, but as I use it for long periods this doesn’t unduly bother me.

As an aside, in my recent quest to find 30w CFL warm white lamps for ordinary fittings, I did discover that Crompton are one of a very few companies who fit internal fuses into their CFL’s (note that ALL incandescents ALWAYS had internal fuses). This means that Crompton CFL’s will be much less likely to blow plug and circuit fuses when they fail, unlike most cfl’s I’ve ever used.

Fuses are included in incandescent bulbs because a very large current can flow when the filament breaks. That will usually prevent the fuse in the consumer unit or plug blowing, but MCBs can still trip. I don’t believe that fuses are included in small incandescent bulbs such as candle and golf ball bulbs. What Dave D says about fuses being uncommon in CFLs is interesting because failure of the electronics is quite common. If I was designing the things they would have a conventional (overcurrent) fuse and a thermal fuse.

Recycling: nearest to me is over 5 miles according to the sites given, they will therefore go in the bin regardless!

Longevity: my experience is that bulbs to fit my fittings last not much longer than filament types and cost at least 10 times as much, no saving there then.

I do NOT like to be told what to do and I am damned if the EU is going to succeed as far as I am concerned. It’s about tme our politicians had the BALLS to stand up and be counted.

Roy Gill says:
17 October 2011

The main objection is the poor quality of manufacture of the low energy CFLs. They could be made to last a lot longer if the electronics components that were used had a bigger threashhold as regards being able to withstand the surges that are present when being switched on, also the ventalation of the electronics to enable cooling could be vastly improved which will improve the life of them..

The real answer is to keep the electronics separate from the lamp, as with a conventional fluorescent tube. We need fixtures that contain the electronics so that replacing the lamp does not create electronic waste. I assumed that CFLs would be a temporary solution as a direct replacement of incandescent bulbs, but there is not much sign of this except in offices and commercial premises.

Absolutely with you on this one Wavechange: and of course, as we have had fittings of almost every conceivable shape, size, style, fashion and material made for at least 25 years now with built in electronics for use with low voltage halogen lamps, the proof is all around us that this can be done.

Also, of course, this is exactly the principle of Thorn 2D low energy lamps, some of which have been in my parents’ home since about 1984 and although in daily use are still only on their 2nd lamp. Mum’s landing light is a 2D type and even though it is on from dusk till dawn 365 days a year it’s only on it’s 5th lamp since Christmas 1984, so we also have some degree of evidence that the technology to make high quality, genuinely long life, AFFORDABLE low energy lighting has been around for at least a quarter century

My parents had a 1960s circular fluorescent lamp, used as a landing light and it was left on as a security light whenever the house was left unoccupied. Each of the three lamps lasted around 10 years. It was installed in the the 60s and contained no electronics (simple choke ballast). Fluorescent lighting is very reliable and durable but the electronics in CFLs is subjected to a lot of heat and is designed to be cheap rather than high quality.

Longley Shopper says:
17 October 2011

Oh dear Which?

On the last CFL convo I recall Richard Dilks posting a comment which enraged a great many contributors, one of them, Dave D (with the ginger cat icon), getting a rebuke from Patrick Steen but no apology from Richard Dilks for what I will bluntly call “sticking two fingers up” at Dave D and the many others who have exposed issues with CFL’s that Which? continue to ignore or deny.

In the intro to this board Richard Dilks seems to have taken some pleasure in again sticking his fingers up at us and simply repeating many of Which?s mantras about how great CFL’s are, even though we all know that much of these things are well proven to be untrue.

To be honest, I wasn’t really with Dave D last time round, but now I very much am in agreement with him.

My greatest gripe is with Richard’s comment: “But we’re used to recycling much of our waste now, so isn’t it just a mind shift that’s needed to get into the habit of recycling bulbs too?”

I don’t know where Richard lives and I don’t know how carefully he or Which? looks at recycling away from their ivory towers, but I’d like to point out that huge parts of the country don’t have the posh shops he refers to with their recycling points and certainly the Sainsbury’s stores near me have no such thing – the staff tell me that only “larger stores” have these facilities.

My local council charges for accepting CFL’s for recycling – and I’m not paying almost a fiver to recycle a bulb that cost me about a fiver to buy – in effect doubling the price of a bulb with very disappointing life (nothing like that claimed on the packet).

I don’t know where David Ramsey is but it sounds like his council recycling services are similar to those here in Doncaster.

