/ 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?


A sykes says, “It is interesting to plot world population and predict when this will reach infinity.”
Is it?
Is it really?
Well, takes all sorts . . .

Human population will never reach infinity since infinity is a boundless number. The late Isaac Asimov published some calculations a few years back when he postulated that the maximum human population would be reached when its weight equalled the total weight of all the stars, planets and other bodies in the known universe.

He calculated that, if the human population doubled every 25 years (quite easy to achieve) then it would reach that weight is around 4200 years – such is the power of exponential progression. And 4200 years is far from infinity; indeed, there are buildings still in use on Earth that were bulit longer ago than that.

Asimov’s figures are outdated by now, as we now know that the universe is far larger than we believed it to be at the time he wrote his story. But it proves, beyond doubt, that we cannot allow unfettered popualtion growth.

There is a treatise on his suggestion here – http://members.optusnet.com.au/exponentialist/Asimov.htm

Apologies. Having now read the treatise properly, I see that the number of years Asimov calculated would be needed was 6,700 for the universe; 4,200 was just the galaxy. And I also (as I was writing from memory) was wrong about the 25 year doubling; Asimov assumed a doubling rate of 47 years.

But read the treatise – it not only deals with Asimov but also with Malthus whose work on the limits to human growth was published in 1798.

One reason why humankind has not reached the Malthus limit is simply because we are very good at killing ourselves – but now that population growth is rising rapidly and it’s been a long time since we had a major war – Malthus’s projections are starting to be seen to be true.

I’ve been following this debate and have been trying to imagine the best way of describing a combination of “herd mentality” and “lynch mob mentality”, because this is what seems to be driving the vast number of “believers” in GW/MMGW/CC etc. to, er … believe. This apparent overwhelming need for self-flagellation suggests a tendency towards a form of depression that is, in itself, quite depressing.

Someone here has said that mankind has been on the Earth for 6 million years and could be here for 6 million more. The latter is debateable and perhaps we should consider that no-one ever guaranteed that we will outlive the planet, which will continue its astronomical cycle virtually unaffected by humankind. That said, humans have always used ingenuity to adapt to prevailing circumstances and, as things are changing, this will surely help extend our tenancy here. But, hell, these light bulbs hardly contribute and any upside is totally defeated by their downside.

Meanwhile, and in an effort to rise above this depression, perhaps we should simply look to the sun and allow its warm and cheering light to wash over us and, maybe, help generate some power too!

Quote “…But, hell, these light bulbs hardly contribute and any upside is totally defeated by their downside….”

In fact this is the same kind of comment that people make about all kinds of small things. “…My little bit of litter doesn’t matter – it will hardly contribute to the problem…” But what people forget is that it’s not simply your little bit of litter – it’s 60 million others’ bits of litter as well – which is why litter collection and disposal in the UK costs around £2 million every day.

And although the saving on your electricity use that Cfls will give you – let’s be very pessimistic and say it’s only 50% – isn’t very much (maybe 3 units per day instead of 6?) But multiply that by 365 – that’s 2190, then by 20 million for the number of households – that’s 438,000,000,000 units saved – scarcely “hardly a contribution”.

And as I have written many times, I have found no downside to Cfls apart from slow warmup for some of the earlier ones. The one challenge is to get a high enough output from a single luminaire since even the largest Cfls presently available are only equivalent to an old 100 watt tungsten bulb – but as I have explained elsewhere, it’s not too tricky to double up the number of bulbs in most luminaires by using an adaptor. And two 100 watt equivalent Cfls still use less than half the current of a tungsten bulb.

Oh dear. I apologise for having another go; it was a mistake and I shall try not repeat it.

But Richard’s continued insistance that fossil fuels are running out cannot be ignored. As I vainly tried to explain, in any practical sense, they are not. And in any practical sense mankind can relax, because they won’t.

But some convictions are not easily erased and no amount of discussion can shift an immovable object. So long as the notion, perfectly understandable on a simplistic level, remains embedded in some people’s minds and remains impervious to reason, it will continue to confuse the issue and produce entertaining albeit perverse comparisons with fisheries and forests.

There are, as the saying goes, none so blind . . . etc.

