back to article Brussels: Old-school lightbulbs to be gone by 2012

The European Commission has adopted new regulations which will see ordinary incandescent lightbulbs phased out across Europe. Users will be able to choose in future from fluorescent lamps, including energy-saving "bulbs", and more-efficient halogen incandescents. "These groundbreaking measures respond to the request of the …


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  1. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Decisions decisions

    3% of the 7th (8th?) largest economy on the planet is probably the size of a couple of UK standard size power stations.

    OTOH given the likely level of breakage how much Mercury will be dumped into people's homes? Bearing in mind its quite effective as a brain poision even in small doses.

    Cautious welcome only.

  2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Interfering bastards

    So, I have to get listed building permission for every little change to my house, but some Eurocrat can effectively make it impossible for me to use candle bulbs in the very expensive wall lights I have.

    The new types of bulb don't look nice, and just help to make a period cottage feel like a hospital waiting room - they're useless.

    I have rights you know! (Anyone know how to make light bulbs on the cheap?)

  3. John

    LED ftw

    I want LEDs. CFLs in comparison to LEDs take far too many resources to produce and contain mercury.

  4. Tom
    Thumb Down

    Energy or Electricity?

    It will save electricity equal to a trifle more than 20% of the UK's electricity consumption.

  5. Lottie

    Lava Lamp

    So does this mean that my lava lamp that relies on the light AND heat of the bulb will be obsolete?

  6. Wize

    Its a shame energy saving bulbs don't work as a replacement.

    The energy savers sold in the high street don't work with dimmers and take a while to get to full brightness from cold. Mix that in with the headaches some get from them and they are not really fit for purpose.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not good news

    This is not good news for those with Photosensitive epilepsy as the flicker rate of the fluorescent lamp can cause fits

  8. Dave Stevenson
    Thumb Down

    And what about those with reflector bulbs and/or dimmers?

    Great, so anyone with reflector bulbs is now expected to pay over £10 per bulb, compared to about 50p. They better be incredibly efficient if I'm to save £9.50 in electricity over the life time of the bulb (I guess it may be a bit less as the bulb life is meant to be longer).

    And so few of the low energy bulbs can be dimmed, so anyone with dimmers is forced to buy the more expensive versions.

    Cheers Brussels - I'm off to stock up on spare bulbs.

  9. Wortel



    According to the Commission:

    "Households will still have the choice between long-life compact fluorescent lamps that currently yield the highest energy savings (up to 75% less energy than incandescent lamps), or efficient incandescent lamps (of the halogen type) fully equivalent to conventional bulbs in terms of light quality, providing between 25% and 50% energy savings."

    "Depending on the number of lamps installed, an average household switching from conventional bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps could make net savings (taking into account higher purchasing price of the lamps) between 25 and 50 € a year on their electricity bill."


    Where the 'Commission' fails to take into account these so called 'long-life' fluorescents are so badly manufactured (yet sold at higher price than value) that they break quicker than normal incandescent bulbs, can flicker incessantly, and have a nasty habit of requiring a warming up of a minute or two on average before reaching their most efficient output stage.

    Higher breakage numbers causes higher demand for replacements, causing the landfill to, well, fill quicker. Efficient right? everybody except the consumer happy.

    Mine's the flame proof one with the wide spectrum LED floodlights in the pockets.

  10. Sleepy
    Thumb Down


    So, tonnes of dimmers and fittings that won't take CFLs to landfill.

  11. Mark Haven

    Light Quality & Energy Savings

    The argument on energy savings of CFL's has been comprehensively rubbished. They simply don't save anything like the energy claimed due to the principle of reactive load rather than resistive load. The savings quoted are based on a lamp being left on constantly - this almost never happens in real settings. When you switch them on and off each time the reactive load uses a lot of energy. In addition, if you heat your home as opposed to cooling it, any energy saved from CFL's is further undermined because your boiler will simply have to work harder to compensate for the heat previously produced by your lighting.

    When you factor in the enormous environmental costs of production and the embodied energy in the components you completely eradicate any saving at all.

