/ Home & Energy

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?

Comments

I’ve had low-energy bulbs in most of my light fittings for years and am perfectly happy with them. BUT my main living room light fitting uses a dimmer switch and I gather you still can’t use low-energy bulbs in this case. I also have a lamp with an enclosed base that takes only small candle bulbs with a small bayonet fitting and haven’t seen any suitable low-energy bulbs. So I suppose I shall have to stockpile 40W bulbs when these are eventually due to be withdrawn.

There are dimmable CFLs but I have been put off by reviews on websites. Halogen bulbs can be dimmed, so these may provide a solution even if they do not save much electricity.

When my existing bulbs burn out I will remove the dimmer and use table lamps etc. to provide lower level lighting. That’s what people did before dimmers became available. Hopefully it will not be long before bright LED lamps are available at an affordable price, since LED lamps are dimmable and a very efficient source of light.

You may find a suitable LED lamp to replace your candle bulb, but check the quoted light output (lumens) is sufficient.

Hate to say this ‘cos it’s gonna start sounding like all I do is contradict Wavechange, but all the LED bulbs I have tried so far, including 2 I ordered last week that have just arrivEd this morning all have “NOT DIMMABLE” stamped on the boxes.
I would not bank on LED bulbs solving the dimming issue.
Sorry

No problem Dave. You have bought the LED bulbs and I have only read about them and seen some working with a dimmer. Thanks for putting me right.

There seems to be a lot of unreliable advice about incandescent bulb replacement and I am sorry for contributing to this. What is clear is that the consumer needs clear information so that they do not purchase lamps that are not suitable for the planned use. I don’t think I’m wrong about that. 🙂

Absolutely.

And that is exactly where I think Which? **SHOULD** be playing a far bigger role than they are, just as with SmartMeters. It almost seems as though Which? get their own information purely from the PR agents themselves, even though we know this isn’t the case.

LEDs are inherently dimmable. However the electronics that allow a very low voltage LED chip to be connected to the 240V ac mains may not allow dimming. Right now that “may not” should really be most probably wont allow dimming!

Though LEDs are inherently dimmable they don’t change colour and become warmer in tone as the light output is dropped like a tungsten filament bulb does. The white light LEDs are typically UV emitting devices coated with a phosphor to convert the UV light into visible light just like a CFL. The dimming process cuts down the amount of light emitted but does not change its colour.

As far as I know, domestic dimmers all operate on the phase control system, which allows a variable proportion of each AC cycle to power the load. See the diagram in this information about one type of dimmable LED bulbs produced by Philips: http://www.lighting.philips.co.uk/pwc_li/main/shared/assets/downloads/Dimming_MASTER_LEDlamps_MV.pdf

As Ian F says the electronics used by the lamp may not allow dimming. The lamp manufacturers may be playing safe in marking their products as ‘non-dimmable’ because they have no idea of the characteristics of the user’s dimmer. The best solution is to look for LED lamps that are marked as suitable for use with dimmers. If there is a problem then they can be returned to the retailer.

I envisage that LED bulbs of the future will be controllable from a bright white light to a dim yellow light by controlling power applied to a matrix of led chips containing two or more colours. This would require a special dimmer. I would not be surprised if this has already been done.

I have a number of beautiful lamps demanding bulbs for which there are no low energy equivalents. Rather than dump these lamps which cost hundreds of ££ I have been stockpiling and buying on line (Denmark is a good source). One ironic effect has been that as 300w bulbs with a large screw fitting have become harder to get I have had to go up to 500w.

Having beautiful light fittings is obviously far more important than caring about the environment. Thank goodness that some people do care.

Longley Shopper says:
23 September 2011

I’m surprised at your level of intolerance, Wavechange, but more importantly, you imply that you care about the environment: just how good for the environment do you think it is to have loads of light fittings ditched into landfill for the sake of changing the bulbs? Most light fittings are full of plastics and other non-degradable materials so it can hardly be sound environmental sense to dump them.
I think that like many other posters on here you have failed to think through your comment before posting.

Longley Shopper.

I do think carefully about my comments and I do try to be helpful. Here I was commenting on a case involving a 300 watt incandescent bulb, which is not something commonly used in a domestic environment. Many light fittings can be adapted to accommodate low energy lamps.