Again, the notion that mankind has ever deliberately inflicted restrictions on its present needs out of a desire to protect future generations is as confused as it is attractive. Such alluring notions are the stuff of pompous and self-deluding dreams. Mind you, they do make for excellent political speeches and exhortations that make celebrities popular and rich people richer. We must not mention Al Gore or Rajendra Pachauri . . .

I think the notion that, “it is the fate of just about every new invention to be less effective than the existing solutions” is an interesting one and distinctly arguable – also a promising new tangent for those with time on their hands.

Richard’s assertion that “Malthus’s projections are starting to be seen to be true” would be stiffly comic if one didn’t believe he is serious. Come off it, Richard. You can do better than that!

Wavechange is, as usual, perfectly correct when he says that “energy saving lamps save energy”. He is also, as usual, carefully avoiding the fact that the savings involved are infinitesimal and therefore, in many people’s opinions, grossly disproportionate to their manifest disadvantages.

To return to my opening sentence; I was minded to rejoin the debate only because I wished to celebrate the emergence of a new and healthily sceptical voice. I note (with some sadness) that the old misconceptions are alive and well and chattering away in the Which? Conversation Retirement Home. But at least you have been joined by some fresh voices. I welcome the sound common sense of Stan Arnold and John.

Take note, old lags.

Who knows, you may find them more persuasive than your old chum, Wildberry.

May the Force be with you.

Oh good grief. And you accuse others of being blind.

Fossil fuels by definition are an exhaustible supply. Argue about when they will run out by all means but to claim from a very high horse that they are not being consumed at an ever increasing rate beggars belief

Infinitesimal means too small to measure. A 10% saving in electricity consumption is if nothing else measurable. Electricity consumption in my own house has been reduced by more than 10% through the use of fluorescent fittings .

I personally believe that CFLs are a dead end technology. Not so much the compact tubes but the electronics within each and every bulb will I expect doom the devices as a long term solution to the problem of the provision of efficient lighting.. I dislike CFL tubes because of the mercury that they contain but that is based solely on my feelings about mercury and the environment.

Quote “…But Richard’s continued insistance that fossil fuels are running out cannot be ignored. As I vainly tried to explain, in any practical sense, they are not. And in any practical sense mankind can relax, because they won’t. …”

Practical is a quite different thing from actual. That fossil fuels might last another century does not mean they are not running out. They are finite and everything finiet will eventually run out. The only arguable factor is when.

Quite”…entertaining albeit perverse comparisons with fisheries and forests….”

So you are suggesting that man’s predations have had nothing to do with the loss of forests and fish stocks?

Quote “…Again, the notion that mankind has ever deliberately inflicted restrictions on its present needs out of a desire to protect future generations is as confused as it is attractive. Such alluring notions are the stuff of pompous and self-deluding dreams….”

Thank goodness nobody has ever tried then to eliminate slavery, child labour and poverty. Let them all get on with it, say I.

Quote “…I think the notion that, “it is the fate of just about every new invention to be less effective than the existing solutions” is an interesting one and distinctly arguable…”

Although there are exceptions, this is generally true. Digital photography, talking films and even the telephone had their deniers when they were first introduced. It’s very easy to find examples of authoratitive quotes made at the time – just look here – http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/neverwrk.htm

Quite “…Richard’s assertion that “Malthus’s projections are starting to be seen to be true” would be stiffly comic if one didn’t believe he is serious…”

Did you even bother to read my link? Do you not believe someone as erudite as Asimov or a far-seeing as Malthus? Have you not noticed the extra numbers of people in the UK for whom we are having to build new homes and other infrastructure?

If humankind goes reproducing at its present rate, then soon there will need to be a correction since the Earth will not be able to support the extra numbers – neither food not energy will suffice. Incidentally, the world’s net population growth this year is over 11 million – and we are only in February. Just how long do you think the Earth can support this?

You’re not concentrating, Ian. I made no mention, from my high horse, of the rate of energy use nor, for that matter, did I assert “that fossil fuels are not being consumed at an ever increasing rate”.

Of course fossil fuels can be regarded as “an exhaustible supply” if that’s what pleases you and Richard. But as they are not going to be exhausted within a time-scale of the next few thousand years they may be – and more importantly, must be, regarded as inexhaustible. Think of the sun. It is burning up and has been burning up for a very long time. It is going to burn out one day and cease to exist. As an energy supply it is, in your terms, exhaustible. But there is every chance that it will continue, as John poetically puts it, to “allow its warm and cheering light to wash over us”, and you, and your children and your children’s children.