    Then we have to consider the hideously cold and unflattering light quality, noticeable flicker, inability to dim or badly dim, mercury pollution in the home from breakages and difficulty of disposal (because of mercury). In addition, the very best and most expensive CFL's only render colours at about 80% efficiency whereas incandescent are almost 100% - this means colours look dull with a prominence of green (the so called "green spike" dominant in all fluorescent sources). There is now masses of evidence that CFL's can worsen migraine and epilepsy in susceptible individuals.

    The whole agenda is being pushed by manufacturers, an ill informed green lobby and corrupt politicians. Why? because a CFL retails at around 10 to 20 times the price of an incandescent. They stand to make a lot of money (billions) from replacement of existing bulbs with CFLs - a manifestly inferior technology. When anyone questions this strategy they and their cronies in government respond with misleading arguments about energy saving.

    So, the truth is, if you want a bulb for a stairwell which is left on 24 hours a day and provides cold, unflattering light - then buy a CFL. Otherwise, stick with incandescents, halogen, LED or any of the many superior technologies available.

  12. Sleepy

    And this too...

    "Eventually, the Trust admitted, the low energy bulbs make little difference to the householder because the lower heat output in cool climates - like ours - means people spend more on heating"

  13. Anonymous Coward

    environmental TCO

    last I heard electricity supply has the potential to be pretty easy on the environment - certainly easier than manufacturing and disposing of these types of bulbs.

    I just wonder about the environmental TCO

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lightbulbs to be gone by 2012?

    Not if the EU goes first.

    (There are _always_ alternatives.)

  15. John Lewis

    Someone please think of the "dimmers"

    So how does my dimmer switch work with this crap new technology ?

    The suggestions I have seen so far involve cobbled together solutions where the bulbs dim to 4 preset settings by pressing the light switch. Nothing like a retrograde step from my very variable dimmer to adjust the light levels depending on how dark it is outside and how bright the DVD / TV picture is for any given show.

    More unnecessary meddling from Brussels - if they are worried about carbon footprints and energy consumption the abolish the EU parliament with all those MEPs jetting in and out and legislate that national governments can only sit for 3 months solid each year then spend the rest of the time sitting "virtually" from their home offices where their constituents can get at them.

    Far better idea than caning the average family for expensive, inferior bulbs that don't work with dimmer switches.

  16. this

    Yes but

    you can't dim the flipping things.

  17. James

    Saving ?

    "The EC estimates that reduced use of electric power for lighting across Europe will save "close to 80" terawatt-hours by the year 2020. That's a trifle less than three per cent of a single year's UK energy consumption."

    By which time, of course, the 3% will have been swamped by another million types of different and almost entirely useless electronic devices...

    ... or we'll have been overrun by the next ice age.....

  18. Anonymous Scotsman


    I for one am going to stockpile these, they're more reliable than a savings account at the moment anyway.

  19. Paul


    If 80 terawatt hours is microscopic I would hate to think what you think is large!

  20. Anonymous Coward


    I keep reading that you shouldn't use CFL bulbs in dimmer switched fittings. Is this still the case? Is there an alternative? The only bulbs in my house that aren't CFLs are in my living room ceiling cluster and I am replacing them every 6-12 months!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Better Lighting

    So we used to have 2x 100W ligh bulbs in our lounge / diner.

    The low power energy-saving bulbs are crap as they are not bright enough to read at night and if you want to set the mood, on dimmers thery are horrible.

    Now to get the same sort of light levels we have 2x fittings with 6x 50w halogen in each.

    I must admit that I've now switch some to 35W.

    So 600w using the halogen option doesn't seem very efficient compaired to our old 200W incandescent option. But hey, that's progress.

  22. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    At long last

    The filament light bulb is truly an idea whose time has been and gone; something we will all be better off without.

    Let's hope disposable batteries are next.

  23. Alan

    wait for it...

    cue the mass panic from daily mail readers buying up the non energy efficient bulbs.

  24. Dave

    The whole story?

    How much energy is used to make a CF bulb, and dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly manner at the end of its life? How does that compare to the costs for incandescent bulbs (suitably scaled to allow for different expected lifetimes of the bulbs)?

    A lot of these green ideas turn out to be bad when looked at in more detail, just as with offshore wind turbines, where the carbon cost of making and installing one is huge compared to the amount of energy it can generate over its lifetime.