I’d like to give Richard and Which? the benefit of at least some doubt and say that perhaps their research is carried out only in London, possibly in the well off parts, or other places with good waste recycling facilities, but we don’t all enjoy the same facilities.

I also wholeheartedly support Wavechange when he says “I would be grateful if Which? would test a wider range of CFLs in future, since they are not expensive and the last test did not include some very popular types from major manufacturers. It would also be worth investigating the reasons for frequent premature failure of CFLs. I suspect that use in enclosed fixtures and lampshades causes overheating of the electronic components, but we do need alternatives to the incandescent bulb for these applications.” Which? seem to be highly selective in what they test, and it’s all very well Richard telling us that CFL’s are good for this, that and the other reasons, but if the ones he’s talking about are not suitable or not available for most of us, what use is that?

I don’t know if anyone really cares what my honest opinion is, but I’m going to give it anyway: I think Which? have dropped a huge clanger in supporting CFL’s, have realised that they have but don’t have the guts to admit it because they have seen the scale of opposition on the last few convo’s.

Hopefully they will put on a better show over Smart Meters.

Here, here

PS – Smart meters: same attitude, they support the introduction even when there will be NO cost saving to the consumer.

and will be paid for by the consumer from years of price rises…..

Hi guys, thanks for the comments. Please try and stay on the topic of light bulbs, and not veer off into smart meters. We’re currently working hard in our investigation of smart meters and completely reviewing the roll-out due to the comments you’ve made right here on Which? Convo. So if you’d like to talk about smart meters or read about this further, please do so here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/smart-meters-review-the-roll-out/ Thanks.

Can only click the Thumbs Up button once so this is to show my full support for Longley Shopper’s post and to say how disappointed I am with the underlying dogma trotted out again by Richard Dilks. As has been said ad infinitem ad nauseam in previous conversations on this topic – these lamps are not nice, they are not wanted, they don’t give us the light we want, and are a problem to get rid of. The whole issue of energy reduction in lighting is also a distraction from the appalling waste of heat and general mismanagement of energy found in every other aspect of life. You can put your low-energy lamps where the sun don’t shine and see if it makes you feel any better.

Recycling for many of us is taking them to a County Council run tip with no public transport links.
We dont all live in a large city with an IKEA or super Sainsburys nearby !

3) Please get your science right: a 100 watt light bulb will produce almost a100 watts of heating whatever type of bulb it is and all the heat is produced in the room unlike a boiler – so 100% efficient.
And you cant have it both ways “waste 85% of their energy as heat” …”the heating effect on any room would be negligible”

It’s like the Dragons’ in the Den say – 85% of not very much is still not very much. Richard goes on to explain why 85W heat isn’t a great deal. I tell you what does give a whole bunch of heat out – my PlayStation. I could happily heat my room with it, it’s just that I don’t want it on all of the time!

That’s a good point Rarrar.

I must say I wasn’t going to waste my time on this convo, given the attitude of Which? staff on the last one, but I have to say it is a bit of a laugh to see Richard contradicting himself like this.

Thanks to longley shopper for showing support for my previous comments.

I’m not going to get involved in this convo any more than as a casual observer though: I wasted enough time on the last one and, like longley shopper says, Which? just stick their fingers up at anyone who disagrees with them, so I’m not doing it all again.


Ask a neighbour or friend to take your used CFLs next time they visit a disposal point.

Perhaps we should ask councils if they will collect small items such as CFLs and batteries when they empty the bins.

Sorry, Richard, it’s not just less densely populated areas. I’m in Sheffield and it’s as good as impossible to dispose of them legally, and I work with a colleague from Manchester, who is an electrician and uses Manchester Electrical stores and wholesalers, and he tells me that it is almost as bad over there. Given that Sheffield and Manchester are two of the UK’s 10 largest cities (5th largest and 8th largest respectively), I don’t think you can say this is a ‘rural’ (less densely populated area) issue.

My best guess is that it is to do with which private refuse operator has won the contract for each area and how much they want to charge the council for recycling services. I know in Sheffield Veolia wanted to charge the council so much for waste paper recycling that we went from a wheelie bin per house to a small crate per house for waste paper, just to keep costs down. That hit the headlines when it was raised in the house of commons 2 years ago. I am guessing that recycling cfl’s is all about cost too.

It would be a good subject for a Which? investigation (or indeed Panorama or Watchdog if the BBC are reading this).

