Last week for old-style lightbulbs in the EU

by Published Sun 23 Aug 2009 18:39, Last updated: 2009-08-23
It's a green lightbulb moment
It's a green lightbulb moment

Member states of the European Union this week start the mandatory phase out of 100W and old-fashioned frosted incandescent lightbulbs.

This new legislation to cut wasted energy and high electricity bills was agreed by the EU last December with the support of the UK Government.

The Government says it 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 lightbulbs that waste 95 percent 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 one 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.

A Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs statement addresses 10 of the most common myths.

The frequently asked question and answers include:

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 percent saving 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 1,000 times that frequency. The light is bright and clear and tests 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 percent 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 the Department of Health 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.

Getting rid of old-fashioned lightbulbs 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 lightbulbs as a result of these measures.

No one will be forced to change their lightbulbs, 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 1st September, with a phase out of lamps of lower wattage by 2012.

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