/ Home & Energy, Sustainability

Why was the ban on energy-guzzling light bulbs delayed?

Are LED light bulbs now good enough and cheap enough to justify banning the less eco-friendly halogen bulbs? The answer, seems to be no. Or at least, not yet.

I’m no fan of halogens. The ones in my house blow so often that it seems I’m forever replacing them, so I recently asked for a quote from an electrician for LEDs. I was pleased by the quality and variety of light they gave, but disappointed by the cost.

You can buy a Best Buy LED bulb for £5, but that’s still quite a lot more than a halogen bulb. And we’ve tested some that cost up to £40. So if you’re going to buy LEDs, go for a Best Buy.

It is concern over the cost, compatibility and quality of LEDs that has led the EU member states  to delay the proposed ban on some types of halogens from 2016 to 2018, so clearly there are some questions that LED technology has yet to fully answer.

It’s mainly pear-shaped halogen bulbs that will be affected – the type you’d find in a lamp shade or in a light fitting in the middle of a room. There are no plans at present to ban spotlights or halogen lamps used in desk lamps and floodlights.

Should we get rid of halogen bulbs?

Halogens use much more energy than newer LED and CFL energy-saving lamps. They use only 10% less energy than an old-style incandescent bulb, while LEDs use up to 90% less.

But many of us still have halogens in our home. According to our survey last year, half of Which? members still use halogen bulbs, with more than two in five using halogen spotlights.

Is it right to delay the ban?

The industry says it needs more time to develop LEDs with features that people want, such as standard dimming, multi-directional light beams, and good colour rendering, at an affordable price. Delaying the ban until 2018 should give more time for some of these issues to be sorted out.

Do you think LED light bulbs are now good enough for halogens to be banned? Are you going to replace your halogen bulbs with LEDs?

Comments
Katharine says:
2 May 2015

I forgot to mention that (despite the manufacturer’s claims that they passed all radio interference tests) my expensive 240V LEDs interfered with my FM radio so I now have to use a DAB instead.

I’ve just replaced all the halogens in my new holiday chalet with LED – all mains, 50W, now fitted with 4.5w cool white or warm white, as appropriate. 40 lamps in all, costing about 100 pounds. The cool white is so much better for the bathrooms/utility/outdoor PIR’s but the warm white is a tad yellow but perfectly acceptable.

I will see how they fair and in time will retrofit my house. I know it won’t be so straightforward as the house has a mix of mains and 12v, with dimmers. I’m expecting converting that lot to cost up to 500 pound.

I now have a mound of ‘unwanted’ 50w mains halogens lamps, hardly used. I also have loads of CFL’s that used to get sent to my OAP mother for free. I imagine the benefit to planet earth is miniscule in the transition from incandescent, halogen, CFL to LED. There will be so much waste of unused or perfectly good hardware being trashed to meet new standards. If there’s another gizmo in the pipeline that is better than LED’s, do us a favour and sit on it for a while!

No need to replace the CFLs, Ken, unless their drawbacks are a nuisance in that spot (slow warm-up, for example). They’re nearly as efficient as LEDs and you can sensibly keep on using them until they blow.

Will says:
23 May 2015

Yes I agree there’s a lot of electronic waste. Light bulbs are the least of our worries, we live in a society where people throw out a perfectly good mobile phone every 2 years because it’s cool to have the latest thing and carriers are constantly pushing us to ‘upgrade’.

Heck I’m still trying to convince people to buy rechargeable batteries. Every time I buy something and it comes with free alkalines I just give them away or throw them straight in recycling…

Ray Ambrose says:
2 May 2015

Bought several LED lamps to replace halogen. Promised thousands of hours of life, yet over fifty percent lasted only a matter of hours. How do they check the life of these bulbs?

See my article below. Heat kills LEDs – caused by too much current or inadequate heat management (eg. a proper means of cooling). Look for fins on the body of the lamp – these indicate the manufacturer has made an attempt to address the issue.

Will says:
23 May 2015

I find it utterly bizarre that you are able to buy several LEDs and have half of them fail in hours, but in our house every single one of our 40+ LEDs is still going strong after years.

Are you doing any of the following?

– Buying some seriously cheap bulbs. LED GU10s at 2 quid each? Too good to be true. Decent ones start at 5 quid per bulb.
– Putting them all in enclosed fittings designed exclusively for halogens. LED’s need to stay cool to stay alive.
– Putting non-dimmable bulbs on dimmers

Not saying you’re doing any of those things but if you are buying a good brand like OSRAM or Philips and they’re not enclosed or anything then I find it super unlikely you’d be getting so many failures so quickly.

CFLs don’t last! The main problem is the tube – it fails well before the drive electronics in over 90% of cases. Many CFLs don’t even last as long as halogens. They’re also pathetically dim when cold, and so are useless outside in winter.

LEDs aren’t bothered by cold – in most cases it is excessive heat that kills them. In an effort to get maximum brightness, many manufacturers force too much current through them, which causes overheating and premature failure. Putting it simply, a LED is an ideal (100% efficient) LED in series with a resistor. Power dissipated in resistors (as heat) is proportional to the SQUARE of the current through them. The human eye has a logarithmic response to light, meaning that if the current in a LED is reduced by 50% it is only apparently 30% dimmer. So, if the current is reduced by 30% approximately half the heat is dissipated and subjective brightness is not appreciably lower.

