A bright idea – lightbulbs go green

The UK has been at the forefront of  efforts to cut down energy-inefficient products which cost people more money to run and are bad for the environment as they have higher carbon emissions.

A voluntary initiative to phase out old fashioned bulbs started in 2007 with the keen support of a number of UK energy suppliers and retailers.

Environment Minister Dan Norris said:

“We can no longer rely on light bulbs which waste 95 per cent of their energy as heat. We are glad the EU has put this measure in place to stop the waste of energy and money from old fashioned high energy bulbs. The UK has had a successful voluntary initiative in place for a few years, and now the rest of the EU will follow suit on a mandatory basis.

“This is great news for people who will pay less in electricity and even better news for the planet, as this will amount to 1 million tonnes of saved CO2 per year by 2020. ”

Energy efficient bulbs now come in every size, shape and design, with dimmable versions and bayonet and screw fittings.  The technology in low energy bulbs has improved greatly and now the variety and choice is there for every household or business.


Aren’t they expensive?

Energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) have come down in price and will continue to do so. Some new CFLs are available at similar prices to old fashioned bulbs (50p in some shops).  Energy efficient lamps save money, up to £3-6 per lamp per year according to the Energy Saving Trust, and so the pay back can be seen in months. They also last longer so you don’t need to buy them as often. Halogen ‘look-alike’ bulbs are now available to fit in standard sockets, though these lamps do not last as long as CFLs and only offer a 25 – 40 per cent of savings compared to traditional bulbs.

They don’t fit all fittings.

Yes, they do. Lamps are now much smaller than previous CFL ones, and come in very similar sizes and shapes to incandescent lamps. They come in all bayonet and screw fittings now. Where fittings are really small, halogen ‘look-alike’ lamps are available, although these do not offer the same energy savings. Dimmable versions are also available.

They don’t last as long as I thought

CFLs should last longer than incandescent lamps, though towards the end of life they fade over time rather than blow. Under EU legislation there will be a minimum guaranteed lifetime.

They take ages to warm up and give off dull light

Many lamps come on instantly and no lamp should come on later than a second or two after flicking the switch. The light now is flicker free as although CFL bulbs used to operate at mains frequency (50Hz) they are now designed to operate at 1000 times that frequency. The light is bright and clear and test conducted by the Energy Saving Trust suggest that the majority of people cannot tell the difference between the light of a new CFL and an incandescent bulb.

They won’t save me money

CFL low energy bulbs save 80% energy compared to an old fashioned bulb. According to the Energy Saving Trust this can be £3-6 per lamp off your energy bills.

I can’t recycle them

All local Councils provide recycling facilities for CFLs and some retailers will take them back. Councils are looking at what they can do to make it easier to recycle these bulbs. With all new products the end of life recycling can take a while to become widespread, but this is happening now and being taken very seriously by local and national government.

Haven’t there been health concerns?

EU health experts concluded that there is not enough evidence to suggest that modern lamps can aggravate epilepsy or migraines, but Defra and DoH have worked really closely with groups representing those with specific sight and light-sensitive skin conditions to minimise any adverse effects from the use of CFLs.

They contain mercury.

The evidence shows that the amount of mercury in lamps is less than the mercury that would be otherwise released into the atmosphere by coal-fire power generation to produce the energy used by an incandescent lamp. The mercury cannot escape from an intact lamp and, even if the lamp should be broken, the very small amount of mercury contained in a single, modern CFL is most unlikely to cause any harm.  Safe disposal of a smashed bulb is on our website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/business/products/lightbulbs.htm.

Getting rid of old fashioned light bulbs limits my choice

CFL bulbs are not the only ones on the markets. Halogen bulbs that fit into standard lighting sockets will remain on sale too although these lamps don’t save as much energy as CFLs.

I will need to change all my light bulbs as a result of these measures

No-one will be forced to change their light bulbs, or their fittings, and retailers will be able to sell on existing stocks. The EU measure, under the Eco-design for Energy-using Products Framework Directive restricts the manufacture and import into the EU of 100W and frosted incandescent lamps from 1 September, with a phase out of lamps of lower wattage by 2012.

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0 thoughts on “A bright idea – lightbulbs go green

  1. ben travers

    this is yet another example of control by the goverment and interference by the EU. forcing people to tow a line by outlawing the sale or use of lightbulbs is outrageous. why can’t you people just live and let live.