    Or catalytic converters, which force engines to use more fuel than lean-burn engines...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    How's this for a conspiracy theory:

    A more accurate name for traditional lightbulbs might be 'heatbulbs', since the majority of the energy used by them is given off as heat, rather than light. Whilst this heat is viewed by the folk in brussels as 'wasted' energy, in Northern europe (and indeed most of the continent during winter), the heat given off would go towards warming the home - hardly wasted. Especially since that heat is only generated in the room that is in use, rather than throughout the entire house, as with a central heating system.

    Furthermore, the materials used in the manufacture of old-style lightbulbs (glass, tungsten and argon) are common and fairly harmless chemicals, whereas some of the materials in compact fluorescent bulbs are markedly less pleasant (mercury vapour anyone?) These bulbs are also markedly more expensive (and I suspect, have a higher profit margin).

    So here's your conspiracy: CFLs are being pushed by Brussels because they are being paid by the manufacturers, and also by the gas companies. We could even stretch it to the Russian Mafia, if we want to, since they're (allegedly) the ones supplying the gas after all...

    Anon, 'cos it's a conspiracy.

  26. Adam


    Will they be providing grants to replace all the dimmer switches with updated compatible ones, or would they rather just wait and pay out for all the epileptic fits that will result?

    Why don't they just force... I mean implement this amongst the warmer countries in the EU where this will provide savings on air-con use in summer? In most of the EU, houses are heated for much of the year so any saving on electricity use by energy-savers is balanced by increased gas useage in the boiler.

    Perhaps we should just ban striking in France? That would save a lot of energy and be much better for the EU economy.

  27. blackworx
    Thumb Down

    200W Bulbs

    Time to stock up on those 200W bulbs I love so much. When you need instant short term bright light for a room or cupboard no halogen or bayonet/screw fitting fluoro comes even remotely close.

  28. Ian

    Energy Saving?

    So the new bulbs are more efficient at converting the energy into light because they do not "waste" so much energy in the form of heat. I do not regard that energy as wasted, as without this extra heat my thermostat will fire up the central heating more often offsetting the electricity saved with more gas burned. How green is a CFL? comparing a bit of glass and tin from the old bulbs to the ceramics,plastics and electronics of the CFLs I would say not very. but what do I know as a heretic denier apostate.

  29. g e

    Ban these too...

    Those godawful crappy green-light 'white' flourescent low power bulbs that make everything look like it's been vomited on. Bought a couple for the hallway unwittingly a while ago. Never again will I buy anything made by that co :o(

  30. Stef


    "The new measures "deliver a clear message about the EU's commitment to reach its energy efficiency and climate protection targets," according to Commissioner Piebalgs"

    Yes, a very clear message. The message being "You just know that I have a controlling interest in the 'green' lightbulb business and will be making a fortune out of this latest scam".

    So, will they be throwing away perfectly good working bulbs, or just replacing them when they die?

  31. General A. Annoying

    It'll be a LONG time...

    before Ye Olde Incandescents are gone. People will stock up on them to use in light fittings that simply are not suitable for, or were never designed to be compatible with, CFLs.

    Personally, we have 36% of the fixed lighting in our house still running on Ye Olde Bulbes, simply because the fittings are not suitable for CFLs (either too big to go inside the enclosed glass shade and still give enough light, or on a PIR that's not rated for CFL). the rest run on halogens. If that sort of percentage is repeated across europe, that's a shitload of lighting.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    time to move on

    While there may be many confused opinions with regards to this matter it is time to move on. Many people have been quite tired of the popular but misguided argument that old bulbs give heat and so there would be no energy saving as you would in a cold climate need to add heat to spaces to compensate the loss of heat from the old style bulbs. This is a very confused and limited argument.

    1. When I need light I do not always need heat at that particular time or in that particular space.

    2. Even if I would need heat I would like to be able to control how much, where and when I add it. Lights are by definition placed and constructed with the regulation of light in mind - heat is an a consequence which is not regulated as part of lighting solutions.