Radio interference: Some 12V LEDs are dreadful – not necessarily just the cheap ones. I’ve found TCP (from Homebase) and those occasionally available from Aldi and Lidl are good. Generally, the drive electronics in a GU10 (mains) LED is less likely to cause a problem than an MR16 (12V) lamp.

Another thing to watch is PIR outside fittings. These often require a pure resistive load like an old-fashioned bulb. CFLs usually (sort of) work when they’ve warmed up, but LEDs can often flicker because their low current upsets the PIR fitting’s switch. Older PIR fittings often incorporate a relay – these aren’t bothered by low loads. But some of these have a protection circuit that causes a very small current to flow through the lamp when it is off. This will not be apparent with an ordinary bulb, but a LED could glow dimly or flicker when it’s supposed to be off. If the former – don’t worry about it. It’s not ‘free light’, but at well less than 1W it won’t exactly rack up your electric bill – and the old bulb you replaced took just as much. It won’t reduce the life of the LED either – the resistive part I mentioned earlier will dissipate negligible heat. In this situation, a LED would last forever.

Older CFLs and tubes DO last well, Steve. But then, they did cost more and I suppose that manufacturers have found ways to save on costs that don’t always keep the long life.

I replaced my two 5ft kitchen 85w units after 30 years (they were looking shabby) with two twin modern, supposedly more efficient 55w ‘slimline’ ones. They continually blow starters and the tubes last under two years; the old tubes and starters lasted over 5 years, usually 10. Am I doing something wrong?

david, reputable makes of convention fluoresecent lamps, ballasts and starters will last. These days you are better going for electronic ballasts rather than wire wound – kinder to the lamp and you don’t need starters.

I have plenty of CFLs – Philips, GE, Osram, that all perform and last well. The problem usually is buying cheap off the internet when quality can be dubious.

If using CFLs outside they should be in enclused fittings. They are sensitve to temperature – less light when it is cold – but if enclosed the temperature will be nearer the optimum even in cold weather once they have been on a while.

David – I hope you have just been unlucky with your new fluorescent fixtures. It is worth checking that the ratings of the tubes match the ratings of the ballasts. The fact that they have starters indicates that they are simple choke ballast switch-start fixtures like their predecessors. As you know, they should be reliable. A friend has had a kitchen fluorescent fitting for well over 30 years – just a cheap one from a DIY chain – and it’s still working fine. A new triphosphor tube was fitted ten years ago to provide better quality light. Fluorescent tubes and CFLs are never at their best in cold conditions, though some are better than others.

If you use CFLs in ventilated fixtures they should be more reliable because this helps to keep electronic components cool. It helps to use them cap-down because heat rises from the lamp. Using them in enclosed fixtures or small unventilated lampshades is asking for trouble indoors because of overheating. I have a fair number of CFLs fail in cold conditions outdoors without any obvious reason and I wonder if they are set up to shut down the power as a safety feature, as a well designed CFL will do when the emission mixture is depleted from one of the heaters.

With LED lamps, both the electronic components and the LEDs themselves can be damaged by heat. Heatsinks are used to cool larger LED bulbs. A ribbed heatsink should be used vertically for maximum cooling.

S Richardson says:
2 May 2015

All the alternatives to incandescent lightbulbs have so far proved to be inadequate. CFls don’t last as long as they should and suppliers constantly change their stock, so that a size and type that fits your needs is often no longer available when it comes to replacement time.
The light from all the Led’s that I have seen is woefully inadequate and of various unpleasany colours,also to get enough light you would need dozens of horrible little fittings all over the place andmost of us live in houses where that looks ridiculous. Along with that are what proves to be a real problem with dimmer compatibility and longevity,as well as either little or o manufacturer information,
Halogen lights, too hot for most indoor fittings,have nothing like their stated life(Osram better than most). they cast a very hard shadow because of their comparitive brilliance. the 12v halogen spots eat bulbs and more annoyingly the little transformer/drivers they need,(and they run too hot for their fittings. In my opinion this whole change of systems has been mismanaged perhaps deliberately with profit and not improvement in mind !

Will says:
23 May 2015

I’ve tried many alternatives to incandescents and they’ve all been more than adequate, bar one or two exceptions. We’ve got two 8w Auraglow cool white in the utility room, one 8w Kosnic 4000k in the bathroom, a 10w GE, a 13w Integral in the large bathroom. We’ve got loads of GU10s. The Integral GU10s are BRUTALLY bright, and the OSRAMS make our kitchen look fantastic.

I even put dimmable Philips Masters in the bedroom. They dim far better than the Halogens did, and the light quality is superior by far. For that room I chose ones with a lovely warm, soft golden glow on a Varilight V-Pro dimmer.

There are literally hundreds of great alternatives on the market so I really want to know what brands you’re buying to have such bad experiences?

S Richardson says:
2 May 2015

PS the pear shaped halogen lamps are the only ones worth KEEPING because of their form which suits many fittings where the bulb is semi exposed., the pear shaped cfls are mostly oversized and slow in getting to full performance.

S Richardson, LEDs are used for street lamps, so they can’t possibly be underpowered for a domestic system. Maybe you are using underpowered replacements for a powerful bulb? If you replace a 100w incandescent bulb with a 40w-equivalent LED, then of course it will seem dim. I replaced a triple-60w chandelier with three 850 lumen LEDs; they are brighter and more pleasant to everyone who sees them (it has had many comments) and they are far better than the 20w CFLs I tried.

PS the colour is exactly the same and the bulb looks almost identical.

