Banning of incandescent light bulbs

Incandescnt light bulbs are being phased out, and being replaced by compact fluorescents. This was decided in 2007, and it becomes effective from late 2009.

It was one of the proposals put forward by a group of politicians in Brussels designed to reduce our energy use and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, in the belief that 'global warming' might be reduced.

Twenty per cent of our energy was by 2020 was to come from 'renewables'.

Vast areas of farmland were to be switched from food production to growing crops for biofuels.

The EU's industries, and us, would be obliged to pay tens of billions of euros for implementing the proposals.

You probably know all this, and I guess you are as impressed as me.


Compact fluorescents are highly variable.

The best are reasonable replacements for incandescents.

Some emit a harsh, unpleasant white light.

In my experience, most don't get anywhere near their stated lifetime of 6000, 8000 or 10000 hours (roughly 6, 8 or 10 years).

For comparison, a conventional bulb is reckoned to have a lifetime of around 1000 hours (about 1 year).

Some older people cannot read by them.

Some compact fluorescents take a while to warm up.

They work best when left on; constant switching shortens their lifetime.

Many compact fluorescents are the wrong size for existing electrical fittings.

Most will not work with dimmer switches.

Some, under certain conditions, can 'strobe' - which means that working machinery can appear to be stationary (drills, lathes, etc); the use of low-energy bulbs in these situations should be avoided.


The cynic in me says that if we use less electricity, the unit price will go up. However, using less fossil fuel can't be a bad idea.

Each low energy lamp contains about 5mg of mercury (toxic). We are now using millions of them. Each broken, thrown-away lamp releases mercury into the environment.

A coherent policy for safe disposal would be welcome.

As an aside - a few years ago the EU banned antique barometers from being repaired because they require mercury.

The few people who possess these beautiful antiques can no longer get them legally serviced.

    Those who need a conventional bulb for a particular situation could do worse than buy "rough service" lamps, which are similar to the domestic grade item but which have a thicker glass envelope and extra filament supports. They are more robust than the ordinary type, and 2-3 times the price, but they are available, and suppliers are easily found on the internet. They are used in garage pit inspection lights. (I am indebted to a letter by B.R. of King's Lynn in the 'Daily Telegraph' for this information)

Nigel Deacon, habitat21 website

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