    3. Any energy saving effort requires some control and regulation in the home. This is why people have installed light switches - to be able to control when they wish to have the light on. This is also why people have termostats on their radiators - to be able to control the heat in their rooms etc.

    This is what energy management is about. Some nonsense about light giving heat is only relevant if the lightsource was managed as a heat source - well this is not the case by definition. People do not install lights in their homes because they are cold...

    It is time to move on - we in the uk have in this case been dragging our feets for over ten years - as in so many other things - unfortunately.

  33. Trygve Henriksen
    Paris Hilton

    Loads of inaccuracies...

    What these people fails to take into account is that in many places switching to more efficient lightbulbs will result in more energy used for heating.

    This means that the savings will be higest in the summer months(when you don't use as much lights, anyway)

    If they REALLY want to save energy this is not really the way to go.

    (It makes perfect sense in outdoor lighting or cold rooms, though.)

    They should first consider improving the buildings by requiring better insulation, double glazing and so on.

    Estimates here in Norway is that a typical household with a 160square meter one-storey home with a cold attic, built during the 70s, and which has 4" of glass wool insulation in the ceiling, will save enough energy to pay down the cost of adding another 4" of insulation in 2years or less.

    (Building code now specifies 12" of insulation... )

    Replacing old doubleglazing from the same period will also reapy the cost in not too many years. (Many of those panels are no longer sealed, and better glass have also been introduced)

    A 'heat pump' will also give back 3 - 4 times more heat than an oldfashioned panel heater, watt for watt. (Air-to-air models can be installed in just about any home, and Air-to-water can be fitted to houses with a central heating system. )

    Paris, because... well... while she's not exactly the brightest bulb, she's HOT!

  34. Professor Quatermass

    When the lights dim

    So we're doomed to work by guttering candles and shitty CFL bulbs whose wonky illumination throws cold, coloured shadows across my studio. And yum, yum we all love a little more quicksilver loose in the environment.

    Professional Photographers of the World - UNITE!

    When will LED alternatives be in place again? They're the only bulbs worth a damn and that don't give me a headache.

  35. Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    And then what

    UK Gov are about 10 years behind the rest of Northern Europe in terms of recycling, if I'm not mistaken these bulbs use a fair old whack of mercury and we chuck them where exactly?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well I'm glad they still allow those halogen lamps. Even though they don't save much energy, they're very compact, dimmable, and produce a lovely mid-white light (and which I'd recommend to any CFL-haters).

    Now I'd better go and stock up on replacement bulbs for the lava lamp (which won't work on energy saving ones).

  37. Chris Branch

    Drop in the ocean

    Still, the bureaucrats need to keep busy somehow.

  38. Ian Yates
    Thumb Up


    A pedant I may be, but I've long given up explaining to people why "bulb" isn't the correct name for lamps (and why "lamp" isn't the tall thing with the shade in the corner of your room). Heck, even manufacturers put bulb on their packaging.

    That aside, it was strangely warming to see El Reg use bulb in quotes.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Haven't we been here before?

    The reductions are much less because you have to turn the heat up, so in terms of population in the EU, the majority receive little, if any, benefit as our summers aren't that long and are times when we get more daylight anyway.

    That's without counting the development and shipping costs of all these new bulbs or discussing the use of toxic substances in their manufacture.

    Perhaps it would have been a better "goal" to have banned lighting in advertisements. Most major cities have huge adverts lit at night.

  40. Paul

    "more performant technologies"

    Err, what?

    Really, I think the Local Government Association should have a stern word with these guys.

    And the EU wonders why people think of them as a bunch of faceless bureaucrats....

    On topic:

    I hope this is going to be a rule that says, "thou shalt not use more than X watts per lumin" rather than "thou shalt use technology X"

    If they had insisted on pollution limits, rather than obligating catalytic converters, we might have had more efficient cars by now.

  41. Kevin Johnston

    deliver a clear message

    very clear.....playing silly newsbite games does nothing in real terms. Once again they are playing fast and loose with the numbers by ignoring 'whole life' costs in favour of 'household use' costs which changes the balance dramatically. As you say, the saving will amount to a fleabite of the total consumption and generates a whole host of interesting chemicals etc for disposal which was not the case with "last century's" technology, a real step forward there then. At least the technology developed for these advanced projective illuminatory facilitators will be of benefit in other areas of modern living....won't they?