Howard King says:
2 May 2015

Basic question from a non technical person, but from a 220v supply does a 35w 12v (with transformer) bulb consume the same amount of electricity as a 35w bulb at 220v, or only the fraction of it?

Wattage is the comparison, Howard, no matter what the supply voltage. Likewise, lumens is the comparison for light output, whatever the bulb type. However, makers tent to quote their best try on measuring a new bulb, and most types fall off in light output over time; and makers of older bulbs rarely quoted this anyway except for industrial units.

Howard, the bulb should consume the same but the transformer will also consume a small amount of power in addition.

I wonder how long it will be before people start comparing lumens rather than wattages?
Bearing in mind that the MO started persuading us to use Celsius rather than Fahrenheit over fifty years ago, and still haven’t quite succeeded-some considerable time!!

Anthony, only when they become familiar with the lumens of lamps they are (were) familiar with – like a 60 or 100W incandescent lamp. We have plenty enough information to remember these days so can become overburdened. If you want to have a filament lamp “wattage equivalent” as a comparison instead of having to remember how many lumens a 100W GLS lamp emitted then that seems OK to me. Like using mpg instead of l/100km in fuel consumption. Why make life even more complicated?

Anthony – With old fashioned bulbs and halogen lamps the wattage can be important. Light fixtures and lampshade are marked with the maximum power rating. In the days of LED and CFL lamps, wattage provides a reminder of how much power incandescent lamps, including halogen bulbs, use.

I hope that lumens will replace wattages and wattage equivalents sooner rather than later. The latter figures can go in small type for anyone who needs them.

I find total confusion in shops when I ask what is the maximum CFL or LED lamp I can use in a certain light fitting or lampshade. John Lewis have advised me that a lamp upto the quoted Wattage equivalent value [e.g. a 20W CFL can be used in a shade marked ‘max 100W’]. I have never felt entirley confident that this was either correct or, more critically, safe; I wish the fittings were labelled with the maximum ratings for the different forms of lamp because the heat output for the power demand differs significantly across the types [and not consistently across the brands either].

It’s the actual wattage that matters for the fixture or lampshade, John. This is an indication of how much heat will be produced.

Many years ago I bought a Philips CFL that was labelled 1500 lumens and 23W. I assumed that in future we would see other lumen ratings as nice round numbers. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

Unless manufacturers only rounded down, they would no doubt be accused of dishonesty and cheating. Best to declare the typical output from a standard condition – you are unlikely to get what it says due to manufacturing variation.

John, I presume maximum wattage in shades for GLS lamps was to protect the lampholder and immediate wiring from excess heat, possibly the cap cement. In the case of LEDs and CFLs the critical temperature is likely to be in the electronics; this will no doubt vary from manufacturer to manufacturer depending on the quality of the circuit and its components.

My GE CFL carton says that use in a recessed fixture will reduce life, and not to use in an enclosed fixture. Clearly the latter covers them because it will all depend upon the size of the enclosure; they are widely used in this way. My Philips CFL carton says nothing of this sort. They both, as you would expect, comply with the EU requirements for information marked on the packaging – lumens, life, switching cycles, colour temp, warm up time, whether dimmable, Hg content

Once again the best solution is purpose-designed lights for LEDs and CFLs with separate electronic drivers; these will then have wattage information.

Looking at the data on the Which? website, the measured lumen ratings are higher than quoted for the majority of LED lamps tested. That’s better than the three halogen lamps tested, which all returned a lower than stated figure.

Thanks Wavechange. That makes more sense. So, just to be clear, it’s safe to put a 23W CFL with a Wattage equivalent quoted at 110W in a ceiling lampshade rated “up to 100W max”. The lamp I am looking at is a 23W Philips Tornado spiral CFL on which the Lumens are quoted as 1570. One could even put a 35W CFL lamp in the same shade although it might not look particularly attractive when unlit.

Malcolm frequently makes the point that people choose lamps and light fittings with an eye on their decorative qualities, not just the purely functional illumination effect. I entirely agree with him on that and an important point for us is what a ceiling light-fitting looks like in the daylight when it’s not on. Early CFL’s were repulsively ugly; the modern spiral ones are much better looking but the higher the wattage the more ungainly they look as the spiral tube gets larger. It would seem that the LED lamps that have the traditional ‘pear’ shape might be the best solution where the lamp remains visible, but (a) they don’t seem to go much over 1000 Lumens [not much good for a central light fitting in a large room], and (b) they can’t project much light up towards the ceiling because of the large base. The reflective/diffusive effect of the ceiling is an important consideration in domestic lighting design in my opinion and one of the reasons why recessed halogen lights are not satisfactory when lit as the ceiling is in shadow and the light emitted is in a cone with little ambient ‘spread’. If I mentioned the array of different lights we have in our sitting room the Eurocrats would go bananas – but they’re rarely all on at the same time.

John, I don’t understand the fashion for a multiplicity of recessed ceiling lights – whether halogen or LED. They are totally wrong from a lighting point of view. They cast downward shadows on faces, do not give any direct light onto the ceiling – so much less diffuse light unless you have a light floor covering – and are expensive on bulbs. You are right about lamp bases blocking upward light of course. You need to think about the effect you want – as I have said elsewhere in a living room I prefer table lamps and uplighters to give a softer look, and have a dedicated reading lamp if you need it – you don’t need the whole room lit for that.

Light your living room – and your house – the way you want it to look.

Not for me either. I have always associated downlighters with shops, hotels and pubs.

