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Farewell to 60 watt bulbs – are you sad to see them go?

Exploding light bulb

This time last year, I was writing about the demise of the 75W traditional light bulb, banned under EU rules. Now it’s the turn of 60 watt bulbs, which will also soon be disappearing from shop shelves.

The move is part of an EU initiative to phase out less efficient light bulbs by 2012 in favour of energy-savers.

Shops will no longer be able to buy new stocks of traditional clear 60W incandescent light bulbs from 1st September – following a similar ban on 75 watt bulbs last year, and 100 watt bulbs the September before that.

For shoppers, it means swapping over to energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), or newer LED or halogen bulbs instead – or alternatively stocking up on old-style bulbs before they’re gone for good.

Your light bulb leanings

So how will you be lighting up your home in the near future?

Love, hate – or hoard – them, the little light bulb has been a real talking point over the past year here on Which? Conversation, and lots of Convo commenters have been telling us how they’ve been dealing with the switchover in their homes:

  • CFL convert: ‘I now use Osram Duluxstar Mini Twist 23W spirals which give out light equivalent to somewhere between 100W and 150W tungsten, quite quickly. And I bought a Varilight Dimmable EnergySaver+ just a couple of weeks ago. Yes – DIMMABLE!’ said EMCman.
  • The stockpiler: ‘I really object to being forced into wasting money and time replacing these wall lights because of a totally unecessary ban on traditional bulbs. So I am doing what loads of others are doing – stockpiling old lamps to delay changing the lights – hopefully until either small golfball LEDS are available (and cheap) or the government sees sense,’ fumed John.
  • Hopeful about halogens: ‘We’ve just started using halogen bulbs. They use more power and aren’t so long lasting but are very bright and come on instantly. Not too expensive,’ Rosemary Nimmo commented.
  •  Liking LEDs: ‘I have replaced 12 x 50 watt halogens with these 3 LED, 3 watt, soft white bulbs which give out 300 lumens… I like the resulting light and I can use all of them at the same time and use less energy than one of the originals,’ said Daiverse.

Lighting up your home

Our lab-based tests suggest that the technology is improving, but the reputation of energy-saving light bulbs continues to be far from glowing, with various issues making the idea of change offputting to many of us.

So what are people’s main complaints? The ‘truly awful’ or ‘very dim’ light emitted, compatibility problems with specific lights, the aesthetics (‘ugly’), a dislike of the way the phase-out has been conducted (‘big brother banning’), and concerns about reports of a recent jump in the cost of CFLs.

So how are you dealing with the changeover in your household? Are you a grudging or enthusiastic energy-saving bulb user, an early adopter of LED lighting or have you got a supply of traditional bulbs large enough to keep you going for years to come?


Although it is no doubt true about the mercury in CFLs, how come nobody worried about it when it was in conventional flourescent tubes, many millions of which must have been broken in the 80-odd years that they have been in use?

A while ago I was writing about Quarz Halogen bulbs as a dimmable and instantly-lighting substitute for CFLs. I have now had four of these installed for a few months and the first one has just failed. Apparently 2000 hours is the best you’ll get from a bulb and, as they use far more electricity than CFLs and cost £2.50 each to buy they are a very expensive alternative to either CFLs or conventional tungsten bulbs.

I will be replacing them again, this time with LEDs, once these are available with a high enough rating – which I understand won’t be all that long.

You are right about fluorescent tubes, Richard, and the earlier ones often contained much more mercury than CFLs. Thermometers and barometers contained very much more and although the use of mercury has been phased out, there are plenty of these in homes. The thing we should be more worried about is mercury (actually organomercury compounds) in fish. This is why we are advised to restrict our intake of oily fish.

Before we had dimmers, the way of dimming room lighting was to use table lights and/or standard lights instead of the ceiling light. This still works and it is not necessary to have dimmable CFLs or LED lights.

Phasing out of old fashioned incandescent bulbs is helping to increase the variety of LED lamps available and decrease prices. There is still a need for a sensibly priced replacement for 100 watt bulbs but hopefully this will be available soon. Many are discovering that halogen bulbs are expensive, both in replacement and running cost – as you have said.