Keeping this in perspective, we should probably be more worried about the environmental effects of private and public transport, especially airlines.

bad news…

the nice bright compact spiral CFL that has been in the kitchen for about 6 months started “singing”/”buzzing” today. The tube is still clean, the light output bright, but the electronics are indicating their imminent demise. If the noise level rises much more the bulb will end up being replaced for the noise pollution it is causing. *grrrr*

So 6 months times about 8 hours a day (I use the kitchen a lot!) around 1500 hours. 🙁

CFLs a good idea badly implemented?

@Ian F – similar story here actually: a friend came to stay last weekend, he’s staying for a fortnight. The bedside light in the guest bedroom has probably been switched on for a combined total of less than 5 hours in the last two years, since I fitted a 15w CFL spiral of Osram brand.
Sunday & Monday evenings he had the light on for a good couple of hours each evening, Tuesday he switched on an “POP!”, the base of the CFL is cracked open, the tube is cracked but not broken open near where one end goes in eth base and teh fuse on the plug (3 amp) has blown.

I make it that that bulb was 1 year and 10 months old (near enough) as it was fitted in Dec 2009 and that it lasted a grand total of well under 15 hours, more like about 9 hours.

I don’t call that good value, energy saving, economical or environmentally friendly, and it isn’t the first by any means of these lamps to fail in that way. I don’t think this is brand-specific: identical Osram bulbs of the same wattage are in some exterior fittings, which are fully enclosed and on all night every night. One of them is fitted horizontally. Those bulbs are the same age too and fitted over the same winter (2009/2010). The bedside light, by contrast, is an open, large diameter, shade and the bulb is fitted vertically. On the other hand, I have had an identical one of these Osram cfl’s go in less than a month in a dining room table lamp. I don’t believe there is any common factor other than that CFL’s are basically unreliable technology for some reason(s) which I do not pretend to know but can only speculate upon.

Whatever the cause, they are POOR VALUE, whatever else can be said for or against them.

I must have been lucky: I have had nothing but fluorescents – in the kitchen – and CFCs elsewhere in the house for many years. These include 4 CFC spots – replacements for 40 watt microscrew bulbs. These were disgustingly expensive – an import from Germany – and very slow to warm up but have been in place for several years and are otherwise perfectly satisfactory. I have had no problems with bulbs failing prematurely. I also have a small LED tube as a shaving light in the bathroom, very nice bright light and should last for many years.

Gary M. Olsen says:
28 September 2011

Slash Your Energy Bills?

In my home, I have 7 ceiling fans in various rooms, each with a lighting fixture containing 5 dimmable 40-watt light bulbs. Each incandescent bulb currently costs less than $1 to replace. I normally dim the bulbs considerably during operation and they usually last for 4 to 5 years each. Under the government’s new law, I will only be able to replace the incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs as only LED bulbs are capable of being dimmed. But the cost of such a single LED 40-watt equivalent is around $20.00 per bulb! If I was to replace all of the incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs on every ceiling fan in my house it would cost me $700 (versus $35 for the current incandescent bulbs).

Has anyone at Consumer Reports bothered to calculate the real payback period on the purchase of dimmable LED bulbs? According to my calculations, the payback period would exceed the life of the LED bulb. So where are my cost savings?

I can’t help but question a government law that mandates us to reduce our energy drain on the power grid for lighting while encouraging us (through tax breaks & rebates) to increase our burden on the same power grid by plugging in our automobiles.

Or in contrast; we have only one ceiling fan/light fitting, but are saving loads on the 15x40W lights that were in our halway when we moved in a little over 5 years ago. Fancy 5 prong light fitting that we put 15x5W large candle type CFLs in. None have gone, and as they are on quite a lot in the autumn/winter evenings with our 3 year old running about, they have paid for themselves several times over in electric, and that’s without having any heating on.

The 6x50W GU10 Halogens in the kitchen have been replaced with 2x2W LEDs and 4x7W VCFLs. Although the cheap and nasty VCFLs that came with the new ceiling fittings to replace the 12V halogen fittings lasted only a couple of months (Blicks, or something similar), the Megaman replacements have lasted over 2 years now, paying for themselves several times over, even just in the cost of replacement Halogen GU10s, nevermind the electricity. And the kitchen is normally too hot when we’re in there for any length of time!

But what of that ceiling fan on the dimmer switch? It still has 3x40W bulbs, waiting for a decent and cost effective alternative. Fortunately we dont use or dining room that much (where the fan is) as it’s mainly a junk room. And it’s still using the 40W lights we took out of the Hall 5 years ago :).