Look at the recycling situation in Cumbria – okay its rather rural but …..
I suspect most dead CFLs end up in the normal bin.
None of the shops which sell CFL will dispose of them for you due to cost.

re wasted heat:- I still say you cant go on about wasting 85 watts of energy in one paragraph and then dismiss the 85 watts as too little to worry about when talking about heating. It may not provide much heating but it is still 85Watts worth.
Either 85watts of energy is worth worrying about or it isnt worth worrying about.
I need far more than one 100watt bulb or equivalent to light a room up adequately for normal use – more like 200 watts , and for the dining kitchen I am using 100 watts of CFL spots = 400 watts halogen.

Longley Shopper says:
18 October 2011

looking at Wavechange’s suggestion about taking your neighbour’s cfl’s to recycle, it’s a good thing to help your neighbours.

But isn’t the real issue that we should have our waste disposed of by the council? We should not have to rely on neighbours to do it for us!

With regard to wavechanges suggestion regarding getting your neighbour to take them for you: as there all probably be a disposal charge I doubt that any neighbours of mine would like to pay a hundred quid to dispose of my lightbulbs (20 at £5 each).

As I said earlier I will put them in the bin due to;

a) Charges
b) distance

I live in Rural Gloucestershire BTW

I’m in East Yorkshire. I have not tried to dispose of CFLs for a few years but friends have told me that they have not been charged for disposal at recycling facilities. Recycling of CFLs needs to be free or people will put them in the bin. The price we pay should cover disposal. Some tyre companies show the disposal charge on invoices.

With Wavechange on: “Recycling of CFLs needs to be free or people will put them in the bin. The price we pay should cover disposal. Some tyre companies show the disposal charge on invoices.” and it occurs to me that a Which? convo a while ago was called something like “Are CFL’s too cheap?”. I seem to think that convo was out around the time 100w bulbs went off sale and CFL prices started to rocket, and if my memory serves me, Which? pointed out that up to that point the cost of making and disposing of CFL’s had been hugely subsidised by the EU and that the price rise reflected the cost of disposal now the subsidy had ended.

With that in mind, how can ANY organisation, be it a council, retailer, or whatever, justify charging for disposal or refusal to accept duds for disposal, given that the purchase price of the CFL is supposed to include the disposal cost?

Again, I make a call on Which? to do a major investigation into the disposal situation.

I was not phased by the introduction of CFLs – Indeed I converted to them when they first came out a number of years ago – BUT the recycling is a problem – there are NO local recycling facilities in my city – except the Council and the cost of driving there is prohibitive as the Council will not accept them in my many bins,

The early CFL were far slower in switching on and noticeably dimmer –

To measure light out in no more difficult than measuring power in – both need specialist equipment – (I do have both) it is surprising that Which? does not measure power in but apparently simply reads the wattage quoted on the CFL.

However newer CFL especially above the “standard” 11 watt now give excellent output almost indistinguishable from the old 100 W bulb – there still is an issue on how long they last however – mine seem to last for a shorter time. Also the newer CFLs seem to be smaller as they now fit into my outside bulkhead lights whereas the earlier models did not..

I really do not think they save us money as their initial cost is high – they ONLY save us money IF they last as long as the manufacturer says they do – and my experience is they don’t.

I don’t know why I do it but I’m already finding it hard to resist pointing out the obvious (again) and getting drawn into the same old argument (again).

It’s pretty obvious looking at the thumbs up / thumbs down marks on posts both here and on the previous CFL board that the “disagree” brigade consists of Which? staff and precious little else.

That’s actually not very important in it’s own right, but here we are, another convo on CFL’s and, again, we have Which? trotting out he same old “claptrap” – I use inverted commas because what they are saying is not entirely untrue and is far from totally incorrect BUT, yet again, contributors are already showing that a significant amount of what Which? (and of course the CFL manufacturers. the government and the EU) are saying is proven to be incorrect or, at the very best, misleading.

Looks like on this particular convo Mr. Dilks has again fallen into the trap of making assertions (in this case on recycling) which are alien to most contributors (so far). This demonstrates a lack of research on his / Which?’s part.

Which? staff may very well find this hard to believe but I really am very very sad about this and I pity Which? as a body, and their staff, because these ill-thought-out assertions, and the repetition of dubious “facts” is just undermining their credibility yet again.

PLEASE, Which?, can’t you just admit that you are wrong, or at the very best that you are repeating facts presented to you which are not familiar to many consumers, and then get on with sensible lobbying for better CFL’s, better alternatives, better recycling facilities better colour rendition and all the other things that consumers are proving are not currently available?