I use reading lamps to avoid having to wear reading glasses. Sometimes I would like to expand the text on the page, as if it was a laptop trackpad or tablet.

Quite agree. Recessed ceiling spotlights in hotel bathrooms are one of my bugbears. Useless for shaving and make-up [for which you need light bouncing back from the mirror] and the shadows are in all the wrong places. The mirror in one of our bathrooms has a row of little LED’s around the edge which does provide excellent illumination of the face in conjunction with the surface-mounted ceiling light and the large amount of natural daylight; it’s good after dark as well when only artificial light is available from the ceiling fittting.

John wrote: “So, just to be clear, it’s safe to put a 23W CFL with a Wattage equivalent quoted at 110W in a ceiling lampshade rated “up to 100W max”. The lamp I am looking at is a 23W Philips Tornado spiral CFL on which the Lumens are quoted as 1570. One could even put a 35W CFL lamp in the same shade although it might not look particularly attractive when unlit.” That’s fine.

The only thing to watch is that CFLs used in enclosed or semi-enclosed fixtures can overheat the electronic components in the lamp base, making premature failure more likely. I expect that the same will apply with LED lighting.

MsSupertech says:
2 May 2015

Who knows!? I can’t be the only person who finds it practically impossible to find some sort of lower energy bulb that provides the equivalent lumen output and colour to my favourite old incandescent bulb… In my case that’s a 75 watt and fortunately I’ve still got a few ‘in stock’.
I’ve already got cupboard half full of too bright/too dim/too hot/too cold-coloured rejected purchases of various types. I won’t be ‘investing’ in any more energy saving experiments until I’m confident I can buy a product that gives me the lighting I want.

Stick with your 75 Watt. It’s your choice, no one else’s. However, have you tried e.g. Philips Tornado spiral compact fluorescent (Wickes sell them as well as others) – equivalent to a 75W incandescent?

Davemet says:
2 May 2015

We do not have any halogen lights in our house and I would not buy them because as you say they are power guzzlers. The excessive heat they produce can also discolour and scorch light fittings which can be unsightly and expensive to replace.

Most of our bulbs are CFL’s (some are very slow to achieve full luminosity) but we do have a few LED’s and are very impressed with the light. LED’s are gradually coming down in price and we will gradually replace the CFL’s with LED’s as they fail.

markv says:
3 May 2015

Let’s put some numbers together to explain the financial benefits of LED over halogen:-

I had 50W downlighter halogen bulbs in my kitchen which I replaced with 5W LEDs. These lights are on each day for about 4 hrs, so the annual cost of electricity for each bulb is:-

50W: 50W*4h*365days=73,000Wh = 73kWh per year @ 12p per kWh = £8.76 per year
5W: 5W*4h*365days = 7,300Wh = 7.3kWh per year @ 12p per kWh = 87.6p per year

So for each bulb, I am saving £7.88 per year. I have 7 bulbs in my kitchen, making a total saving per year of £55. Even if the new LEDs only lasted 1 year on average, if they cost £5 each they would still save me over £20 per year. In reality, they are much more reliable than that (apart from the odd maverick, my numerous LEDs of different brands throughout the house have not failed).

I urge you to do the maths for your halogen bulbs – it’s straightforward and pretty much a no-brainer to change them all to LED from a cost perspective. My electricity bills have come down significantly since swapping over to LED wherever I can.

Dead right. Use ribbed ones with cooling fins, and don’t subject them to too many on-off cycles.
My 9W outside light has been on for 45,000 hours- never switched off and still going strong!

When we moved into this house twenty odd years ago, our very large lounge was lit by two chandeliers with downward pointing incandescent candle bulbs-about 14 altogether.
Being downward, the heat had nowhere to go and a bulb failed every few weeks, so I started to replace them with CFLs.
I am now at the stage where I want to replace the CFLs with LEDs, but am thwarted by the fact that my CFLs refuse to fail.
I have not had to replace one for at least five years. I put this down to only one on-off cycle per day, and the fact that, except at the height of summer the room is fairly cool-no CH or fire-we wrap ourselves up!

As far as I know, LED lamps reach full brightness very quickly. Many modern CFLs are much better than others in this respect. I have generally found that the ones that take longest to reach full brightness are those where the lamp is enclosed in some sort of bulb.

I don’t often get up in the middle of the night but prefer a bedroom light that gradually gets brighter. Anywhere else I’m keen on full brightness from the start.

Perhaps Which could publish a directory of all the different types of lamp bulbs now available ?

In our eighties, we are completely confused by all the new terms e.g. LED, CFC or whatever – what are all these and where should they be used?
Which type would be best in e.g. a toilet where it would not need to stay on for long ( so usage is not a big issue ) but should reach a reasonable light level fairly quickly?
What could be used in a chandelier with candle-type bulbs, which has a dimmer switch ?
Is it still possible to get table lamp bulbs on to which a shade can be clipped?

Eileen – As you say, your toilet light is not on for long, so there is little to be gained by fitting a new lamp.

Some CFL and LED lamps are made in the style of a bulb, but might be smaller. If you take a bulb to the shop you can compare sizes when choosing a replacement for your table lamp.

Candle bulbs are very small and it might be difficult to achieve a light output equivalent to 60W bulbs.

It is well worth having a look at what neighbours and friends are using before spending your money.

