Shining the Light on Energy Saving Light Bulbs – The Top 10 Questions

Following on from Energy Saving Week, which took place from 19 – 25 October, we thought that it was about time someone tackled those myths about lighting – so here are our top 10 questions about energy saving light bulbs and those dirty incandescent ones.

1. Aren’t energy saving bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps) much dimmer than traditional ones?

Whilst CFLs once had a reputation for being dim this is now outdated. Most modern varieties – produced by household brands – are just as bright as traditional bulbs and give an equally ‘warm’ light.

2. Aren’t energy saving light bulbs full of mercury and other toxins? A standard energy efficient light bulb contains 3 to 4 milligrams of mercury- whilst a standard thermometer contains at least 100 times more mercury! Indeed, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs states that the amount of mercury in lamps is less than the mercury that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere by coal-fire power generation to produce the energy used by an incandescent lamp.

3. Why has my local supermarket stopped selling traditional light bulbs? From 1st September 2009, retailers in the UK were no longer allowed to buy traditional 100MW tungsten bulbs from their suppliers- they can however, still sell them until their supplies run out. Other wattage of bulbs will be phased out in a similar manner by 2012. Whilst many retailers chose to stockpile their traditional light bulbs, it is possible that some of the smaller retailers near you will run out of stocks quicker as they’ll have more limited storage in their shop.

4. How much would I save by using energy efficient light bulbs? Aren’t they more expensive to begin with? Again, they used to be, but nowadays you’ll find them competitively priced with the traditional bulbs. In fact, the EST estimates that not only will they last longer, but you save around 2.50 a year per bulb in energy bills – so you’ll save around a total of 65 in energy and replacement costs over the lifetime of each bulb.

5. Is this banning the sale of traditional bulbs (yet another) thing that the EU is forcing on us? Whilst there is an EU-wide directive covering the sale of traditional bulbs, the UK also has its own voluntary agreement with major retailers which actually goes further – stopping the sale of traditional bulbs a year earlier than the rest of the EU. The UK has also, uniquely in Europe, committed itself to cuts in carbon emissions outside any international treaty. Restricting the sales of traditional bulbs is regarded as being the “low hanging fruit” of the fight against climate change as it’s an easy, cost-positive way of cutting carbon quickly.

6. Don’t energy saving light bulbs need time to warm up? Again, this is something that energy savings bulbs have got a bad reputation for but now, it’s undeserved. A modern energy savings bulb will only take one or two seconds to reach full brilliance, which is barely noticeable in your day-to-day life.

7. Can you recycle energy efficient bulbs? Yes you can! Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, anywhere that sells energy saving light bulbs has to provide information on where they can be recycled. Many of the larger retailers will even take them away for you.

8. Aren’t energy saving light bulbs a danger to your health? I’ve heard they can cause migraines? Some people have concerns that energy saving bulbs pose a risk to human health. Some of the most common concerns are: Migraines: Many migraine support groups have raised this issue as a concern, the Department of Health is funding research into the matter. Epilepsy: Many people fear than energy saving bulbs can cause epilepsy. However, Epilepsy Action says: “Epilepsy Action is not aware of any evidence that low energy light bulbs can directly trigger epileptic seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy” Skin concerns: The Health Protection Agency state that open (single envelope) CFLs should not be used where people are closer than 30 cm to 1 ft to the bare light bulb for over 1 hour a day. At these distances CFLs might emit Ultra Violet (UV) light at a level less than equivalent to being outside on a sunny summer’s day. As of September 2009 as a result of EU legislation, all energy saving light bulbs emit a safe amount of UV light so pose no cancer risk.

9. I have lots of dimmer switches in my home – can I use energy saving light bulbs? What about Bayonet and Cap fittings -I’m not sure I like those weird-looking ones? Traditionally, energy efficient light bulbs have not been available for dimmer switch lights and were exclusively available in the “weird” design. However, as a result of recent innovations, energy saving dimmer switch lights are starting to become more widely available. Why not search for them online? Likewise, energy efficient bulbs are now available in both Cap and bayonet fittings in a range of designs -including “lookalikes” which are exactly like traditional designs. The Energy Saving trust has a comprehensive guide to the different energy saving light bulbs on their website.

10. Is it more energy-efficient to keep energy saving lights on all the time, or should I turn them on and off as needed?

Turning a light on uses about the same amount of energy as keeping one on for two minutes -so it’ll be more efficient to turn them off as you leave the room if you know you’re not coming back for a short while. So that’s it! The phasing out of incandescent light bulbs is a really positive step for you and the environment. With the economy going through such a tough time, who wants to spend their hard-earned cash on something as boring as keeping the lights on! Now you know all the facts, get some energy saving light bulbs for your home and treat yourself with the money you’ve saved.