How switched on is the EU?

Germany’s environment minister Sigmar Gabriel wants normal light bulbs to be banned in the EU and energy saving lights used instead. Studies show that carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 25 million tonnes a year if both households and the services sector exchanged traditional light bulbs for energy saving lights.

Australia is leading on this and has pledged to phase out incandescent light bulbs in favour of energy efficient ones by 2010.

I have some of these energy saving lights at home and find them frustrating, slow to light up and then much dimmer than the normal light. Also, they are not available, to the best of my knowledge, for a variety of different light sockets, ie wall lights and chandeliers.

While it is excellent in theory to use energy saving light bulbs, I would like to see them designed so they are more effective. Otherwise, we will need to use more to get the same level of lighting, which defeat the whole object.

I would like to see sensor lighting systems introduced that fade or switch off when the room is unoccupied; is there anything more annoying than seeing all those office lights left on all night?

Do you use energy saving lights, what is your view about a possible ban of normal light bulbs? Does your office switch off its lights at night?


  1. Ron Knee

    More energy could be saved if the government were to ban breathing. The act of drawing breath in and out contributes considerably to the effect of global warming……

  2. Hi Vicky, I’m impressed that your sleuthing was so successful. As you can see from the comments posted here, many of us have not had positive experiences with these energy saving bubls, I hope they are improved and will become affordable too. I would like to know where you bought yours from if you can send the link so I can check it out.

  3. Ellee – How do you want to heat the nation? We clearly don’t need more global warming and unless you are happy with windfarms on every hill and nuclear powerstations near every beach then we need to look at saving energy too. We need a balance of all three.

    I’ve now got energy saving dimmers, and energy saving bulbs in every shape and size. It was a bit of an investment and took some shopping around but the new generation bulbs are much much better. We need to work out how to help those on low income afford these changes.

  4. To all those who say “You can’t get dimmable energy saving light bulbs”, I say “tosh”, a quick search in YAHOO brought up this site for starters.

    Too many people use silly excuses.

    You can also get smaller spotlight bulbs that are energy saving too.

  5. Kevin, thanks for the latest feedback, these energy efficiency bulbs seem to be a bit of a dead duck. I hope David Miliband picks up on this if he reads my post.

  6. Energy saving lamps cannot be dimmed, but they are already dimmer. They are slow to come on which can be dangerous as well as annoying and they are expensive. LED lights are quite good though on the other hand and use a lot less power in most cases. The flat fronted mirror-backed ones referred to sound like Halogens, either low voltage or 240volt.

  7. electro-kevin

    … well – waddaya expect from someone called Electro-Kevin ?

  8. electro-kevin

    Regarding compact flourescent lamps I read a letter this morning:

    The flourescent lamp is not sustainable, it contains lethal mercury and other components that cannot be disoposed of like the incandescent lamp. If you break one you should get a specialist to clean your home (additional power to do that too).Fluorescent tubes are banned from ordinary disposal by district councils. The tubes must either be collected or their owners must travel to special disposal units (additional petrol costs).

    As well as that the environmental costs of mineral extraction is said to be higher.

    At this point I’d like also to mention the hidden dust-to-dust costs of the Prius battery operated car which does not benefit from economies of scale because of its specialised production, and the costs of maintaining wind turbines in the long term which never seem to be discussed.

  9. Any steps taken in the direction of making our earth environmentally safe are welcome Use of energy saving lights seems to be a good idea and it’s fast picking up. In our office we use all energy saving lights.

    But before takling any drastic steps like banning ordinary lights, the quality of energy saving lights should improve and their prices should come down so that everybody could afford them.

  10. I was using the energy-saving tubes/bulb for a while, but like the others I found the light far too dim. Whether or not they are making them brighter now here in Aus, now that there is so much talk about them, I’m not sure. I intend looking into them again this week. There was report on TV yesterday morning which said they were as bright as globes, but I know the ones I was using weren’t. And it’s only about a years since I last used them…they may be stronger, now…I’ll keep you posted.

  11. Hi Ellee – As always I love your blog and I mentioned it on the late night show of 18 doughty street tonight! It was your talk on light bulbs and the fact that a London Hospital had removed light bulbs to cut costs! It seemed light (energy saving ot otherwise) was in short supply in a London hospital. As always great blog and thanks! Michelle

  12. Not another “ban” please… also price is a big issue in terms of environment where the argument is all about pay more now for long-term benefits. This isn’t a good argument for most people – since we don’t get more money now and have to budget on what we have not what we are going to earn in the lifetime of our lightbulbs.

    P.S. Check out though which is mapping the take up of energy light bulbs in the US. Quite fun and supposedly social pressure for change.

  13. PS – David Anthony, James Higham.
    Energy saving light bulbs don’t work with dimmer-switches? Who needs a dimmer switch with ‘dimmer’ energy saving light bulb

    Do they work with light sensors though

  14. Hi Elle, replacing normal light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs is a great idea.
    After all it is good for business, think how many ‘billion’ lightbulbs would have to be replaced in Europe alone – not sure we need to legislate though – are we going to check in people’s ‘bedrooms’ to see if they’ve been changed?
    Legislating may be the only way ‘motivate’ or force businesses to absorb the initial cost, but for some homes just another few pounds initial cost when you have no disposable income is still another few pounds they can’t afford – even if it makes sense bbecause of ‘savings’ in energy costs over time.