But this is where we are; it is the majority view that we don’t want change, especially if it’s an effort. And if we aren’t going to change, the manufacturers aren’t going to make stuff we don’t want and aren’t going to buy (light fittings, etc). So we march on as it’s just ‘too difficult’ to do otherwise.

The approach taken by the EU here to force change has been overkill legislation that results in the backlash comments seen elsewhere in these pages. Not really ideal, though it is forcing the issue.

As for Electric Vehicles, they were part of the past and are going to be at least part of our future. Energy distribution to cope is an ongoing study in it’s early stages here at the IET, but it’s far from an easy subject and not for these pages.

Richard Cooke says:
30 September 2011

Low energy light bulbs contain mercury vapour.
Mercury vapour is a toxic heavy metal.
Mercury poisons the body.
Mercury vapour light bulbs emit ultra violet.
Ultra violet causes cataracts in the eyes.
Ultra violet ageing of the skin and skin cancers.

Interestingly I noticed that at work we were having 4 year old massive light fittings in the plaza replaced today. I enquired as to why we were having such new fittings changed and discovered, in the answer, the reason that so many have been out of service for so long:

The CFL’s fitted in them (which have all been replaced 3 or 4 times in the last 4 years, but given that they are on all day every day I don’t think that can be used to disprove the life-span claims) are all standard bayonet fitting quadruple turn ‘stick’ types rated 80 watts (that’s what they use, not what they are equivalent to – they are supposed to be equivalent to 500w halogen tubes but I have my doubts, no matter). The UV given off by these lamps has, according to the contractors replacing the fittings, decayed the reflectors, which are made of metallised UPVC, and also the bodies of the fittings, so much that the reflectors started to fall off onto the floor some 40 feet below and one of the fittings began to crack apart.

OK, so these are semi-industrial fittings and they get excessive use. In that respect they cannot be compared to domestic lighting. But the fittings are manufactured to be used with CFL’s, and the manufacturer’s own CFL’s have been used in them exclusively under a maintenance agreement, but the level of UV has destroyed the fittings in 4 years.

That level of UV can’t be safe for us in our homes or our places of work.

There is not much difference, except in size, between CFLs and the fluorescent tubes we have been using for many years. The UV created by the discharge is converted into visible light by the phosphor coating on the inside of the glass. Glass is very effective at blocking UV. Where UV is wanted, for example in bactericidal lamps used in labs or for sunbeds, ordinary glass is replaced by quartz or another special glass.

Daylight, even without sunshine, exposes us to far more UV than fluorescent light. If CFLs emitted significant UV then we might get a suntan indoors.

Many plastics deteriorate due to chemical reactions induced by light, and all chemical reactions are accelerated at higher temperatures. It is not surprising that plastics so close to a source of heat and very bright light should deteriorate. CFLs are designed as replacements for incandescent bulbs and – as discussed on this forum – are sometimes not very reliable. For commercial use it is better to use fluorescent tubes which are more efficient and reliable (partly because the control electronics is not overheated).

To say something relevant to this conversation, I have had to replace many lampholders that have been damaged by heat created by 60W and 100W incandescent bulbs.

Hi Wavechange.

I think you may be missing the small but significant point of what I posted.

The CONTRACTORS (who are contracted by the lighting manufacturer with whom we have a maintenance contract) are the ones saying the deterioration is caused by the UV.

They may be wrong and I am quite happy to accept all the other facts that you have presented about UV. The point was simply that in this case, rightly or wrongly, the manufacturer’s own appointed agents are blaming the UV emissions of the CFL’s for the damage to the fittings.

I felt that this was significant purely because it appears that an “industry insider” is attributing increased UV to these lamps, which is normally not the case.

If the reflectors are metallised UPVC, the reflective coating should protect the plastic from light and the damage will be due to heat. Whatever the reason for the deterioration, the fault lies with the manufacturer of the fixtures.

If the plastic is exposed to light then the inverse square law applies and the light intensity will be extremely high within the fixture. Stabilisers are commonly used to help plastics resist UV weathering, but the combination of light and heat is not good for common plastics. Intense visible light also causes deterioration. Some UV is emitted by glass fluorescent lamps but not sufficient to be a health hazard in normal use. Halogen desk lamps without a UV filter are a greater risk, simply because they are so close to the eyes.