À propos some interesting former exchanges with Richard English, tytalus, and others regarding the finite/infinite nature of fossil fuels, it occurred to me that the following [Carpe Diem, 12 May 2012] might be of some interest:

“The Green River Formation—an assemblage of over 1,000 feet of sedimentary rocks that lie beneath parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming—contains the world’s largest deposits of oil shale. USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil. At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves. The vast untapped energy resources of Green River, the largest oil shale deposit in the world, provide additional support for the idea that “peak oil” is “peak idiocy.” –Mark J. Perry.

This may, of course, be dismissed as unsound science, suspect advocacy, or unproven guesswork. But it is worth examining with a view to perhaps modifying one’s earlier convictions.

The fact that new reserves have been found does not mean they are infinite. Whereas it is doubtless a good thing that we might have access to more oil than was originally thought, that shouldn’t mean we should be profligate with the stuff.

There are other consequences of profligacy apart from consumption; the fact that we in the western world have access to as much food as we can eat, does not mean we should all be gluttons.

I agree with Richard. Oil is an important raw material for producing thousands of chemicals, plastics and many other products that we use. We should attempt to conserve oil (and coal) for use by future generations. Generating electricity creates pollution and other environmental damage. I cannot believe how wasteful we have become in the western world, during my lifetime.

Hi Wildberry,

Not sure about quotes of the finite aspects of things. If everything I heard as a kid were true we would have run out of oil on the late 90’s, Moores Law would have ceased in the 2000’s, there would still be 9 planets in the solar-system and Asia would have overtaken world financial domination… Ah, maybe somethings were better researched than others.

That’s why I never state how long things last for, but what is and the risks of what happens if we don’t change. I personally am more worried about running out of land before we run out of oil, for example.

Not for the first time, tytalus, you have hit the nail on the head. Whilst obsessively contending about the meaning, application, and usefulness of terms like “infinite” the world keeps on turning. I don’t think you need worry about running out of land, incidentally. The African continent has vast land resources. There is no objective reason why there should be famine in any part of it. Bad management, poor stewardship, political upheavals, and war wreak untold and unnecessary damage on a continent blessed with enormous natural potential – yet cursed with a pitiful lack of things we in the First World take for granted.
Law and order characterise the systems that underpin our continuing prosperity and if that breaks down we may well experience some of the chaos that seems endemic in much of Africa. One looks at Greece with foreboding.
But Richard and wavechange do have a point; waste is indeed appalling and mindless profligacy unforgivable. Equally unforgivable, in my view, is the patronising and politically inspired actions of certain self-righteous groups who, with the unwholesome and incorruptible fanaticism of latter-day Saint-Justs, even now are planning to destroy and thereby hinder the production of GM crops that would ameliorate famine throughout large areas of the world. This is simply because they don’t like them and/or don’t approve of the large companies that have develop them.

There are different concerns about GM crops. Unfortunately the general public do not have the knowledge to understand the science and often regard all GM crops in the same way. The best way forward seems to be to focus on gaining acceptance for the least controversial examples, such as Golden Rice.

In the late 70s and early 80s there was a lot of concern about genetically manipulated bacteria. That is history and GM bacteria and yeast are widely used to make pharmaceuticals and other products. There are procedures for containment but no-one worries about these GM microorganisms now. It means that diabetics can have ‘human’ insulin without the need for human tissues. I still have reservations about the use certain GM plants, until risks are properly evaluated.

In the same way that GM products are becoming accepted, many are now happy with their energy saving light bulbs. One of my friends who was vehemently opposed to them only two years ago is now trying to persuade others of their advantages.

Somewhat off topic, I know, but appropos land use and running out of it – there is no danger of that; we’ll run out of food and energy long before we run out of land. I have just returned from Canada whose population is around half that of the UK, but whose land area is over 40 times as great. You could fit the whole population of the UK onto Vancouver Island (that small-looking island to the west of Vancouver) and the population density would only be slightly greater than we now enjoy in the UK.