I repeat the point I made at the very start of both the last CFL convo and the SmartMEter convo’s: in both cases I USED TO BE a really enthusiastic supporter of the technologies involved, but as time has passed it has become so obvious that they are not yet ready for market but are being forced on us early by Governments.

If only Which? would also openly admit that they too have been, like me, hoodwinked into swallowing the PR guff, and that the truth is now exposed, there would be so much more respect for Which? and their staff.

There is nothing wrong in admitting to having made mistakes: it’s only a (big) issue when one continues to insist that black is white.

A request for a new – related – Which? campaign:

Instead of all the arguing about whether CFL’s will save a few ergs here and there, why won’t Which? campaign for ALL types of outdoor (“Patio”) heating to be banned?

I cannot even begin to imagine the millions of kilowatt hours of electricity, not to mention the volume of ‘calor’ gas, burned by these things, and now that the darker mornings are here I am noticing that, as I travel to work at about 07:10, many pubs and bars have 10 or 20 of these things switched on and heating the thin air outside their premises at that hour of the day. Presumably they’ve been on all night.

Irrespective of any pros and cons of CFL’s, what we save using CFL’s will never come near to outweighing what is used by these heaters.

So, Which?, today’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to start at least one new campaign to stop mindless waste of energy on appliances such as patio heaters that should never have been allowed on to the market, given that we already knew about energy shortages, greenhouse gasses and global warming when they were invented.

What say Richard Dilks, Patrick Steen et al?

Patio heaters, whether gas or electric, annoy me too. But they are just one example of our profligate use of energy and natural resources in modern society. Bottled water and free plastic bags are other examples that have featured in Which? Conversations.

I disagree with you on the energy savings to be made by using CFLs. Manufacturers often claim that they produce five times the light for the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs for the same amount of electricity. Even if you use a figure of four times or three times, it is still a worthwhile saving, especially when so many of us are faced with escalating electricity bills.

Further to my previous comments in support of Longley Shopper above, I wanted to say how much I agree with Dave D’s contributions and how fed up I am with other people trying to convince me that the withdrawal from the market of something I like [and can afford if I want to] must be welcomed universally. All the arguments about how much you can save if you use low energy lamps instead of incandescents are irrrelevant when most of our lights are not on for most of the time, or are in places where immediate illlumination is essential. I confess: I chuck dud lamps in the bin and I leave low energy lamps on all the time in some places because the running costs are so low and I am fed up with waiting for them to warm up [yes, I know the newest versions reach full brightness faster, but the old ones which cost a fortune haven’t expired yet because their overall lit time is minimal]. And no one can convince me that a new 11w CFL will be as good as an old 100w incandescent – the nearest equivalent I have found is the Philips 18w CFL but these are hard to come by in the shops.

I’m interested to see the number of peopel who are clearly reading this convo and agreeing on the issue of disposal.

It actually looks like this is a much greater and more widespread issue than I realised, and I thought I was pretty cynical about it.

I note the lack or response from Which? with regard to the “challenge” I posted a couple of days ago (to campaign / investigate for better disposal facilities), but I do hope that Which? really will take this aspect of CFL’s very seriously.

Quite apart from the annoyance, frustration, cost and inconvenience that it seems much of the country must experience, where are all the CFL’s going that people cannot recycle correctly?

I’ve posted on convos up to 2 years ago that round here many find their way into street-side waste bins (that the council can’t refuse to empty if they see a cfl in there) or, much worse, fly tipped, but I’m guessing that Nationwide a vast number are going into “normal” dustbins and thus to landfill or incineration, and sadly a good few are doubtless fly-tipped elsewhere too.

Irrespective of any genuine benefits of CFL’s, let alone any of our personal prejudices against them or favouritism for them, this is a serious long term issue and it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

The best way to encourage recycling is to make it easy and free. Many CFLs are very fragile, so they are likely to break if put in collection boxes (e.g. in shops) , which is obviously undesirable.

I do think this needs to be thought about and for everyone to be provided with the same waste disposal services.

Until a few years ago, it was normal for fluorescent tubes to be put in normal waste and they contain a lot more mercury and phosphor coating. A mercury thermometer contains vastly more mercury than any CFL and though they are no longer sold, they are still in many homes. I think the mercury (methyl mercury and other organo-mercury compounds) in fish is far more dangerous because we eat it, which is why there is a recommendation not to eat oily fish more than twice a week. Mercury (or mercury amalgam) in CFLs does not readily get into the body. I am not going to worry that some people put old CFLs in the bin until our government or local authorities make their recycling easy and free for everyone.