Roy Gill says:
3 October 2011

In reply to Wavechange he says that the majority of people perfer the warm white 2700K low energy lamps. How does he arrive at this conclusion when it is imposible to buy anything but these in the majority of outlets so the public are not able to make a comparison with the daylight type 6400K

A preference for warm white fluorescent tubes in the home was established before the introduction of compact fluorescent lamps in the 1980s. I don’t have any figures to support this view but the fact that it is difficult to obtain anything other than 2700K CFLs presumably reflects this preference. Higher colour temperature CFLs are common in offices and commercial premises, and do provide substantially more light for the same amount of power.

I bought a 6400K CFL for a friend who suffers from seasonal affective disorder from a specialist supplier, but it was very expensive compared with an ‘ordinary’ CFL. If I was going to do this on a regular basis I would look for a trade supplier that is prepared to deal with the public.

When incandescent bulbs are consigned to museums, people may prefer a whiter light in their homes. It is a good option for those with failing sight who struggle to read in artificial light.

I don’t know about hard to buy or expensive, but judging by how hard (impossible) it appears to be to get CFL’s in anything OTHER than 6400K for wattages over 20, here in Sheffield, I’d say that there are plenty out there if you want them. My local specialist electrical store, who is South Yorkshire’s largest supplier of cooker and fire elements and specialist light bulbs, is having trouble getting 30w CFL’s for me at all, and the only ones he can source are 6400K. Price-wise, though, he retails these at £5 each and they are Sylvania branded ones, so that doesn’t seem especially over-priced to me.

The issue I have trouble with is exactly the opposite problem: I cannot find anywhere other than on-line retailers of brand-unspecified or non-branded CFL’s in wattages over 20w and in warm white.

To me this appears to be yet another aspect of the “one size fits all” mentality being proved nonsense.

As an aside, the retailer I mentioned earlier was saying to me today that he gets dozens of big brand CFL’s returned each week due to pathetically short life and the manufacturers won’t take them back. He says they are not interested and simply send him whole cartons of free of charge replacements without any question for him to issue to customers. His take on this is that they know the cfl’s are “cr*p by nature” and that the life-span claims are “b0ll0cks” so they just give away cartons of them to keep customers quiet. If that’s what the big brands do it’s hardly a surprise if the unbranded and shops’ own CFL’s don’t seem to live up to expectations.

I had not realised that 30W CFLs are available until you mentioned them earlier in these discussions. I assume that the 6400K ones are made for shops and offices, but there is a market for home users wanting a really bright light.

I will stick to my lower wattage CFLs until I can buy warm white.

I have just found my local store selling 100 watt rough useage industrial use only bulbs,marketed by Eveready! Needless to say I bought a few!

It’s not just Local Stores. I noticed on Saturday that EverReady 60 and 100 watt rough service GLS tungsten lamps are on sale in Wickes. I think I read somewhere that Rough Service lamps are exempt from the phase out. If this is the case then this is clearly a way for people to continue to buy and use tungstens quite easily and, given rough service lamps have a longer life than standard tungstens, it’s actually better value for the user than the standard ones were.

Low energy maybe, but long life – NO. I’ve had 3 go fut spectacularly (emitting smoke) over the last 5 years. Safety issues aside, they’re now so ludicrously cheap (if you look out for offers) they can be treated as disposable as the trad. ones. I am concerned about disposal – quite apart from the small amount of mercury in the tube, there’s quite a bit of electronics in the base. Probably the reason why they go fut is it’s cheap rubbish from China, which is not doing our balance of payments any good…

I have found two advantages with them: 1) I have an old ‘Y’ splitter (which allows two lamps to be put into one holder) so I can use two 23W CFLs in a large Japanese paper globe shade, which produces a decent amount of light whilst remaining within the shade’s 60W limit; and 2) I can use an 11W one in my summer house with a simple inverter running off 24V from two car batteries charged off a solar panel on the roof. This summer house is too far from the main house for it to be connected to the grid at a reasonable cost.

The theatre with which I’m involved is a different situation altogether. The houselights use 100W trad. bulbs that MUST be dimmable, and the dressing room mirror lights MUST be tungsten so makeup appears the same colour as it would under stage lights. We’re not worried about the higher cost of running them because the building is heated by electricity anyhow. So when I first got wind of this directive, I cleaned out 3 branches of Lidl of all their 100W and 60W bulbs, which should see us out until LED stage lights become feasible and affordable.

I’ve also hoarded a number at home, for decorative table lamps (one of which won’t accommodate a CFL because they’re too large). Also the PIR outside light won’t work with CFLs – and they’re pathetically dim when it’s cold outside (though I accept that in the summer house because I don’t sit in there when it’s THAT cold!!)