So do try not to despair. Unless that’s what turns you on of course.

The savings I was referring to, perhaps flippantly, were in terms of overall energy – not in terms of your electricity bill. For the record, I glory in your 10% energy reduction and wish you joy of your fluorescent lighting. Suum cuique.

You write well, but your writing reminds me of Humpty Dumpty

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

FWIW I agree that there will always be oil in the ground. But that does not prevent oil from being an exhaustible supply. But now we are in the messy language of economics. An area where words can mean just about anything.

Will we run out of oil in my lifetime or even my childrens? Unlikely.

But if we continue to use the readily available sources of oil/gas at an ever increasing rate will you or I be able to afford to buy it in future to burn and make electricity? There are three threads within that simple question: the first is availability, the second cost of production and the third the practicalities of meeting rising demand for electricity through burning gas.

Human ingenuity will no doubt solve the first , and I’m sure that someone will be able to afford the second even if many can’t, but the third is a killer. There are limits imposed by physics on producing electricity and no amount of ingenuity is going to trump thermodynamics.

Greetings Richard.
I am tempted to say ‘here we go again’ but that would be unkind.
But to your concerns:

1. The finite/infinite business has been covered quite adequately. If, like Ian and others, you choose to go on thinking of it as a problem that, of course, is up to you.

2. No, Richard, a careful reading of my remarks does not mean that “man’s predations have had nothing to do with the loss of forests and fish stocks”. Read it again slowly and I think you will agree. A line by line exegesis is hardly necessary.

3. The ongoing and as yet unsuccessful efforts to eliminate slavery, child labour, and poverty do not stem from a concern for future generations. They are nobler than that. Future generations will, one hopes, acknowledge and appreciate our efforts to improve the human condition, without falling into the trap of supposing they are motivated by a desire to gratify and accommodate our successors. This may be difficult to digest in an age when we are constantly congratulating ourselves on our elevated motives whilst simply getting on with dealing with our world. If you choose to take the high-minded view then that, again, is your privilege. I prefer the grubby reality, I’m afraid.

4. I think you may have inadvertently given the wrong impression with your view on new inventions. It seems that you intended to say “it is the fate of just about every new invention to be initially less effective than the existing solutions”. The insertion of the word “initially” completely changes the meaning and renders it a truism to which no one (including myself) could take exception. You do spoil the effect a bit by using the word “deniers”. As you may agree, this is a word best left alone after its metamorphosis into a highly charged and unnecessarily pejorative term.

5. If you really believe that Malthus (like Al Gore?) was farseeing, Richard, we must agree to differ. The very word Malthusian is commonly used as a synonym for discredited prophesy and I am quite content to leave it at that.

Just a few points that have crossed my mind whilst reading further through this debate:

A 10% saving in electricty usage, if achievable, is, in and of itself, a good thing. However, as an element of overall reduction opportunities for energy usage and CO2 emissions, it IS extremely infinitesimal. My own personal experience in usage of CFLs, albeit clearly not for all lighting in the home, suggests a reduction in usage of maybe 0.5% at best, given the limitations of my Efergy device.

Further development in LED technology will surely supplant CFLs at some point in the near future. The increase to date in LED light output seems to have been exponentional and, with good development in lens/reflector technology, should win out.

I’d liker to discuss thye statement “… it is the fate of every new invention to be less effective than the existing solutions” (sic). Richard quotes digital photography, talking pictures and the telephone as examples of this. Whilst deniers did (and a few still do) exist, the proliferation and continuing growth of these particular technologies does rather belie the basic argument. It’s still reasonable to consider that film photography can still produce a superior result as compared with digital. However, digital has very quickly provided a myriad other benefits to pretty much every user on the planet. On that basis, I believe that these developments actually stand up extremely favourably when compared with that of the CFL bulb.

There is an inescapable inevitability to all of the “finite” arguments. Clearly, fossil fuel supplies (as we currently know them) must be finite, in the cosmic scheme of things. Also, the population continues to grow at a truly alarming rate and, obtusely, we are also living longer (so “they” say). One would hope that the former will be alleviated by our ingenuity in finding and satisfactorily developing new and, yes, alternative energy sources. Surely tapping volcanoes for energy and simultaneously reducing their massive CO2 output will eventually become possible. I expect we still have a few thousand years in which to do these things. As regards population growth, that is certainly a problem with fewer obvious and acceptable solutions. Taking into account many parochial and peculiar issues around the globe – e.g. starvation and drought in many third world countries; state benefits multiplied by number of children in the UK and elsewhere – there may be an argument for limiting the number of children a family can or should have. Now there’s an extremely contentious idea, but whose future is it that we are trying to assure?

