/ Home & Energy, Technology

This week in comments – light bulbs, laptops and toxic clothes

This week we’ve had Greenpeace penning a guest blog about toxic chemicals in clothes. We also revealed Samsung’s new matte laptops and said farewell to 60W light bulbs. Here’s what you’ve been saying…

Farewell to 60 watt bulbs

Are you sad to see them go? Dave D is:

‘As per usual Joe Public is being forced into having no choice at all of inferior products which may yet turn out to be dangerous to our health whilst being insulted by being told we have greater choice than ever.’

Phil isn’t quite so against the change, but thinks we can decide for ourselves:

‘I’ve already changed most of the bulbs to CFLs but there are a couple of places where I still need incandescents. What really annoys me is the way in which we’re continually forced into these changes by legislation. If something offers a real advantage to consumers they’ll buy it and the old product will eventually become obsolete, if it doesn’t it’ll die off.’

Samsung goes back to matte with new laptops

Photographer Fotolawrence says he’s been searching for a laptop with a matte screen:

‘I thought that I was in the minority so was pleased to come across this site. You have my vote for getting matte screens back on the market.’

Steve T upgraded to MacBook Pro recently:

‘I opted for the matte screen as I could see a major disadvantage with a glossy screen when, for example, working on the train with sunlight shining through the windows. For the matte screen (which is additionally higher definition) I had to pay an extra £150 or so.’

Greenpeace calls the fashion police over chemicals in clothes

Our guest blog from Greenpeace revealed its research about the toxic chemicals clothes manufacturers are using in our garbs. Here’s how Frugal Ways reacted:

‘We, the public, shouldn’t have to use our purchasing power to get action, it should not take a long time to reverse, we shouldn’t have to hope that organisations such as Greenpeace run investigations. If regulators did their job and prosecuted one company and removed it’s range from the shelves, others would sit up and take notice.’

Tamara Stark from Greenpeace UK had this to say in response:

‘Yes, you’re right, regulations should be tighter, but the EU REACH legislation doesn’t yet address imported products – and let’s face it, there’s no time soon when China is going to stop being the world’s factory! So – in the meantime, getting western companies to use their influence to get change on the ground in places like China matters.’

Why buy a 3G version of the Amazon Kindle?

Not many of you agreed with Ben Stevens on this one, especially Andrew:

‘For me, the 3G is definitely worth the extra. I don’t always plan what I read. I download a book that someone has recommended and, if it appeals, then I want the author’s other stuff – fast, wherever I am – and I’m often out of WiFi range.’

Surcharge campaign: help us make a hat trick of successes

We’re trying to stamp out unfair card surcharges and we need your help. Bob Valleley supports us and he gets our Comment of the Week:

‘Why should any retailer be allowed to make a separate charge to the customer for the privilege of receiving their money. It is part of their costs of doing buiness and should be implicit within the price advertised for the goods or services supplied. Define the method of payment yes, but no separate charge.’

Comments have been edited due to length, so make sure to read them in full on their relevant Convos (by clicking on the red title link).


I feel that we are forgetting that the reason that ordinary light bulbs are being phased out is to save a a lot of energy. With energy prices rising fast, it will make a worthwhile difference for the consumer.

Every possible deficiency of CFLs has been covered in the Which? Conversations, but what is really hated is any legilslation that restricts choice.

There was a lot of concern before leaded petrol was withdrawn from general sale, but that soon died down. Part of the current problem is that incandescent bulbs are being phased out rather than just getting on with it.

CFL are efficient when used for long periods, with fewer switch-ons. When used in positions where they switched on for a short period and then off again (e.g. a toilet rather than a bathroom) CFLs use more power, their life is shortened and the energy cost of making the CFL is not regained through efficiency and lifetime. One size does not fit all!

I am looking forward to a suitable LED replacement for my two ordinary light bulbs, fingers crossed my stock will last.

Has anyone worked out if the heat from an incandescent light reduces the heating bill?

When used in positions where they switched on for a short period and then off again (e.g. a toilet rather than a bathroom) CFLs use more power, their life is shortened and the energy cost of making the CFL is not regained through efficiency and lifetime.

I have measured the power consumption using a CFL in a table lamp and it was no higher when first switched on.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, Which? put CFLs through many switching cycles in their tests and this does not seem to cause problems.

The overall environmental costs of manufacture (and disposal) of CFLs is one of my concerns. There is conflicting information from proponents of CFLs and those who are opposed to them. I hope that that proper scientific studies have been carried out since saving power is only part of the environmental considerations.

Keith says:
2 September 2011

We have used energy saving light bulbs for many years. BUT –
1. because of slow warm up times we leave lights on in rooms for much longer – even in rooms that we are using for brief periods of time. Trying to find things in half light is no joke.
2. Even when thoroughly warned up the new bulbs appear far less bright than the previous incandescent bulbs. Can we not have some indication of how bright the light is supposed to reach?
3. I have an outdoors security light that specifically needs to come on with full brightness straight away – otherwise it defeats its object. Any suggestions as to what bulb I now puchase for this?