It used to be possible to get small lampshades that had sprung clips inside them which would grip the circumference of the light bulb. They were mostly used on table lamps, wall lights and multi-branch centre lights with low Wattage pear-shaped bulbs [not exceeding 40 Watts]. I have not seen this type of lampshade for some time and it might be that they are no longer available for safety reasons [they can easily be dislodged and the surface of the shade can then come into contact with a very hot bulb]. They were designed for the traditional bulb shape but were not really suitable for candle bulbs or for more modern forms like low energy bulbs [sticks or spirals]. If you still have such shades and wish to continue using them LED lamps are available to the same general pear-shaped profile although the dimensions differ a little. Pear-shaped Halogen bulbs are also available but they are very uneconomical in use compared with LED’s and are due to be phased out, although when that will be is unclear. I would suggest that you take one of your lampshades to a hardware store or a good DIY or department store and speak to a knowledgable assistant and try it on suitable bulbs.

The terminology for light bulbs, and the separate codes for sub-types, was not thought through with the average consumer in mind and most people find it confusing. On the John Lewis website there is a video guide called “Light Bulb Types Explained”. You can access it by going to”light bulbs” and looking down the menu on the left-hand side of the screen [near the bottom].

NigelC says:
4 May 2015

Firstly, they need to ensure they are compatible with all fittings and dimmers, otherwise these will need replacing (at what cost, financial and environmental). Secondly the colour needs sorting, not only to be pleasant, but also because as we are told the’blue’ cast associated with led based light disrupts sleep patterns. Finally, at the price I’d want a firm guarantee they will last as longas claimed and a sensuous means of returning them under it (how do you prove it when a bulb fails quickly). We’re not there yet.

WD says:
13 June 2015

We are there and we’ve been there for some time. It’s just that people haven’t realised it yet. Let me address your points to clarify the situation:

1. Firstly, they need to ensure they are compatible with all fittings and dimmers –
The problem here is that most dimmers have a 100w minimum load. Some bulbs work okay on a standard dimmer but you’ll never get good results. This is more of a dimmer problem than it is a bulb problem, although it’s not unreasonable to expect that dimmable LED’s will eventually work fine on a regular leading-edge dimmer, so I’ll give you the credit for that.

2. otherwise these will need replacing (at what cost, financial and environmental) –
Good point.

3. Secondly the colour needs sorting, not only to be pleasant, but also because as we are told the’blue’ cast associated with led based light disrupts sleep patterns –
This point isn’t really valid because LED’s have come in a choice of colour temperatures for years now. The majority of those running in our house are the same colour as halogens. Blue – cool white or daylight bulbs are typically used as task lighting. It’s the colour of energy and work, not relaxation. You do have the choice, and the majority of household LED bulbs are marketed as warm white.

4. Finally, at the price I’d want a firm guarantee they will last as long as claimed –
They don’t really need to last as long as claimed though. If an LED lasts 1,000 hours chances are it’s already saved you money and it you gained a return on your investment, regardless if they last the remaining 24,000 or more hours. A guarantee will be nice, but how can manufacturers guarantee such a thing? If someone uses the bulbs in an enclosed environment, or on unstable voltages, it WILL have a shorter life span. I know 10+ years of use is a long claim, but to be honest I know it’s mostly marketing. I’d be happy enough if the things last 2 years.

5. We’re not there yet. –
I think we are. I think it’s just a case of awareness, and of prices coming down further. As it stands, an LED exists to replace 99% of market and consumer applications. An LED exists of practically every brightness range your average person desires, in any colour temperature desired – you can even get ones that have the same colour as incandescent, and in a variety of beam angles and purposes. Lots of people think the technology isn’t ready yet, but they’re still haunted by not-so-fond memories of the earlier generation of LED that came almost exclusively in cold colour temperatures.

The only situation where I KNOW we’re not there, are for those who use DAB. LED’s still have the ability to kill DAB.

“the same colour as halogens”. You are confusing colour appearance with spectral distribution. LEDs emit a narrow colour band. The general method to achieve a “white” is to use a blue LED with a phosphor overlay. Much of the blue energises the phosphor which emits light in the green/yellow/red so the combination gives the appearance of white. But if you look at the spectral distribution there is still a prominent power peak in the blue region; hence the concern about disrupting the body clock. Filament lamps (GLS and Halogens) do not have this blue peak.

NigelC – It may not be possible to produce satisfactory direct replacements for all incandescent bulbs. As with CFLs, they may overheat in enclosed fixtures and small lampshades. In addition, we will not see LED lamps that are the same size as tiny halogen capsules and produce the same light output.

You should assume that dimmers will have to be replaced with those designed for the purpose.

WD says:
5 July 2015

Just after I posted my comment, I just knew someone would come along and tell me it’s not the visible colour of the bulb, but the spectrum.

I’m not completely clueless. I know, for example, that it’s the IR spectrum of light from an incandescent that helps it achieve such a high CRI. I had considered the possibility someone would come along and tell me I’m confusing the two, but Which? does not allow the editing of comments and it did not seem worth making a new comment over.

All I’m going to say is this: I run LED bulbs in the entire house and have noticed no discernible change to my sleep patterns. I even read with one as a bedside source! Sure, these blue spectrum may be processed as they hit the retina, and it may be confusing my body clock, but if it is, I sure haven’t noticed it yet.

I did some further research into this and found that most studies involving LEDs and sleep patterns all specifically mention that tests were performed under ‘white colour light’ LEDs such as street lights. Whilst the blue spectrum is higher than that of an incandecent – even for a visibly warm (2700k) bulb, I do not believe the hidden spectrum to be a high concern.