These are all very big issues and dealing with them will never be easy. However, I suspect decisions about whether to CFL or not to CFL are right at the bottom of a very, very long priority list.

I didn’t feel it was necessary to insert the word “initially” into my comment about new inventions since I thought it was implicit given the context. But if it makes people happy then fine. “…Most new inventions are initially inferior to existing solutions…” But that will, and does, change – as it probably will with the new inventions that presently try to capitalise on solar power and similar non-fossil sources.

You wrote, “…it will continue to confuse the issue and produce entertaining albeit perverse comparisons with fisheries and forests….”
What should I infer from that except that you do not believe that man’s predatations had nothing to do with their disappearance? And if you do thus believe then I don’t agree with you. I can cite many instances where mankind has caused the extinction of entire species and the massive depradation of others.

And I would be very pleased to learn of the authoritative source that enables you to write “…Of course fossil fuels can be regarded as “an exhaustible supply” if that’s what pleases you and Richard. But as they are not going to be exhausted within a time-scale of the next few thousand years they may be – and more importantly, must be, regarded as inexhaustible….”

We have been using fossil fuels in significant amounts for less than three centuries and we have used a substatial proportion of them – although the exact proportion depends on the authorities you believe. But if your estimate of “a few thousand years” of fossil fuels reserves is correct then you must be suggesting that we have used less than 10% of our fossil fuels reserves -assuming a very modest three thousand for your “several” thousand. Are you really suggesting that 90% of our fossil fuel reserves – or more – are still waiting to be used? And, if so, where is your evidence?

Sorry. The mathematics stand for themselves.

both LEDs and CFL have the same limits in terms of efficiency That of converting a 5.5eV UV photon into a 2.5eV visible photon. A process that currently limits both technologies equally to 45%.

LEDs do not offer some magical efficiency improvement over CFLs and certainly not over the strip lamps that are used for lighting in my kitchen and nearly every office.

LEDS are not the answer to lighting efficiency. They should offer a more reliable alternative to CFLs.

I too am saddened by the lack of good mathematics coming from those who claim without justification that the earth is not experiencing man made global warming. Equally I wish that the press and eco-brigade would not misrepresent the science as ultimately all it does is stifle debate. A debate that is needed as this conversation on which shows very clearly.

Nice thought, Wavechange, nice thought.

But it’s not altogether surprising that the Uriah Heep effect tends to be a wee bit less convincing than the Macbeth approach. And who would you prefer to have on your side . . . ?

Look up humility in a dictionary, wildberry. Thank you and be on your way. Leave the topic for those who would like to engage in constructive discussion.

Apologies for the typo in LL 3/4 of //2 which creaee a double negative. I can’t correct it as there is no edit facility. The line should have read:

“…What should I infer from that except that you do not believe that man’s predatations had anything to do with their disappearance?…”

You’re still not reading it, Richard. Try again, old son.

There is no logical reason for your inferring from what I wrote that I deny that man’s predations had anything to do with the loss of forests and fish stocks. Incidentally, you give the impression of a man in a hurry, Richard, and of one who needs to slow down a bit. Please do not take this as a gratuitous gibe. Yours is a rather endearing trait but one that leads often (as, indeed, in this case) to confusion. Let me state it as clearly as I can.

I, Wildberry the Intensely Irritating, do hereby aver that I do not deny mankind’s complicity in unfortunate and unnecessary losses to, among other things, certain fish stocks and certain forests.

To return to your original piece, one does not wish to be unkind but I invite anyone with time on his hands to try to disentangle the threads of your wonderfully convoluted paragraph. It’s the one beginning “But mankind is very good at deluding itself . . . and finishing up with “. . .alive a hundred years from now”. Stream of consciousness writing used to be very much à la mode in the early 20th century but it has faded somewhat since. Your valiant effort to re-establish it within the confines of pseudoscientific debate is praiseworthy but, let us be frank, not a great success.