  42. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    A disaster for the Astrologers

    Brussels logic is that people will use the same amount of lights but much less electrical power. In reality there will be less economic incentive for people to switch things off so they'll just not bother. (I know this for a fact as my kids have free leccy and that's what they do.)

    I predict light pollution will therefore rise sharply and squinty spods out in their gardens with telescopes will be able to see even less in the night sky. (Yes I know but I'm bored today, cue frothing in 10..9..)

  43. Jesse Dorland

    Won't make much of a difference

    Many offices, and residents user leave their on for days, if not months. I don't see this will have any affect on environment.

  44. Mike
    Thumb Down


    "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

  45. Roger Pearse

    Fascist scum

    Since when was it any of their business how we light our homes? Honestly, these fascist bigots need to be shoved hard in the face and told to get out of ours.

    Apart from anything else, in this country it gets dark a lot. Making it difficult to light a house properly is a real health risk to those who suffer from SAD. None of us want fluorescents in our homes -- that's why they're having to force us. Halogen doesn't work except for spot lights anyway. So... no choice except to hoard lightbulbs. Already the swine have taken away 100w lightbulbs.

    But the real issue is that none of us were consulted, none of us agreed to this, and it interferes with all of our lives.

    What can we do? NuLab, LibDem and Call-me-Dave have all agreed to screw us over and give us no choice. Fine: vote for someone else. I suggest we all vote BNP.

    Why them in particular? Because the politicians are shit-scared of us doing so. That's a good enough reason. It will get their attention. (Of course if the BNP were about to form a government, we'd have find someone else, but I think it's safe enough now). It sends a very clear message of protest: "Enough conniving among yourselves, you thieving bastards -- stop meddling with our lives!"

    Alternatively just sit in the dark and be grateful that your masters allow you any light at all?

  46. Anonymous Coward


    300w halogen uplight more efficient than 100w incandescent bulb pointing down?

  47. Seanmon
    Thumb Down

    Start stockpiling.

    I tried, I really did, but I ditched low-energy bulls last month. 1) They're shit. 2) You can't use them with a dimmer switch. 3) Might save you some money if you live in Buckingham Palace, but they make bugger-all difference in my impoverished hovel, not while I'm running PCs, TV, washing machine etc. 4) They're shit. 5) My house is 1900's with accordingly ancient wiring and period light fittings, LE bulbs simply don't work in many of them. 6) Where they do work, they're shit. 7) Environmentally friendly my arse, more energy to produce than decent bulbs and contain mercury. 8) For the same reason, if you (or your kids) drop one, be careful cleaning it up. 10) Take ages to come on, longer to produce full light. 11) They're shit. 12) Unreliable - I've had pale pink, pale green, and some simply don't work, anywhere. 13) They don't fit in a lot of smaller lampshades. 14) They're ugly. 15) And shit.

  48. Marvin the Martian
    IT Angle

    Good for us, bad for our reptilian minions.

    So what are you whining about this time? Go to LIDL this week for 5 low-energy 11w-replaces-60w Philips bulbs with 10y guarantee and pay all of 40pence. Yes. So if you can calculate then you do this replacement without legal pushing, but 90% of the population can't and a mostly-overlapping 90% can't be @rsed.

    To me it's a loss this ruling, because I like inefficient lamps: they are the most cheap and practical way to provide a nice basking spot for reptiles of any size.

    I know the official policy is to try to ridicule whatever rules come from Brussels, but frankly this amateuristic country needs such prodding. [Yes, you're speaking to someone who tries to buy a property, finds it has decorative mouldings of plaster and asbestos, and all parties involved try to now not look each other in the eyes. This may colour my emotions.] Anyway, you pointedly never applaud such rules when they are beneficial (choosing then to ridicule labour instead).

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Does this take account of the cost incurred also replacing dimmer switches which do not work with everyday energy saving lightbulbs?

  50. Asoces

    I wonder...

    ...if their cost savings estimates factor in the energy and resources needed to safely deal with the toxic mercury contained in the compact fluorescent bulbs.


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