Ultimately – as with emotional responses – we respond to the colours we see far more acutely than those on the spectrum that we do not see. Any form of light, even incandescent, effectively disrupts the body clock, but warmer tones nonetheless are superior for promoting feelings and desires to relax and unwind.

Some of the research I did pointed to agreements with this. The coating that renders the LED light output to a warmer tone does effectively work to counteract the effects of the blue light, so at the end of the day the light we see IS more relevant than the light we do not see.

Eco bulbs are rubbish. I replaced all mine gradually with reputable makes and non lasted longer than the old tungsten bulbs they replaced. It is impossible to get high wattage equivalent bulbs now, partly due to the fashion of having hundreds of low power bulbs in a house to replace a small number of high power bulbs. As you need many more illuminated at a time – guess what – more power wasted.

This is a feature of the eco business. It just generates big spending on trendy, badly engineered equipment which will not last.

No-one seems to understand how to measure the lifetime costs of these trendy solutions, but the maintenance and replacement costs are often overlooked.

Condensing boilers are still unreliable, expensive, unrepairable and don’t last.

Energy surveys are meaningless pieces of paper that just generates more big business for estate agents’s cronies.

The same with the carbon quota rip-off and the idea of paying to replace edible crops with bio-fuels.

Will says:
22 May 2015

Well, I don’t know what brands you’re buying, but I’ve had no trouble getting LEDs that are equivalent to 100w incandescents. They’re still working fine.

In fact, I regularly follow new technology and all I can say is that you shouldn’t call all eco stuff bad, because it’s not true. You get bad brands, you get good brands. Same as anything. The problem is the bad brands are prevalent and the good brands are harder to find.

From the September 2014 magazine:

“Number of switches
How many times the manufacturer claims the bulb can be switched on and off in its lifetime: between 10,000 and 100,000 is typical. This is a good indicator of durability.”

That is one test of durability, but it will be of little comfort to those who find their LED bulbs have failed after days, weeks or months.

I expect better from Which?

Durability is about what a product actually achieves, not what it is claimed to achieve. Consumers need “real life” reports of durablility so they can assess whether a product is worth buying or not. I hope Which? will begin to collect this data – it has a large enough subscriber base who would no doubt provide such information. I supply Which? surveys with information on appliances I own. Many ask how long I have owned them. That information might prove useful?? No doubt our EU partners have similar information to provide – should give a usable database?

Feedback from users is of limited use because of the differences in how we use our products. With a product such as a fridge or freezer in continuous use, worthwhile comparisons can be made. On the other hand, some washing machines are probably used ten times as much as others.

Some people are not very careful with mobile phones whereas others have them protected in leather wallets.

I am not convinced that it is worth devoting more resources into collecting users information than Which? does already. I would prefer to see depth in reporting of Which? tests, including assessment of repairability of major appliances such as washing machines.

“On the other hand, some washing machines are probably used ten times as much as others.” These will clearly be the exceptions, and the more real life data that is collected the more we will approach a representative average.
The Sale of Goods Act, and the forthcoming Consumer Protection Act, will require information on durability for them to be effective for consumers once a limited guarantee expires. We need to address that problem to make any progress (in the absence of long guarantees of course!). So we should adopt a can-do attitude otherwise it will never happen.

Will says:
23 May 2015

It’s a rather solid piece of advice. Given the staggering number of bulbs on the market you couldn’t realistically expect Which? to test them all, so at least they’re giving us advice to go by.

What these tests do not account for is how the end user operates the product. Is the end-user running the product in a very hot area? Perhaps an enclosed space? Are they using a non-dimmable bulb on a dimmer circuit? Switching cycle numbers mean nothing when the person using the product is using it for a purpose it was not designed, such as an enclosed space in a fitting that was designed with Halogens in mind, for example.

At the end of the day, no matter what advice or reviews Which? does there’s always going to be someone who gets a faulty product from any brand.

My advice to readers is this: Buy a proper brand. Read the Which? roundup and pick one of the brands they tested. Don’t buy from some random cheap rubbish on Amazon at 2 quid per bulb or whatever these no-name brands are calling themselves. When a cheap brand is selling for 2 quid each and top brands like Philips are selling their VALUE range at 5 quid you know something’s fishy. You get what you pay for and if you buy a decent brand you’ll be better off…

We’ve been running over 40 LED in the house for a year. I bought many different brands to ‘experiment’. I’ve had 2 failures, both a cheap horrible brand called tp24. The rest? All absolutely rock-solid and still running like day 1.

The case for banning tungsten and halogen lamps was never properly made as it assumed the heat in winter is waste and did not contribute to warming houses. Worse still the replacement CFLs use in their phosphors precious rare earth materials which I fear are not often recycled. If LEDs have anything like their claimed life these may be a better bet. An interdependent assessment in Which would be welcome.

Barry, electricity is one of the most expensive ways of heating – and when your lights are on you may not need heating. So tungsten lamps high energy costs are not offset c/w using CFLs, let alone proper LEDs (i.e. ones that don’t fail early!).
CFLs use phosphors in common with ordinary fluorescent lamps (and old TVs). No danger of them running out.
Having said that I like filament lamps (halogens mainly) in the right place. Lighting is about producing the right lit environment – to both do tasks and to provide a pleasant visual scene. It should not be spoiled by worrying about the relatively small amount of energy it consumes.