Actually as the devices include electronic components then they probably come under the WEE directive and thus you should give them to the retailer from whom you buy the replacements.

I must try that with Tesco, I will enjoy that!

Please do – and report back.

Bob Price says:
21 October 2011

My main objection to energy saving bulbs is that most of them are big and ugly. Interior designers have for years encouraged the use of attractive and subtle lighting in our living spaces. We have a range of wall and centre lights all using opal golf-ball bulbs and almost all on dimmers to achieve the effect we want. The ony near-equivalent CFLs stick lugubriously out of the front of the shades and cannot be dimmed, ruining the effect. Don’t mention LEDs – there are 13 bulbs and I can’t justify that expense.

I would like to know how it is environmentally viable to force me to replace all my light fittings with the associated manufacturing costs. And I still cannot see how these all-or-nothing bulbs can give a subtle effect.

I fully endorse Bob Price’s comments about the aesthetics. Light fittings have been developed around the incandescent bulb and its “dimmability” for decades. These fittings last generations and are not cheap. Our sitting room is has coordinated candle style steel chandeliers and wall lights, fitted with 14 naked 15W or 25W clear candle bulbs. With the use of two dimmers these create anything from subtle romantic glow to light suitable for reading. I am not aware of any low energy bulb solution that achieves the same effect, colouring or flexibility or more importantly would not look ridiculous in these fittings. I would be happily advised to the contrary.

Technology really needs to advance to be able to match this sort of application and Which? should be pushing this as an enabler to converting conumers to low energy. … and before I am accused of being a luddite … where bulbs are concealed in lamp shades or distorted through glass shades they are low energy in my house. Even outdoor spots are low energy despite the frustrating slow startup time.

In short the withdrawal of lower power decorative incandescent bulbs really concerns me and I shall be stockpiling.

grassmarket says:
3 November 2011

I agree with both these comments – what are we supposed to use in future in decorative lights where the bulb is visible in the fitting, so that appearance and size really matter? So far Which seems not to have considered this. None of the bulbs in the latest report are any good as replacements for golf-ball-sized opal bulbs. I have a bathroom mirror with integral lights (ie like in a theatre dressing room) and several Tiffany-style lamps – all of which use these bulbs as a visible decorative feature. What a waste if I have to throw them all away!

Like many others I’ve got a modest stockpile which I hope will last me out until the manufacturers develop suitable replacements. Until then it would be more helpful to us poor consumers if Which acknowledged the current shortcomings of the low-energy bulb market, and directed its energies towards pushing for solutions. Instead they keep telling us there are no real problems & that all our concerns are just ‘myths’. I remember when Which used to tell us that the problem of slow CFL start-up was a myth too!

I live in a 4 year old house which came with high energy ratings but the kitchen and bathrooms all have ceiling mounted GU10 halogen lamps each rated at 50 watts. The kitchen alone has 8 of these which means I am using 400 watts at a time when in there.

It’s all well and good going on about energy saving lamps but you only have to go into the major diy and lighting stores to see that a vast number of fittings use these 50 watt bulbs which makes a mockery of initiatives to save energy.

The latest review of light bulbs doesn’t really help me as I don’t know how many ‘lumens’ I’m getting at the moment (it seems to be a shed load!). The box containing a spare I have doesn’t even mention them and the Which report states n/a above 42W in the comparison table but my local Tesco only sells 50 watt versions.

Even if I could find led alternatives with enough light output I doubt I could afford them.

I use CFL’s in table lamps and find them very good once warmed up. I’ve only had 1 fail and it must have been at least 7 years old and had daily use. The only issue is that the comparable light output is never as good as claimed.

On the subject of recycling I have 2 centres within easy reach both of which have dedicated bins for this purpose. Why do I go there? It’s because my council charges for collection of green waste so I end up taking grass cuttings etc to the tip.

New houses must comply with regulations on energy efficiency, so why does this not extend to lighting? I am planning to move soon and will regard rooms with ceiling mounted halogen lamps as a negative feature.

I agree with you about the energy wasted in lighting stores but there are vast number of other examples of waste. The building in which I used to work had many lights left on overnight and the local Lidl seems to leave all the lights on long after it closes at 8pm. Window displays are often lit throughout the night and as Dave D mentioned recently, patio heaters waste a lot of energy.

For domestic use, perhaps the answer is to have a low price for up to a certain number of kWh and to charge a higher rate for use above this. It could help focus minds on energy efficiency.