I’m afraid I’m a stockpiler. Firslty, I am a migraine sufferer and believe that in certain circumstances flourescent lighting can exascerbate and even trigger a migraine. Secondly, I have several pendant and wall fittings that use the old candle bulbs without any sort of shade or difuser. I haven’t found any of the new bulbs (that I would be happy with in the fittings) to replace them so I am ultimately faced with replacing most of my (perfectly servicable) light fittings. How energy efficient is that? Furthermore the replacement bulbs are far bigger than the existing ones and bordering on the grotesque so I will eventually have to buy new light fittings with shades to hide or disguise the new bulbs. This will difuse and obscure the light making them less energy efficient, somewhat defeating the object. I think the EU has jumped the gun and legislated before the industry has come up with viable and acceptable alternatives. I am not a happy bunny!

Hi everyone, thanks for all your continued comments on this Conversation. I just wanted to let you know that we’ve now published a new discussion about light bulbs, responding to some of the main concerns raised here. Do have a read and join the Conversation here:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/incandescent-light-bulbs-versus-energy-saving-light-bulb/

TonyD says:
18 October 2011

Most of our lamps now use low energy bulbs and they are fine. BUT we still have PIR and timer devices which only work with incandescent bulbs – does this mean we will have to change these.
BIG GRIPE – retailers still seem to have very few attractive lamp fittings designed for low energy bulbs. Current marketing seems to be aimed at pushing quartz-halogen lamps with 50W bulbs fitted as standard. Although these are more efficient than standard incandescent are they still very energy hungry. When we moved into our present house a few years ago it had lots of inset halogens, many of which we have got rid of. The dark kitchen which needed lights on all day had 8 inset halogens totalling 400W which is ridiculous, and such set-ups are still very fashionable and being heavily marketed.

The kitchen halogens are the ones I’ve found best with the Very compact CFLs, provided you leave them on! They are like the old CFLs that take a good couple of minutes to get as bright as the old 35w halogens. This is why I’ve supplemented them with a couple of LEDs, so I can make a cuppa…

Nearly perfect, but not quite yet 😉

Roger Buston says:
18 October 2011

The point is that we are now denied CHOICE. In the world of Big Brother telling you what is good for you, are we convinced that , therefore a lack of choice is good ? I suggest not.

The majority of main, occasional and ceiling lamps in both my house and office are low energy ( notwithstanding their higher price and lack of the longevity that is claimed of them – thus making them extremely poor value ) . However there are a few occaisons when I need to actually be able to see, see well and see instantly. LE bulbs simply don’t do this. Bring back CHOICE- 150 W , 100 w , 75 w and 60 w for the areas appropriate for them .

We are not stupid – we do not need big brother telling us what is good forus, when it clearly isn’t.

Absolutely spot-on, Roger.
I used to be under the impression that the Consumers’ Association was on the side of, well, the consumer. Now it appears to be a rather ominous offshoot of the EU or of some kind of promotional or lobbying, group.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it decided to revert to doing what it used to do and stopped trying to persuade us to do what it thinks is best for us. We already have various pernicious and none too squeeky-clean pressure groups trying to manipulate our opinions. One only has to think ugly expensive and useless wind-farms, electric cars, solar panels, carbon permits to start feeling faintly unwell.
And then, to cap it all, we have to listen to people like Chris ‘fingerprints’ Huhne deliberately ignoring our own CHEAP shale gas reserves while he bleats on about caring for, guess who, the consumer.
Hardly any wonder that people begin to despair.

james browne says:
24 October 2011

I resent the enforcement of so called energy saveing bulbs.firstly the heat given off by incandesants is not wasted it helps to heat your home.The fittings on the new ones don’t match all sockets and how would they look in christal chadileres?

Simply bloody awful, James.
Hideous, in fact.
But don’t expect our masters to be overly concerned with such trifling considerations. After all, the EU (when it’s not using our money to heal Greece’s self-inflicted wounds) spends most of its time trying to save the planet – and its bureaucrats’ salaries, not necessarily in that order of course.
It would make an interesting research project to check exactly how many eurocrats actually light their expensive houses with these ghastly bulbs. The same goes for Which Magazine’s tireless experts.But of course, some questions really answer themselves as soon as they are put into words . . .

ruskin says:
22 November 2011

I have been using low energy bulbs for a long time now but recently have had two unusual occurrences. Upon switching on the bulb pops and appears to be dead but when tried in another socket it is ok.I have had to replace the light fitting and the offending bulb will then work again. It seems as though there must be too much heat created in the socket and it burns out. Has anyone else experienced this?