Will says:
22 May 2015

I’d hardly call the amount of energy consumed ‘small’ when lighting accounts for between a fifth and a sixth of the average home’s energy bill. But I hear you; it’s important to get the pleasant atmosphere, something I’ve managed to do with LEDs from the right brands.

Will says:
23 May 2015

Barry, LED lighting is practically the future and we’d best get used to it. I’m running many LED’s around the house. 16 GU10s from the likes of Kosnic, Integral, Philips and OSRAM. We’re also running a handful of GLS (globe type) bulbs from the likes of Auraglow and GE. They’re absolutely wonderful and they’ve been ever so reliable.

The biggest issue with the LED market is the sheer number of (comparatively) cheap and nasty Chinese ones flooding the market; products that are running over-spec without being able to handle it. Unfortunately first impressions count and these cheap brands are giving people a very bad first impression.

The ‘incandescent ban’ is not handled very well. A huge loophole in the EU regulation allows companies to mark their bulbs as ‘rough service’ or ‘industrial’, which are exempt from the regulation but for all intents and purposes are sold in stores like Poundworld to home consumers. Online buying is hardly regulated at all since you can buy the most inefficient rubbish on Amazon.

I don’t think the heat from the tungsten bulbs in winter was ever worth mentioning. It’s far more efficient to heat a house using central heating than it is with a bulb; the boiler can pick up any slack far more efficiently than a bunch of bulbs ever could. Furthermore, heating a ceiling is not as effective as heating a radiator or floor pipe, as warm air rises. This is before you even consider that excess heat from incandescents during the summer goes entirely to waste if your heating is turned off and the weather’s hot.

Will – You said that ” lighting accounts for between a fifth and a sixth of the average home’s energy bill”. Did you mean “electricity bill” instead of “energy bill”. Our electricity bill is probably around a sixth of our overall energy bill but our low-energy lighting [which is only on when it’s dark and only in one or two rooms simultaneously] is a very small percentage of the electricity bill. The major electricity consumers are the cooker, dishwasher, washing machine, fridge/freezer, iron, pump, TV & AV devices, computers, and heated hair dryers & stylers. I always wondered why so much time, effort and energy was expended on changing our lighting when other domestic products had the biggest power loads and, at the time the project started, were the most inefficient users of electricity.

Will, I was referring to the use of higher energy lamps. My halogens cost around £20 a year to run – that is a small part of my electricity bill and well worth it for the merits they have for me. The rest of the house is CFLs, low energy but mainly because they do the job and produce the effect I want. I’ll think about more LEDs when I am convinced about their reliability.

Will says:
23 May 2015

John, yes I meant electricity bill sorry. It’s somewhere in the realm of 15% for most homes.

I’ve found that lighting CAN consume vast amounts of electricity, but that’s if it’s real old style incandescents. My twin graphics-card high end gaming rig under intense load pulls around 400w, equivalent to four 100w edison bulbs.

All of our appliances are very energy efficient and I’ve tested them with meters; including the oven. It uses a couple kW to heat up, but once up to temperature it maintains it very efficiently – around 100w maintenance. Our washing machine has an A+++ rating and works out at less than 180 kWh per annum.

A single 100w edison bulb used 3 hours a day works out at 109.5 kWh per annum. In short, two 100w edison bulbs used 3 hours per day in our household would use MORE energy than our washing machine. Our kettle takes a minute to boil and in doing so pulls 1kw. It probably gets used around five times a day. Five boils at 1 minute each is 5 minutes, so 5 minutes of kettle use per day for a year is equivalent to 30 hours per year, or 30 kWh.

So our kettle AND washing machine’s annual usage contributes less than two 100w incandescents used 3 hours per day for a year.

Obviously these are cherry-picked examples. Going from CFLs to LED’s is such a marginal difference that it’s not worth it if your only consideration is saving money. Going from incandecents such as halogens on the other hand – well it depends on how often they’re used. If they’re used maybe a few minutes a day or less, it’s not worth it is it.

With regards to you saying “I always wondered why so much time, effort and energy was expended on changing our lighting when other domestic products had the biggest power loads” well the only answer I can give is that this is surely happening in all markets? It’s happening with all sorts of household appliances, no? The truth of the matter is if we’ve got the technology, we should be promoting it. Pushing it on people? No, I don’t agree with that, but promoting it like crazy? Certainly!

Will says:
23 May 2015

I hear what you’re saying Malcolm. Truly. However even a mere 20 quid a year spent on halogens is potential savings. Don’t worry I won’t try and convert you or anything like that. If you like the output halogens give that’s your choice.

We were running 8 x 35w halogens in our kitchen last year and we swapped them to OSRAM LED’s. It’s been saving us 50 quid a year since. The LEDs were expensive but the kitchen is our most-used room so they paid for themselves within months. They’re particularly useful due to the 4000k colour temperature, a nice bright white which I find industrious and great for cooking and cleaning.

However this was just our situation and I can totally respect your own situation.

I will ask this: Are you running any test LED’s? The best way to convince yourself of their reliability is to be running some, even if it’s just a single bulb alongside your halogens. We’ve not had a single failure yet, and prior to that, we were replacing halogens every few months. It’s just an idea worth trying if you aren’t already.

Will, I am aware of the potential advantages of LEDs and the problems some experience when used domestically. Yes, I have LEDs in a situation where I find them appropriate.

Will says:
24 May 2015

Well you said you’ll think more about LEDs when you’re convinced of their longevity.