As for your breathless rant about the likelihood of fossil fuels being exhausted and “authoritative sources” and about the mathematics that “stand for themselves”, I’m sorry Richard, but time runs on.

You must believe what you want. I have no problem in your believing that we are running out of oil, gas, and coal. Similarly, if you honestly believe I am in favour of or indifferent to the elimination of environment, fish, fowl and forrest, that too is a pity but, honestly, not my problem.

As to things running out, the only thing that is exhausted around here is my wish to help you achieve a balanced approach to things environmental; to stir within you a spark of scepticism and a willingness to challenge orthodox beliefs, uncomfortable though this may be. To awake an urge to see things anew for one’s self and to examine critically one’s own preconceptions is not an unworthy aim – but I have run out of arrows! You are a tireless champion and I admire your energy. The pity is that you are chained within a suffocating paradigm that you can’t or won’t break free from.


Quote “…Stream of consciousness writing used to be very much à la mode in the early 20th century but it has faded somewhat since. Your valiant effort to re-establish it within the confines of pseudoscientific debate is praiseworthy but, let us be frank, not a great success…”

I gave up trying to understand what points you are trying to make a while ago. This piece of tortured prose is enough to convince me that further debate with you is pointless. And if you are you are unable to understand my paragraph about which you wrote the above critical sentences, then I can only infer that you are better at writing arcane and pompous rubbish than you are at understanding normal English,

Your responses rarely address the points I have made but concentrate instead on my style and syntax. When you criticise my suggestions I respond by giving you my sources; when I ask for your sources you respond by criticising my use of language.

I’ll have no more to do with what has become a silly debate.

When talking to David MacKay the other day at the GSE conference it was interesting to see calculations show that the single biggest change we could all make to our CO2e output is to become vegetarian.

Not going to happen, so I’ll grill my bacon but use LED GU10s to at least make an effort… 🙂

As for the recent comments (welcome back Wildberry; I, at least, missed you!), I’ll summarise a couple of points David tries to make:

CO2 – the single biggest constant contributor to the planets ability to keep warm.

1100 years ago – a reasonable amount of time to report on the constant level of CO2 measured in the earth’s atmosphere (around 280 ppm, via ice cores), that is until;

243 years ago – an amazing invention that powered the industrial revolution and coal production.

212 (or so) years ago – the first signs of a sudden, measurable and dramatic increase in the level of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

19 years – the time over which the CO2 levels measured from ice cores and actual measurements from Hawaii correlate. This is what the scientific community calls supporting evidence. This is also what some have called scientists changing the figures to suit. Well, either both methods are fundamentally flawed (which would be a problem when the infernal combustion engine depends on one of the methods to run efficiently), or what’s wrong with dumping the ice-cores when you can use much more accurate actual measurements?

26 Gigatons – the amount of CO2 humans are pumping into the atmosphere each year.

25 Gigatons – the annual increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. How Inconvenient.

393.09ppm – the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere (co2now.org)

280ppm – the nearly constant level just before the industrial revolution.

300ppm – the maximum level measured in any ice cores during any of the previous increases in CO2 to 400,000 years ago.

But we’ve been here before, surely? As Wildberry mentioned before; Al Gore didn’t explain why CO2 increases always appear to lag the planet’s temperature indicators. So previous increases in temperature must have been caused by something else, and my vote’s on solar activity.

So what’s the problem? CO2 didn’t cause global warming before, it was a consequence of such (well, at least at the beginning of the warming cycle, odd things appear to happen after 800 years of a 5000 year cycle.)

Man (us puny little beings counting angles on the head of a pin) has created a new phenomenon and many here are expecting:

a) That the planet will deal with it – Hasn’t over the last 200 years, what makes you think it will now, and
b) It will be alright – Really? Ask a Canadian fisherman, they said something awfully similar: http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/cbio/cancod.html.

As for the consequence of such apathy? To quote David: “The climate is a complex, twitchy beast, and exactly how much warming CO2 doubling would produce is uncertain.” However “This would be what historians call a Bad Thing”.

Reasoned, Researched and almost relevant (I did mention GU10 LEDs!)

Baaaa, Next…

Now, now, Richard. Losing your rag and abandoning your usual moderate approach is disappointing. I never expected you to go in for abuse. I am truly sorry I have upset you to that extent and, for what it is worth, I apologise.

