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No more Ordinary Light Bulbs, What Now?

A simple guide to the incandescent light bulb ban.

There has been a recent spate of sensationalist news articles that would have us all believe that as from 1st September 2009 it will be illegal to stock, sell, buy or use 100w and 150w incandescent light bulbs. This article is designed to give you all of the facts without any of the sensationalism.

Fact. It is not illegal to buy, sell or otherwise use 100w light bulbs now. Manufacturers and retailers have entered into a voluntary arrangement not to produce, import or restock 100w incandescent light bulbs after the 1st September 2009. Britain has signed up to a proposal that will see all traditional light bulbs phased out by 2016.

So, what has actually happened and why?

The EU has decided that we need to cut our carbon emissions drastically by 2020. As a result of this they passed a directive that means the much-loved incandescent light bulb will be phased out over the next few years, as it is the least efficient light bulb available today. This means that in two years time you will not be able to buy any incandescent light bulbs at all, with some exceptions that I will go into later.

Why has this happened? We need to accept that the incandescent light bulb is very inefficient. Watts are a measurement of electricity, not of light output. When we pass a current through the tungsten filament it glows white-hot. This is what gives off the light. Unfortunately, only around 10% of the energy used is given off in light with the remaining 90% being given off in heat. This makes the incandescent light bulb only 10% efficient and that in part has led to its downfall.

What light bulbs are not being phased out? The EU recognise that the energy saving compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) is not suitable for every application. To that end, there are a number of exceptions that will still be available, including.

  • Energy saving halogen light bulbs.
  • All spot lights.
  • All strip lights.
  • All daylight bulbs.
  • Specialist bulbs such as cooker lamps.

What are the alternatives? There are many usable alternatives available, all of which save energy and so save you money in electricity costs. It really depends on if the light bulb is visible or not.

Energy saving halogen light bulbs. If you have a traditional chandelier or other light fitting where the lamp is visible then by far the best alternative is the energy saving halogen light bulb. These perform in exactly the same way as an incandescent light bulb whilst saving 30% in energy consumption. They give instant light, are fully dimmable, have no mercury content to worry about and give an excellent crisp white light. In addition, they last at least twice as long as a traditional household lamp, look the same and have a lower purchase price than a CFL lamp, typically between £1.40 and £1.80 each. It is likely that this cost will come down as demand increases.

CFL light bulbs. If your light fitting has shades or the light bulb is otherwise hidden the CFL lamp is a realistic alternative. They are typically 75% more efficient than incandescent light bulbs and last up to ten times longer, although the initial purchase cost is far greater. These will continue to be available in every type of cap and have come a long way since the early days. They now reach maximum brightness quicker than ever and are also available in spiral form, which means that they give off more light for less space.

LED light bulbs. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that LED lighting is the future. They run cool, are ultra reliable, consume 90% less electricity than an incandescent light bulb and the quality lamps last for over 35000 hours. They are available in different colour temperatures to ensure that you get the right type of light for each application.

LED light bulbs have been around for some years now, mainly as a replacement for halogen GU10 or MR16 replacement spotlight bulbs. They are extremely efficient, typically saving 90% in energy over an incandescent light bulb. A 3w LED GU10 replacement lamp gives around same amount of light output as a 40w halogen light bulb. Our LED light bulbs are ultra reliable, generate very little heat and can typically last 12 - 15 years in the home, up to 20 times longer that a halogen GU10. Care should be taken when buying this type of replacement lamp as not all LED's are of the same quality. Choose a quality product with a good history of research and development; using high quality LED's and you will reap the benefits with reduced electricity bills for many years to come.

We are currently evaluating a number of traditional style LED GLS light bulbs that are making their way into the market, although they are still in their infancy. The higher wattage lamps require a heatsink to ensure reliability and the cost of purchase is still high. The LED light bulb has come a long way with physical sizes now equivalent to a traditional incandescent lamp. Once the LED GLS replacement lamp becomes more commonplace, there is no doubt that the prices will drop.

Conclusion. There is really nothing for us to worry about. The incandescent light bulb was first patented by Thomas Edison in 1879 and has changed very little since. It has reached the end of the road due to its design and inefficiency. There are plenty of alternatives available to suite every type of light fitting that are more efficient and cost effective. Not all of them will be desirable or suitable for every application. The key is to shop around, ask questions and try them out until you find a light bulb that suits you.

If you require any further advice or have any questions in relation to this article, please contact us.

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