    I would like to see sensor lighting systems introduced that fade or switch off when the room is unoccupied;

    How true! – I think we are getting there, all those things that were xtras in cars (airbags, electric windows, electronic ignition…) are now standard, and many features on PCs or laptops that were expensive extras are now standard features. Maybe the homes of tomorrow will all have sensor lighting.

    I like the ‘battery’ solar lights which switch on when it is dark in the garden and drive too.

  15. I believe even newer technology will overtake these, my guess is that the future is with LED.

  16. There are two further things to be considered:

    1) How much energy is taken in manufacturing energy saving bulbs vs normal ones ? ( I don’t know the answer – but I’m will to guess the old fashioned bulbs are best here).
    2) The energy your saving is normally lost as heat – so you’ll have to turn up your central heating to make up the short fall. If your house is usually cold then where will the saving be ? (OK electricity generated heat must be about 25% as efficient as say gas – but then electricity can be generated by green technologies like Nuclear power).

    Elle what I find is missing on the energy saving bulb argument is a full life cycle analysis, however I do have a number of energy saving bulbs in the house ! But legislation isn’t justified – yet.

  17. They are pretty useless in the toilet unless you are the sort that spends half an hour.. well you know. By the time you leave they still havent reached full brightness.

    The biggest issue for me (which is why I raised Australia’s move yesterday) is the price. Why should we expect pensioners on a fixed income to pay much more for bulbs.

    And for those that say they last longer and in their lifetime will save you money – that’s no consolation for pensioners like those in my family who already decide not to buy things like a new carpet as they believe the current one will out live them!

    The solution isnt in legislation but in innovation. If they end up being competitive on price with normal bulbs – and do as good a job, then people will buy them of their own accord and legislation and bans will be pointless.

  18. If ordinary light bulbs are to be benned, then certainly the design of energy saving ones will have to be improved. I don’t think forcing people to use them is the way to go and we all have different requirements regarding how much light we need to read, etc. Here in Italy you do not see the waste of lights being left on overnight, because of energy restrictions.

  19. Another half thought through idea from the Brussels legislation factory.
    Who are the electrical companies who produce most of these energy saving bulbs?
    Not AEG by any chance, is it?

  20. ..frustrating, slow to light up and then much dimmer than the normal light..

    My feeling too but they assure us it’s early days.

  21. I have a few energy-saving bulbs in my flat, because they were here when I moved in. But they provide so little light, I’ve had to replace several of them simply because they are no good at doing their job!

    What’s the point of them of they don’t actually light up the room?!

  22. Energy saving lightbulbs do not work with dimmer-switches.

    I only have dimmer switches.

  23. The US state of California has also started to think about legislation that would ban the traditional light-bulb. I am not a hysterical eco-alarmist but I do believe we would all greatly benefit from the switch to the high-tech fluorescent bulbs. US energy policy think-tank the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that replacing a 75-watt incandescent light bulb with a 20-watt compact fluorescent saves 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of carbon dioxide over the life of the bulb.The institute said the average life of a 75-watt incandescent bulb is roughly 750 hours, while the life of an energy-efficient bulb is 10,000 hours
    I am not sure that an EU-wide ban on the traditional light bulb would actually work. As it is, few EU member states seem to be overly-concerned about their non-compliance with existing EU environmental law.
    See here:

  24. David Allen

    One of the reasons that the incandescent bulb has been around for so long is that it is such a simple and beautiful piece of design. One of the reasons these energy-saving bulbs has not taken off is because they are so ugly and large _ let alone the poor tone and strength of the light they emit and the slow start-up. They don’t look good in any light fitting. In my own home ALL the light bulbs are those small plastic cones with a mirrored back and flat front. They are simple, elegant and small _ but I haven’t a clue whether they are ‘green’ or not (altho’ they are fiendishly expensive).

  25. Northwing, thanks for the link which I have checked out. I didn’t realise they were that expensive. My husband works for a department store and buys them from there with his staff discount, so I’m not sure what we pay. I just know I’m always squinting in the hallway when I’m trying to dig out shoes from under the stairs because of the dimness of the energy saving lights.

  26. One of the things a lot of people don’t seem to like about energy savers is the yellowish cast you get once they do warm up. However there are some really good ‘daylight’ bulbs now, eg:

    Still expensive, but they do last a lot longer than normal bulbs.

  27. I have energy saving light bulbs in every room where it is appropriate. However, in the kitchen and bathroom, they are no use as they are simply not bright enough. If manufacturers could make the energy saving bulbs brighter, then good, good. But until then, a ban seems a bit heavy!

  28. like most things if its better for the environment, or health its always more expensive, another example is organic fruit and veg, so nice but so expensive….

  29. They’re also about 10 times the price of “standard” ones. How much more of this “green” nonsense are we going to have to put up with?

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