There is nothing abusive about my response – but if you consider it so then I, too, apologise. But as I have already written, I see no point in continuing this debate which, in any case, is now well off-topic. So, unless another contributor cares to repopen it, this debate is closed for me.

The sun is the primary energy source for the climate but it is not the only factor in making this planet habitable. Liquid water is crucial to making this planet habitable. Liquid water has a big impact upon the Earth’s climate.

Causes and Effects (not all of them just a couple)…

As the output of the Sun varies the temperature on Earth varies too. But there is a long delay as the liquid water takes a lot of energy to warm up and takes a long time to lose stored energy too.

As the Earth warms CO2 is released into the atmosphere. This shows up in the ice core data and seems to be the peg that the climate deniers hang their case on.

So far no one disagrees from either camp. But the problem is that the deniers, though doing exactly what good empiricists should do, ( thinking about what the data shows) stop thinking when they spot the very obvious delay. Ah-ha they go “Cause and effect….”


There is another effect: one that contributes significantly to making this planet habitable, and goes by the name of greenhouse effect. Rises in CO2 make the Earth warmer by shifting the balance temperature between energy gained and energy lost. Without it this planet would not be habitable so three cheers for the greenhouse effect.

So now we have cause and effect arranged in a loop. Rise in temperature releases CO2 which causes a rise in temperature which releases yet more CO2…

Cause and effect are now muddled up.

But what of the data that clearly shows a long lag and CO2 lagging temperature? That is showing that it takes a long time to warm the oceans due to increase in solar input. What is less obvious to the eye is that the data is also consistent with the green house effect which has a much shorter lag between increases in CO2 and warming. That big difference in response times for the two phenomena makes it hard to see one of them!

The deniers are correctly seeing the big picture but failing to see that the small stuff is significant in climate. Just because the small stuff is harder to see in the data does not mean it is not there. The models confirm that it is, and you need math to understand the models.

CO2 has been small stuff for years, really important but as a constant easy to ignore. CO2 is not constant right now. CO2’s small stuff impact is only small relative to the Sun that puts the Earth at around 300 Kelvin. As far as climate and habitability is concerned a few Kelvin matter.

CO2 is not constant right now and we are the overwhelmingly most probable cause of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Since it is expected by the climatologists that this will rapidly produce a warming effect just why are the climate deniers so surprised when the data shows an upward trend in Earth temperature? Don’t they claim that they are deniers because they are being good empiricists? so why do they stop there? Why do they take off their empirical hats so early?

I am a skeptic, I want to see evidence, I seek out counter evidence. I don’t blindly believe what I’m fed by the media etc. My background is engineering, mathematics and science. The evidence in favour of MMGW is strong and the evidence against weak.

I don’t disagree with what you are saying, IanF, though we are getting a bit off topic.

You mentioned that you did not like CFLs because they contain mercury. Given your background you will be aware that this is essential for them to function and that the amount used is the minimum needed for them to function. I would be interested in what you think about Greenpeaces’s view that using incandescent bulbs could release more mercury into the atmosphere due to coal fired power stations and that mercury in used CFLs can be recovered. The obvious weaknesses include the fact that many CFLs are not disposed of ‘correctly’ and that not all electricity is generated from coal.

I was glad to see your point about the efficiency of LED lighting, since some regard it as the holy grail. I am not up-to-date about toxic materials used in LED lamps, but perhaps long life and appropriate recycling could offset any problems.

Greenpeace are correct if you look at mercury from coal sourced power . Wrong if you look at nuclear etc. If you live in a country that primarily uses coal fired power then switching to CFLs is a good decision: you could even say it is the moral decision. I’d have to go away and check the mercury impact of gas fired power as that is what I remember as being dominant in the UK, I suspect that we use enough coal fired electricity to still make the case for CFLs overwhelming in the UK even if gas is clean from a mercury pollution perspective.

I’ll place a caveat on that in that the case for installing reliable low mercury CFLs is overwhelming.
I buy my CFLs based upon mercury content. There are very big differences in the amount of mercury used. I wish I could buy them based upon reliability 🙁

I ought to like CFLs even with their bad electronics that result in premature failures since that problem could be fixed easily but perveresly I still don’t like CFLs because they make it easy to be bad environmentally. They are just too easy to dispose of when they fail. and at least at the moment too cheap for anyone to think about just what a poor product they actually are. LEDs really are the way forward as the replacement low lumen lighting. It may seem bright but a 100W GLS tungsten lamp does not produce a lot of light when compared against a fluorescent strip lamp.