2. There are signs that manufacturers are being more honest about light output, and not before time.

3. A halogen bulb will do the job.

I’m surprised to find myself disagreeing with Wavechange on this issue and I await with interest a convincing argument (from anyone, not specifically wavechange) that using cfl’s will ever save the consumer any money: the cost of purchase (which is spiralling upwards rapidly), coupled with the cost of replacement far more often than the PR suggests, and added to the potential cost of disposing of them (here that’s £5 whether you take 1 or 100 to the recycling centre) will always massivly exceed the financial saving on electricity. I don’t dispute the reduced energy use, but I cannot fathom the calculations of fiscal savings at all.

I also disagree that Halogen bulbs will do the job in external lights – Halogens are certainly good but are a little more susceptible to early failure than tungsten bulbs when switched on and off many times, especially in very cold environments. Sure it’ll work, but I don’t think it will be particularly reliable.

I did notice that someone on one CFL convo had mentioned timers too: it is true that using a cfl with a security light timer or sensor could easily cause the timer to malfunction or, in an extreme case, over-heat and catch fire. This can be cured by using an old fashioned (cheap) mechanical timer rather than one with an electronic switching circuit, but why on earth should we have to replace timers and sensors just to fit in with an ill thought out ban in incandescent lamps???

I’m afraid that, casandra like, I find myself yet again pointing out that this is another example where “one size does NOT fit all” and we really should be allowed the choice.

However, with apologies for being repetitious again, the thing about the ban on incandescent lamps that really infuriates me beyond words is that only domestic customers are affected: commercial users are to be allowed to continue to have incandescent bulbs (especially coloured ones) for reasons of “commercial viability” (i.e. so as not to affect their profits). If there is to be a ban it should (have) affect(ed) 100% or the world and 100% of user types.


You are right to suggest using an old-fashioned timer for CFLs. These have a mechanical switch driven by a motor. Many other timers are suitable but until manufacturers put this information on the packaging it’s best not to take the risk. An electronic timer could be wrecked but I would be very surprised if it caught fire.

I completely agree that it makes little sense to have different rules for domestic and commercial users. Many pubs are struggling at the moment and I have notices many more CFLs in pubs in the last year.

I am not aware that halogen bulbs are more susceptible than ordinary incandescent lamps when switched on and off frequently and I do not believe that the ambient temperature is a significant factor.

Free and heavily discounted CFLs seem to have disappeared but there are plenty available for about £2. It’s a long time since I did the calculations and confirmed the savings by carrying out tests, but I am convinced that CFLs offer a worthwhile saving on my electricity bill. Now that electricity prices are rising fast, the savings will be greater.

If councils charge for disposal of CFLs they can expect them to turn up with other rubbish in black bins. If I find out that my council does charge then I will keep them until they are recycled free of charge.

The reason I’m not worried about the demise of incandescent bulbs is that I made the transition to using CFLs long before the traditional bulbs were phased out.

akfm92 says:
5 September 2011

I did use CFLs on basic timers upstairs and down for security in my home. Lucky for me that I was at home when one of these CFLs starting smoking. The toxic smelling odour it gave off alerted me that something was burning. I traced the smell to the living room and then saw the swirling smoke. I went out and bought stock of incandescent bulbs and feel safer. Anybody have any ideas where I can still buy incandescent before the CFLs are forced upon us?

on the other convo this has been posted this evening:
Author: Ian F
mechanical switches like relays are fine. So are the mechanical timers that use a microswitch. The problem is with electronic switches which are typically TRIACs: these are fine with the resitive load that an incandescent bulb presents but interact in an insidious way with the electronics within a typical CFL. The combination appears to work but you don’t realise that the electronics inside the CFL are being severely over stressed resulting in an even worse power factor and significant risk of catastrophic failure (fire!).
This is exactly the point I was making in my comment above, although Wavechange disagreed with me.
I’m quite certain that this is an issue that Which? should have investigated very thoroughly and published guidelines and reports on (perhaps they have and I’ve missed them?). This is a big health and safety issue – surely even if Which? insist on supporting CFL’s (and SmartMeters) and are dubious (as, frankly, so am I about other health ill effects) at least they should not be ignoring (or worse still condoning) issues that could so easily result in burning down people’s homes.

Dave – I made a guarded comment to say that I thought it unlikely that an electronic timer would catch fire. The worst that is likely to happen is that the triac or electronic relay short-circuits and the lamp stays on at full brightness. The same would apply in the case of dimmer switches.

frederick w worth says:
3 September 2011

new or old bulbs, well being the wrong side of 60, I find it difficult to read my newspaper and books with these so called new bulbs, so on my way to buy as many old bulbs, I can get my hands on.

Sally Jones says:
3 September 2011

When CFL first came out my husband gradually replaced the incadescent lights with the energy efficient lights. After about 6months I became very unwell and had no idea what was wrong with me, I had lots of headaches and feeling sick and washed out. After reading an article in the newspaper we took all the CFl lights out of the house. After about 2weeks I returned to normal. My problem now is that I cant get away from them they are everywhere, if I go anywhere that has these lights I always get a migraine. If they have such a devasting effect on me and people who have other health problems I can see that in the future we may have more people feeling unwell and having no idea why. The government is aware of these problems but decided to go ahead anyway. I wonder if I could sue? I hate these lights.