Wavechange is bang on right re reversing the current, perverse, unit pricing structure for electricity, which gives a massive incentive to use more not less.
Of course, this is in place to benefit the suppliers and, through taxes, the government.
I have asked in previous convo’s on various related topics for Which? to take this up as a campaign too, but there has been a deafening silence from Which? on this too.

The “perverse unit pricing structure” mentioned I assume refers to the first ### units being cheaper than the rest.
This is just an alternative to charging a fixed rate per unit but with a “standing charge” to cover the fixed cost of providing electricity (or gas) to a house.
It was introduced so that households who use very little power dont get penalised by the standing charge .

I didn’t realise that was the origin of the charging structure, but I have to say that in all my adult lifetime, which is effectively since 1984 as far as paying my own bills goes, Electricity has always cost more for the first XXX units than the remainder AND in the 80’s and early 90’s there was a standing charge on top of this.

Either way, given the obscene profits of the energy companies (now under investigation at government level so we can be sure they really are profiteering in a big way), I’m pretty confident that we could charge a lower unit rate for the initial units and a higher one for heavy users and still not need a standing charge to cover the supply costs.

I don’t actually expect to get it though! Especially as Osborne tried to hide the continued failing economy behind reduced profits from energy companies only 3 months ago, blaming the “warm spring” for prolonging the economic downturn. Hardly seems likely that any energy company or government will accept Wavechange and my suggestion in these circumstances.


Longley Shopper says:
21 October 2011

Just thought I’d try the recycling links in the intro.
Interesting: entered my postcode on recolite and it tells me a Sainsbury’s 3.9 miles away, but that’s the branch where I was told only the larger branches do this. The next nearest place on recolite is almost 6 miles away. If I take my CFL’s to this the environmental impact of the fuel to travel is going to be greater than the impact of using old style bulbs isn’t it?
I also tried the other link and entered my postcode. That site tells me a collection point is available within 1.4 miles at a shop which has been closed for about 4 years now. I don’t know how often these web sites are updated, but that is clearly out of date. The next nearest they list is the same sainsburys and then they say contact my local council for more suggestions.
However, I will try to be positive and admit that both sites seem to suggest far more places than I knew about, even if they are too far away to bother.

Nick, Hampshire says:
22 October 2011

I have dimmer switches in nearly every room of the house to control the ambiance of the lighting to match the usage of the room, and to reduce electricity consumption.

In your November 2011 review of light bulbs, I am astonished that you make no mention of dimming which is an important aspect of domestic lighting in many homes and one which can significantly reduce energy consumption of all types of light bulbs. You do not review dimmable CFL’s or LED’s, and fail to mention the related issues of dimmer compatibility.

Not everyone wants their lights on full blast all of the time!

I think this is a surprising omission and I look forward to a more complete review in the future.

I am keen to know about dimmable CFLs too, but what I have read is not encouraging. They are still rather expensive and may flicker at lower brightness.

Fluorescent lighting can be dimmed very smoothly (this is often used in lecture theatres) but this requires special control gear to ensure that the heaters at the ends of the lamps are kept sufficiently hot even when the brightness is low. This is not possible with simple two-wire domestic systems.

Until LED lighting becomes more affordable I think the answer will be to use table lamps/standard lamps/wall lights to provide lower lighting levels, just as we did before the introduction of dimmers.

Mark says:
22 October 2011

The problem I have always had with CFLs are the shops don’t sell ones that are bright enough. For some years I have purchased by mail order CFLs of 30 or 35W to get near the brightness levels I want. Often these higher power CFLs fail very early – some only lasting two or three months. In the last couple of years I have been purchasing bulbs colour rated as daylight, and these lasted even less time. I have now resorted to a light fitting which takes 3 bulbs and fitting three 11W daylight bulbs which seem to come close to the lighting levels I require and so far are lasting about a year each.
The mode of failure in nearly all cases has been the control gear dying, as characterised by a nasty burning smell when they go.
Durability of the CFLs seems to me to be poorer than the old incandescents.

It would be interesting to know if the CFLs that are failing prematurely were used in fixtures with little or no ventilation. I suspect that CFLs need good ventilation or to be used base-down to ensure that the electronic components do not overheat and fail before the lamp.

@Wavechange: in my experience (which I’ve broadly outlined in previous posts on other CFL convo’s) the reduced life of cfl’s seems fairly random.