The envirnomental impact of the production of LEDs is mitigated by their exceptionally long life when used properly. From an energy point of view many of the current LED offerings are worse than CFLs, but that is changing and I expect that LED lighting will become standard for small fittings within what remains of my lifetime.

CFLs are a dead end and I look forward to their demise.

The amount of mercury being used in many current CFLs is not the minimum for them to work. The range is from 6mg to under 1mg.

Thanks IanF. I have noticed that the mercury content of CFLs has started to appear on packaging. I have no idea if this is required, but it would help the consumer make an informed choice. My most recent purchases, from Tesco, contain 0.85 mg and work fine, achieving full brightness quickly.

As I have mentioned before, I reckon that overheating of electronics may be a major factor in poor reliability. That’s because we have gone for direct replacements for incandescent bulbs rather than designing light fixtures that have the circuitry away from the replaceable lamp, as we have in fluorescent strip lights using electronic ballast. I have avoided (generally unintentional) using CFLs in a way that the electronics get hot and the reliability has been excellent.

Many have already been disappointed by the low output of the cheaper LED lamps that are now readily available and hopefully cheap but durable higher brightness lamps are not far away.

It is about time that all lamps are sold on the basis of lumens, with wattage is in the small print.


I buy my low mercury spirals from tesco too . They are the best I’ve found so far but I have my doubts about the electronics.

The issue with the electronics is more than just heat. The components used in the electronics are often not rated for the task. So they work for a while and then die taking the lamp filaments with them *grr* http://www.pavouk.org/hw/lamp/en_index.html for schematics and failures.

I’m very familiar with the problem of under-rated components from repairing consumer electronics. All done to save a few pennies. Thanks very much for the website link. It’s interesting to see circuits containing discrete components rather than ICs.

Hi all, we have noticed (along with others who have reported some comments to us) that some comments are becoming a little disrespectful in tone on this Conversation. Please try to remember the guidelines to commenting on this site and use them when joining the discussion. Many thanks, Hannah.

LED lamps are often seen as the future of domestic lighting and for those who are unhappy with CFLs they cannot come soon enough.

As I read it, there are three main problems. Many of the existing LED lamps are dim, too directional and the colour is not ideal. All these issues are being addressed.

Higher brightness LED lamps are now available, but they are expensive and I have seen little information about reliability. I fear that high brightness LED lamps could be unreliable if they use poor quality electronic components in a lamp that gets hot.

Can anyone recommend any decent review of high brightness LED lamps? We know that the low brightness ones are pretty good, but it is ones that could replace 60 and 100 watt bulbs that are likely to be of more interest to most people.

can’t help with reviews. For state of the art I go to the CREE website. They are a big player in high end LEDs. I expect that Philips offer similar devices and information on their website.

CREE’s packaged products seem to offer between 55 and 80 lumens per watt. Good but still not as good as a 4ft T8 strip.

On a personal level I’ve been very pleased with the table lamp that I bought in Ikea. JANSJÖ It has a separate PSU so when the inevitable happens I can replace it with an alternative PSU. I suspect it uses a CREE LED at least in the ones I bought.

Thanks. I occasionally look at the commercial websites (which will be very useful to anyone wanting to know what is on the market) but no manufacturer is likely to point out poor reliability or other problems with its products. Remember what happened to Gerald Ratner when he was honest!

I am very much in favour of keeping the electronics separate from the lamp and interchangeability between manufacturers – as we have had with fluorescent strip lights.