I have experienced this, though not in my own home. It was caused by a faulty lampholder. It could also be caused by a poor connection within the lamp, exacerbated by heating and cooling.

I have also seen a couple of CFLs go pop when used on a circuit with a dimmer, but they did not come back to life.

David 2JF says:
2 December 2011

I’m not so much grudging as totally depressed by the move to low-energy bulbs – especially now, with the nights turning long and cold. The house is gradually going dimmer and dimmer as I change over; it feels like a step backward, rather than progress. I recently spent HOURS trying to track down a replacement for the blown 100W tungsten bulb in my bathroom, both online and in three different stores, only to have ended up with a CFL that’s dimmer, yellowy and slow to brighten. (As I use the light for barely 30 minutes a day, if that, at the age of 64 I’m unlikely to recover the cost of the bulb in energy savings before I die!) And I haven’t found ANYTHING to replace the bulbs in my living room ceiling, which has a dimmer switch. Which? keeps assuring me that the low-energy bulb world is lovely, but it isn’t – it’s dim, expensive and depressing. Lighting has never been a particularly large part of the home energy bill, yet we’ve been forced into wholesale change while at the same time the moves to large-screen plasma TVs, digital radios and new gadgets of all kinds have increased home electricity use by FAR more than low-energy bulbs are saving it. What pressure has there been to discourage this move to larger, more energy-hungry devices? Virtually none. Where’s the fairness or good sense in that? Low-energy bulbs have their uses – I’m saving worthwhile sums using low-energy bulbs in my outdoor security lights, which are on all night, every night – but they aren’t right for EVERY light fitting in a household. We should be entitled to make our own consumer choices in such matters – and I would have thought Which? would be supporting us in that.

If you are determined to find 100W incandescent bulbs they are still available from various online suppliers and I have recently seen them on sale in a shop, presumably old stock.

My own experience is that a 23W CFL gives as much or more light than a 100W incandescent bulb. Most CFLs are 2700K colour temperature, which is rather yellow since they are intended to replace the old bulbs. If you would prefer light that is more blue, then look for CFLs that are marked 6000K or more. They do give out a lot more light and are probably fine for a kitchen or bathroom, or anywhere where brightness is more important than colour.

Some CFLs achieve full brightness quickly and others don’t. I have been disappointed with the ones with a glass envelope, whereas sticks and spirals seem much better in this respect. You are old enough to remember when shopkeepers in hardware shops tested each bulb behind the counter. Perhaps that should be reinstated for CFLs!

Hurrah! I really couldn’t agree more. I have long been dismayed by the reluctance of what one would expect to be the foremost defender of consumer rights to speak out against the ridiculous bullying tactics of the interfering EU. These horrible bulbs/lamps/devices have little to commend them and those few uses that are advantagous can be pointed out (even though most of us are bright enough to do it ourselves without intrusuve laws to enforce them). Good for you, David 2JF

David 2JF says:
2 December 2011

Thanks for your feedback, Wavechange. Your comments are helpful, although part of my frustration is in actually finding bulbs to the right specification. For example, my bathroom ceiling light fitting requires a screw-fit bulb; I found some bayonet-fit bulbs that would work, but the same model wasn’t available in screw-fit. The fitting also has limited room for the bulb, which again ruled out several possible options, as many low-energy bulbs are of an awkward size or shape. All too often, the Which? ‘Best Buy’ models I’ve looked for to ensure good performance simply aren’t in any of my local shops – or at least not in the cap or voltage I’m looking for – so I’ve ended up with compromise solutions that are too often expensive, yet unsatisfactory.

Bathrooms are a problem because fixtures are must provide protection from splashing. Fitting a CFL in an enclosed fixture could cause overheating of the electronic components in the base, leading to premature failure. That’s if there is room for a CFL in the first place. Perhaps one of the halogen replacements for ordinary bulbs would be the best choice, and electricity use is not too important for a bathroom light.

I had a CFL survive in an enclosed bathroom fixture for several years but the base became yellow due to overheating. I decided to replace the fixture which had a crack in the glass and went for a one with four 25 watt halogen lamps, aware of the forthcoming phase-out of ordinary bulbs.