There is plenty of land to go round – although politicians are always fighting over the best bits, rather than getting on making the best of what there is. As Wildberry remarks, Africa should be the richest continent in the world, but the gross ineptitude of the rulers of the various countries has made sure that they are in poverty.

Are we still talking about light bulbs? 🙂

No. We have already said farewell to that topic. 🙂

If anyone would like to discuss GM food there is a Conversation at:

It would be good to have a Conversation specifically about LED lighting.

Spot on, wavechange; lightbulbs, EU directives notwithstanding, have been done to death. But they served a useful purpose of leading to more important issues. LEDs may indeed still have a bit of life in them in their own right but does look more inviting for those with time on their hands.

I recall some interesting former exchanges with Richard English, tytalus, and others regarding the finite/infinite nature of fossil fuels. Without wishing to annoy too many people, I would respectfully draw attention to the latest article by George ‘Moonbat’ Monbiot. George, as every Grauniad reader will know, is one of humanity’s foremost AGW fanatics and has made some pretty wild predictions in his time. These have included doom-laden predictions of the once-fashionable “Peak Oil” Armageddon.

But George, whatever you think about his flawed and wildly inaccurate predictions, is unusual in that he quite often acknowledges his mistakes – eventually. For example, he was extremely anti-nuclear but has since embraced, albeit gingerly, the nuclear answer to energy requirements. This has not gone down too well with unreconstructed and blinkered Green activists, such as the ineffable Caroline Lucas.

Now George has gone further. In his column yesterday he acknowledges the unscientific and plain wrongheaded nature of the Peak Oil scare. The article may be found on . It makes interesting reading.

As Jimmy Goldsmith memorably put it long ago, only the dead never change their minds. And Moonbat is still going strong . . .

Ian F says:
3 July 2012

The views form the extremes of both sides should always be viewed with skepticism. Converts are often the worst when they “see the light”.

Oil is a finite resource. It has run out many times in the past and has been found again either when economics made it profitable to recover or technology made a previously unusable resource recoverable. Once exhausted those easily recovered deposits don’t magically recover they are gone.

I’m not in the doom and gloom camp but I would warn anyone who thinks that there isn’t a problem of energy supply looming just to remember that for a couple of months up till Christmas life for turkeys just keeps on getting better.

George Monbiot’s piece on Peak Oil being wrong is even more scary than the risks of Peak Oil occuring. Anyone for turkey?

Lighten up a bit, Ian!

Some people wouldn’t be able to recognise good news – even if came up and bit them on the Moonbat!

You tend to remind me of the old well-loved ITMA character, Mona Lott, whose catch-line (delivered in a mournful droning voice) was “It’s being so cheerful that keeps me going”.

As for turkeys, they may count as ‘finite’ in your terms, but I suspect they will still be on the Christmas menu for some time yet. After that we shall start on the geese . . .

Ian F says:
3 July 2012

there are turkeys on both sides. like I said I am not in the doom and gloom camp. I believe that we will solve the double electron capture problem and make efficient PV cells that are more like plant leaves than the rubbish that is currently being installed and subsidised by the rest of us. Similarly I expect we will find ways to double the efficiency of LEDs and flourescent tubes.

but where I am concerned is that no one knows the timescales necessary to solve those problems So this turkey is going to vote for less food now and Christmas next year or better still a long way in the future. .

Oh if you want to worry about resources you need look no further than the rare earths. Plenty of worry and fear there to keep the column inches in the grauniad filled. Probably the only reason why they don’t occupy a more central space is that the level of scientific literacy in old blight is rather low and their significance as a resource is thus lost. Everyone knows that oil is important.

Quite agree Ian, Old Fruit. But you do worry a lot and I still think you err just a bit on the gloomy side. Think of that appalling preachy Joan Baez woman and her ‘We Shall Overcome” stuff. She may have been a few sandwiches short of a picnic but at least she pretended to be an optimist . . . or sort of.