As Wavechange says above “LED lamps are often seen as the future of domestic lighting and for those who are unhappy with CFLs they cannot come soon enough”. I concur and wish the industry would produce some economical long-life lamps that suit our fittings and give an attractive light. However, in my case, having now fitted CFL’s wherever a replacement was required it could now be some years before the opportunity to move over to LED lamps is financially justified.
Our kitchen’s main lighting comes from three suspended globe lights that each had a 100W tungsten bulb. These lasted surprisingly long in service for lights on for many hours each day but as they failed I have been replacing them with Philips 18W spiral CFL’s. I have to say that the performance is extremely good. The lights come on instantly [which was essential] and warm up to full brightness very quickly. Performance might degrade over time but for now I am very satisfied. The beauty of these globe lights over other types of kitchen lighting is that the lamps are concealed from view, the globe – while obviously reducing light levels slightly – gives a very comfortable ambience, and the reflection effect off the brilliant white silk-finish ceiling ensures a good spread of light to all parts of the kitchen. These benefits are just not available from the recessed or ceiling mounted downlighters and spotlights installed in so many kitchens and bathrooms these days. As somebody suggested earlier in this conversation, the sharp cone of piercing downward light from recessed halogen spots [plus the excess heat generated] is not suitable for a kitchen’s general work space and is even more unsatisfatory in a bathroom where the creation of shadows makes it very difficult to see clearly for shaving, make-up, and other personal functions. Indeed, for the best attention to detail in a mirror, the light should come from all around it to illuminate the face, hence the small lamps all round mirrors in theatrical dressing rooms and the tendency of the bedrooms in 1930’s semi-detached houses to have a large bay window in the main bedroom in which would be placed a dressing table with three-aspect mirrors. Madam regrets the lack of this facility in our modern abode.

Some time ago I mentioned that I hoped to replace a defunct fluorescent tube with an LED tube light. This has now been installed – a 4ft, 20 watt high intensity tube, and needing for me, an electrician to install it. The total cost to me, lamp, fitting and installation (but he was doing other work for me at the same time) was £52. The light it gives is a brilliant, flicker free, daylight light and I am delighted with it. Mine came from:

IanF says:
4 March 2012

A 36W T8 daylight fluorescent will give out around 3000 lumens. Despite what the lampshop website indicates the conventional T8 fluorescent remains a more efficient light source.

ps: thank you for the link.

This website is confusing because it says: “Our T8 LED tubes are a direct retrofit, there is no need for lamp control gear as the tubes are wired straight to the mains…”

Either they are a plug in replacement and supplied via the fluorescent lamp control gear or they are intended to be connected directly to the mains. It would be nice to know which the company means!

I noticed some time ago a discussion of the mercury content of these ghastly light bulbs. It occurs to me that a recent article by Alexander Neubacher might constitute a useful addition to the debate. As he points out,

“ . . . mercury is a dangerous substance. It evaporates at room temperature. Even small amounts can damage the liver, lungs and brain. Paracelsus, the famous physician, inadvertently killed himself with mercury. Since then, doctors have advised against inhaling it.
This makes the renaissance of the toxic heavy metal in our homes all the more astonishing. Like all good Europeans, we [Germans] are in the process of replacing our old light bulbs with modern energy-saving light bulbs. This is what the European Commission has decreed. The fact that each of these new light bulbs contains up to five milligrams of mercury is seen as a necessary evil, because they consume less electricity than conventional light bulbs.
We’re having trouble saying goodbye to the old light bulbs, which we liked. They came on immediately when we flipped the switch, which is something our new light bulbs can’t do. And you can’t drop them on to the floor either, because if you do the environmentally friendly light bulb becomes an eco-killer.
“Inhaled mercury enters the brain through the bloodstream,” says Gary Zörner of the Laboratory for Chemical Analysis in Delmenhorst in northern Germany. “And every bit of mercury makes us a little more stupid. It can lead to total derangement.”
Scientists with the German Federal Environment Agency have done tests to determine how dangerous energy-saving light bulbs are. They broke bulbs from the product line of a European brand-name manufacturer. Then they measured the concentration of toxic materials in the air of the room, once after five minutes and a second time after five hours.
All readings were well above permissible levels. In some cases, the mercury level was 20 times as high as the benchmark value. Even after five hours, there was still so much mercury in the air that it would have endangered the health of pregnant women, young children and sensitive individuals.
Because of the mercury, throwing broken energy-saving light bulbs into the ordinary trash is of course prohibited. A waste disposal company from Nuremberg in southern Germany has invented a machine that carefully cuts apart each light bulb and sucks out the fluorescent material and mercury. The mixture is then packed into airtight bags and filled into blue, 300-kilogram barrels. The barrels are loaded onto a truck and taken to a former salt mine in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. Thus, the energy-saving light bulb ends up in an underground waste depot, where it will remain forever as contaminated waste.”

It would be interesting to have comments from IanF and wavechange, both of whom have made informative contributions to this aspect of the debate.