The shortest life of any cfl I’ve ever bought was a branded 11w stick style CFL used base down in a table lamp with a very large fabric shade that is completely open at the bottom and top (drum style). That CFL managed a total of well under 10 hours (i think more like 4 in fact) and just three switchings on and off.

CFL’s used in enclosed outdoor fittings seem to last on average about 1 year. I have three such fittings. IN one the CFL is base down and in the other two it is horizontal. All three are on dusk-till-dawn switching so they are on I guess an average of 10 hours per day if you even out summer and winter months.

I have a cfl in a large plaster wall uplighter in the kitchen. THe cfl is horizontal in this and although there is no opening at the bottom at all the top is totally open. I’ve had some cfl’s in there which have managed only about 8 months and others that have done several years. I’ve not taken a detailed note of the brands and so on but from memory I think the stick ones have lasted longer than spirals in that fitting.

The longest life of any cfl’s I have had has been the Phillip’s Jam Jar ones in my totally enclosed glass sphere landing light. The Jam Jar cfl.s lasted over ten years each (I only ever had two of them). More recent Osram stick type 30w cfl’s in that fitting have averaged about a year each but it now seems to be hard to get them and spiral 30w cfl’s in there have managed a measly few months each, the worst only about 3 months before it shattered without warning one evening. That fitting has the cfl’s base upwards.

My dining and sitting room both have 1920’s glass bowl fittings on chains. These always used to have 250w incandescents in them. I cannot find any cfl’s that are bright enough to use in these at all. I have tried 30w Crompton spirals but they still appear very dim compared to the 250w tungstens. One of these lasted about 5 years (though was only used for perhaps about 6 or 7 hours per week at most) and I took out the failed one and it’s working partner in the dining room and put back 200W tungsten’s when the Compton spiral went in the sitting room. I can still get 200w tungstens very easily from the local electrical wholesalers in “rough service” format and although not as bright as the 250’s use dtio be, they are better than the CFL’s. Is someone brings out a 40+ watt CFL I’l give that a try and see how it looks. These fittings, like all pendant ceiling fittings,have the bulb base up. Being open glass bowls ventilation is outstanding.

Ironically the one place CFL’s are absolutely fantastic is in the headlight of the vacuum cleaner. My 1970’s Hoover “Dirt searcher” vacuum is supposed to have a 15w pygmy lamp in the headlight, but they never did last long because of the constant vibrations and the tiny unventilated space. I have had a 5w cfl mini-spiral in that for over 8 years now and despite the vibrations, horizontal installation and lack of ventilation it’s never failed yet.

I guess the above range of installations shows a pretty random experience with cfl life-spans and the only slight patterns I can see are that totally enclosed fittings outside (i.e. unventilated and exposed to extremes of temperature) seem to give a fairly consistent approximately 1 year life span.

Hope this helps your pondering (Wavechange) and your research (which?)

@wavechange: most of my cfl’s are mounted with the base at the top as they are in ceiling spot lamps. Aka r80 in the kitchen. They are ventilated by ensuring that there is NO insulation over the top of them.

All of these lamps are terrible and last less than a year, I have gone back to standard r80, not ideal but far far cheaper, 80 p as against £8+.

At one time it was possible to buy 28W and 38W 2D lamps that plugged into control gear with a bayonet fitting. A quick search confirmed that these did exist, but I did not find them on sale. That’s a pity because 38W 2D lamps give out a lot of light and would probably fit in old bowl light fittings.

If there is room in your bowl fitting you could use two CFLs and a bayonet splitter. Until the 60s these were commonly used for purposes such as connecting two sets of Christmas lights to one supply cable.

An open top bowl will provide better ventilation than an open base globe, but it is still not good compared with a traditional lampshade with an opening at the top. I imagine that a fairly narrow tubular shade that is open at both ends will be most efficient because it will act as a chimney and create a current of air.

Using a CFL in your vacuum is ingenious, but provided that the bulb does not break CFLs should handle vibration better than incandescent bulbs. The vacuum will not be on for sufficiently long to cook the electronics even though it is in a confined space.

I have had a look at the CFLs in my house and three are Philips, made in Holland. As far as I know, Philips stopped making CFLs in Holland a long time ago, so these lamps are quite old.

I leave a light on each night and continuously when I am away, to act as an internal security light. I started off in the mid 80s with a Philips ‘jam jar’ and I think I’m on my third stick-type CFL.

Perhaps I am lucky but I did get rid of a couple of enclosed light fittings because I was aware that high temperatures are not good for certain electronic components.