As long as they last long enough that you break even on your investment, then it doesn’t really matter if they fail long before the claimed manufacturer mark. By that point you’ve already made a saving.

I mean, so what if the ones in our kitchen don’t last 15 years. If they last even one single year, I’ve saved money in the long run and it was a worthwhile investment.

Thanks for your response Will. Obviously the big gain in reduced energy consumption for lighting was in changing from incandescent lamps to CFL’s, which seems a long time ago now. What I have never liked is the compulsory withdrawal from the market of most types of incandescent lamp because I still maintain there are situations where they are more suitable [like lofts, cupboards, bathrooms and toilets, the garage, and so on]. LED’s will do just as well in these situations because of their instant start-up but satisfactory products have only come onto the market recently and their price is still ridiculous for replacing the bulb in a cupboard while longevity remains an issue affecting the price:value equation.

The original impetus for stopping sales of incandescent lamps was to do with energy saving, carbon reduction, and other environmental benefits, not the running cost savings. As you make clear, for the householder they can lead to significant percentage cost savings on the overall electricity bill if investment is also made in the most efficient appliances always used in the most efficient manner. The upfront price of A+++ appliances [if available] is often considerably more than a similar product with an A+ or A++ rating. For many people that difference makes it unaffordable, and for those buying on credit especially so. People struggling to set up a new home were able to light it throughout for a fiver with incandescent bulbs. To do it with LED’s might mean they can’t afford to get the most energy-efficient fridge/freezer and even CFL’s are getting relatively more expensive than they were. Generally, people will organise their lives over time to achieve running cost savings without the need for the heavy hand of government to force them to do so and, as you say, more effective promotion of the cost advantages [alongside the environmental benefits] would help to propel people in that direction without compulsion. This Conversation is really about the proposal to ban the sale of “energy guzzling” halogen bulbs. For many people this could involve major outlay in replacement fittings. While you emphasise the undoubted running cost savings achievable through conversion to LED’s, it is important also to have regard to the ‘capital’ cost of changes and the practicality and affordability of making them.

In my previous comment I opined that the effort put into legislating for domestic light bulbs was, at the time, out of proportion to the much bigger energy loads of domestic appliances. It is good to see that much more energy-efficient appliances are now available and the upfront cost premium is becoming less pronounced, but I guess it will be a long time before every home is fully fitted to the best standard, and by then further technological and performance advances will no doubt have been made.

WD says:
5 July 2015

Thanks for the replies, John, and sorry for this late response to you. I am aware of the EU’s motives behind this. Whilst I am as you can see an advocate for LED bulbs, I will try and remain on the topic at hand, and that is to respond to your excellent argument that people on a budget will go for the cheaper initial investment (even if it ends up costing them more in the long run).

The thing is, you can get CFLs for peanuts these days. They’re almost as efficient as LED’s and a modern CFL will light up very quickly. People can save money without breaking their bank to do so. Similarly, on the home appliance front, it’s not uncommon for two different appliances within the same price range to have drastically different energy efficiency figures.

However, I also agree with you that, despite the affordability of CFLs, a lot of people do not like the quality of light they emit.

Perhaps, what the EU should be doing is NOT banning these products, but instead, trying to promote the benefits of alternatives? Allowing people to make their own choice based on useful information is arguably far more effective then simply taking their lollipop away and saying they can’t have it any more.

In any case, this delay is totally acceptable, because I expect by 2019 we’ll have extremely affordable LEDs that are on price parity with incandescents and of a far superior light quality (and efficiency) to those of today. I can see CFLs being phased out over time.

WD says:
5 July 2015

Oh and if these governments are truly interested in going greener they would be focusing funds on their power generation methods instead. This way they “green things up” without making us spend our own money changing our homes around.

I agree with you that CFL’s are now performing better than they used to. We have several of the spiral type in main rooms and they light up quickly and give a pleasant light. One of the aspects of incandescent and the spiral CFL lamps that I particularly like is their all-over light dispersion, which includes to the ceiling, giving a diffused reflection back covering the whole room. So far as I can see, although I admit I have not fully explored all the types available because experimentation with LED’s is expensive, the design of the cap end of LED lamps, with the bit housing the electronics, means that the bulb end does not have the traditional nearly-spherical form thus inhibiting light spread.

I recently replaced the ten incandescent lamps in five wall light fittings with LED lamps and am pleased with the warmer light effect produced. With the candle-shaped lamps positioned cap-down my comments in the previous paragraph do not apply and they illuminate the walls and nearby ceilings with a wash of light. Unfortunately we have now decided to replace the rather dated fittings themselves with types that only require a single lamp so I shall have five spare LED candle bulbs in stock for ten years or more!

I am surprised at the continuing popularity of halogen lamps in new light fittings. There are many halogen capsule-fitted wall and ceiling lights on the market, with ‘crystal’-type enclosures, which seem to give an extremely harsh light effect that does not seem compatible with most domestic situations and some of them with five or more branches will be consuming over 140 W per hour. Presumably the ceiling fittings give good light spread including ceiling reflection/diffusion which might account for their popularity.

As you say, the design of CFLs has improved and the same is happening with LED bulbs. Newer designs have helped offer better light dispersion, where this is required. It is still early days in the evolution of LED lighting.

I am surprised that light fixtures with halogen lamps are still being advertised widely. Perhaps the manufacturers should see the light and focus on the opportunity to produce innovative new designs for LED lighting.

There’s no such thing as W per hour. Energy is measured in Wh (or kWh).