The rare earth shortage will be solved, never fear. China may be squatting on enough to generate anxiety in the west but, remember, until only a few months ago that nice Mr Putin was sniggering away and dreaming of holding the west to ransom for his gas supplies. Now he can, to paraphrase Shelley, gaze on his pipelines in despair.

Cheer up!

Ian F says:
3 July 2012

China has what I believe to be the best rare earth resources at the moment. but with prices rising it will be like “peak oil” all over again. There is a real issue behind resource use but the media will ahve us fretting over the wrong issue. Insteead of the right one which is that using a resource slowly means that it stays cheaper longer and lasts longer. Cost here isn’t just hte ££ price but includes the incalculables like environmental cost which other than they do exist are beyond our economic and political systems to measure in any useful way.

I am pretty down on the public understanding of science and math. There is plenty of good ballanced reporting out there but you have to hunt for it and keep your brain turned on to make sure you get the message rather than the sound bite.

Consuming less is bad for GDP, Bad for governments and other institutions that rely upon inflation to cover their sins. But I honestly don’t see another option for most of us than to consume less and make what we have last longer. I think looking forward to the day when phones last more than a year isn’t gloomy at all. Cars, washing machines, furnishings, etc. To a day when houses are comfortable without big energy bills and even to the day when cfls last as long as Which claim!

There is a bright future waiting for us, so lets make sure it happens.

Hello all, you may be interested in our latest Conversation from Jo Gibney: Specialist light bulb fittings in my new build home stole my energy saving choice: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/energy-saving-light-bulb-three-pin-cfl-new-building-regulations/ Have you had a similar problem?

We’ve published a new Conversation – with 40W and 25W bulbs being banned over the weekend, no incandescents are on sale. Are LEDs the answer to our energy saving prayers? https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/buy-incandescent-light-bulbs-eu-directive-energy-saving-bulbs/

David Evans says:
3 September 2012

I still don’t accept that incandescent lamps are really that wasteful. Although they produce heat, it they do take some of the load off the central heating, especially in the living area where the thermostat is normally sited. One could argue that this is not relevant in the summer, but then the central heating has much less work to do in the summer. The other issue that is glossed-over is the energy cost of making low energy bulbs (they are very complex compared to traditional bulbs), and then the cost of disposal when they finally expire (mercury being a particular problem).

There are certainly questions around CFLs. In my new post I talk a lot about LED lights, which I presume are nicer to the environment when disposed (let alone that they last much longer). I wonder if LEDs are cheaper/easier to make too?

David Evans says:
9 November 2012

The logic behind low energy bulbs is that incansescent bulbs are inherantly wasteful, but this is so only if the heat that they produce is unwanted. In real life, when a house is centrally heated with a thermostat, heat coming from the lights merely lightens the load for the CH boiler. Admittedly, this extra heat may not be needed in the summer, but then lighting is not needed in the summer either. There may be marginal energy gains to be had, but are they enough to justify the extra complexity. the higher cost and the poor light-output – I doubt it.

I very much doubt that the small amount heat generated by incandescent bulbs is of any use at all. Most incandescents live up near the ceiling and the heat they generate (which warms the air by conduction) stays, with the warmed air, up near the ceiling.

And, think about it – a 100 Watt light bulb generates maybe 75 Watts of heat. That’s about one fortieth of the heat that a normal fan heater generates – very small beer indeed.

But the wastage is significant since lights tend to be on for much of the day, providing a fair amount of light and insigificant amounts of heat.

Electricity is the generally regarded as the most expensive form of heating, so unless you are using electric heating that is a good reason not to use any electric heating.

Try switching on the lights with the heating switched off. I would be surprised if you see any change in temperature. Lights and heaters need to be in different places for best effect.

Generating electricity from fossil fuels puts mercury into the atmosphere. The extra electricity needed to power old fashioned light bulbs probably creates more mercury pollution than CFLs, which contain tiny amounts. CFLs can be recycled to recover the mercury.

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.