Thanks for the 2D info Wavechange: I was aware of these too, and when I first tried CFL’s in the bowl light fittings i tried everywhere I could think of to get the plug in adapters for the 2D lights. They would be absolutely ideal in the bowls, indeed they would be better than tungsten lamps and any form of cfl could ever have been because they would be completely within the bowl so that even the tallest person standing a long way off would not see the bulb showing above the bowl.

If anyone reading this knows where these adapters can still be obtained please post to let us know as I would certainly be off to buy two straight away (possibly 4 as my two bedroom lights are also a shallow cylindrical shade type which these would also work very well in).

Another example, I suspect, of the issue with the Phillip’s Jam Jars made in Holland: a great idea, which saved energy, and actually worked, really well, but has been taken off the market in favour of cheap, poor quality, probably far-eastern made, unsatisfactory rubbish that we are now being forced to have against our will and, IMHO, not going to help the environment one iota.

One solution to your problem would be to take a modern 2D lamp fitting and suspend it on thin wires attached to the bottom of the chains that support the bowl. Wire it to a bayonet plug, which are probably still available. The 2D fixture would need to be earth bonded for safety.

The modification should be invisible, so will not detract from the appearance of the light fitting.

Thanks for the information, David. Richard Dilks said that Which? are hoping to look at spotlight CFLs. These tend to be expensive and I have heard of many failures, particularly of one well known make.

Glad to see (Mark’s posting) that I am not the only one with a significant history of trying to use energy saving lights but finding that the lifetime is dismal, which of course makes the hot-topic of disposal a bigger issue than it would be if the life of the lamps approached that postulated by the makers, government, advertisers and Which?

Just been looking at the website of QVS-Direct (electrical wholesalers) and saw under their WEEE advice section that RECOLIGHT (mentioned in Richard’s intro) is only for COMMERCIAL / INDUSTRIAL users, not domestic users. QVS do, however, point DOMESTIC users to http://www.recycle-more.co.uk.

I followed the link to recycle-more.co.uk, easily found the lightbulb disposal link, entered my postcode and found that in Sheffield there are 4, council run “dumpit” facilities, the nearest more than 6 miles from me, and that NONE of them accept CFL’s (according to recycle-more.co.uk anyway).

I continued to explore the map given way outside the Sheffield boundary and ended up looking at sites in Doncaster, and as far as I can see no where in Doncaster takes cfl’s either, which fits with what someone else posted further up here a few days ago (was it Longley Shopper?)

In fact, I didn’t find any places that listed cfl’s before I gave up because I was looking in Humberside, which is obviously ludicrous for a Sheffielder to use!

I am mindful, though, that a few days ago it was pointed out on here that one of the links given in Richard’s intro was sending people to a shop that closed down 4 years ago, so I don’t know how up to date http://www.recycle-more.co.uk is and I accept that it could be way out of date too.

Might be interesting for someone to try to verify QVS’s assertion that Recolight is only for commercial users though, especially if Which? and others are going to keep recommending them as a way to find suitable places for householders to go to.

Recolight provide CFL collection boxes for Sainsburys and Homebase stores and provide search facilities to locate these and council run disposal points. I looked this up when this Conversation was launched. I don’t see that it matters that Recolight isn’t dealing directly with the public.

Now if Tesco had collection boxes that would be great. Unfortunately it’s very little help rather than every little helps in this case.

Like Wavechange’s comment about tesco!
@Wavechange: if Recolight are providing collection boxes that’ll be why they are listed as only for commercial users – commercial as in collecting cfl’s on a grand scale. I agree that if they are providing a location service for places their boxes are located then it matters not that they don’t deal direct with the public.

I regard the whole thing as yet another ripoff for consumers. The ‘Which’ report and summary is the worst and most confusing article I have read in years of membership. Why in the table aren’t the 3 bulb types identified? Can the ‘Sylvania Toledo GLSA60 at a retail price of £37.50 really give ‘an extremely high performance’ with only 3 star efficiency and 238 lumens? Surely not!!

I would agree the cost of LED is ridiculous especially when the light output is almost unusable. 238 lumens is equivalent to an incandescent 25W bulb. Hardly a main room light. Until LED can reach 1000 lumens without self combusting (needs fan cooling currently at this level) I’m not bothering to purchase.

I do not understand the rating of the LED lamp you mention, but I expect that LED lamps will become much cheaper in a few years, I remember paying over £80 for a 128k flash drive and larger ones are now given away free.