EU CFL FAQ 2 – Part III a

Here are comments to part III:1-11 of the FAQ#2. Part II was not relevant enough to comment, but anyone interested can read it for themselves here.

EU FAQ: III. Compact Fluorescent Lamp issues

III.1. Advantage of using compact fluorescent lamps

A compact fluorescent lamp offers:
- up to 80% energy saving compared to an conventional incandescent bulb
- about 60 € cost savings over its lifetime
- a lifetime of at least 6-10 years (compared to 1-2 years for conventional incandescent bulbs)
- no risk of burning due to the lamp’s operating temperature
- a wider choice of colour temperatures (cool or warm light, conventional incandescent bulbs can only be warm light)

Still desperately trying to find something good to say about the CFL, I see, as if the Commission were actually selling them instead of just defending an unpopular law. Well, we’ve already established that the best save theoretically 66-75%, in reality even less with all the below mentioned factors included. Thus, the other calculations must be adjusted downwards to reflect this.

III.3. Quantity of light

Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps produce less light than conventional incandescents?

Compact fluorescent lamps can produce just as much light as conventional incandescent bulbs. Consumers should check the product packaging to buy lamps of the appropriate power and light output. Currently, exaggerated claims are often made on the packaging about the light output of compact fluorescent lamps (e.g. that a 11-12 Watt compact fluorescent lamp would be the equivalent of a 60 Watt conventional incandescent, which is not true). The regulation will introduce restrictions on equivalence claims made on the product packaging, in order to keep the claims reasonable.

This is good! Will the Commission also quit making false claims about “80% savings” which, as mentioned in your own quote, is not true. (Only if an 11-12W CFL gave as much light as a 60W GLS would this be accurate.)

III.4. Lifetime

Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps have a much shorter life time than generally claimed?

Untrue. There are indeed low quality compact fluorescent lamps that do not reach their normal life time (6000 h), but most respect the claimed values in average domestic use.

Sources to back up this “most”, please. Life rates achieved in optimal lab conditions may be very different from those conditions encountered in homes…

The regulation introduces requirements on lifetime so that national market surveillance can eliminate free-runners.

Who will be doing the checking? I’ve been informed that quality tests are made in China, not in Europe. Will those that don’t pass the tests be banned from import and sales in Europe? Will those who make exaggerated claims be fined?

III.5. Switching frequency

Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps should not be switched on/off frequently because it shortens their lifetime? For example, does it make sense to install them in a toilet which is used for 5 minutes 10 times a day?

It is true that frequent switching reduces the lifetime of some compact fluorescent lamps. This functionality is also addressed by the regulation, requiring that compact fluorescent lamps should reach the claimed life time while being switched on/off once for every hour of operation. Where frequent on/off switching is likely, dedicated compact fluorescent lamps that can endure up to 1 million switching cycles, or other energy saving light sources insensitive to switching can be used (such as improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology which will also remain available). If this is a feature consumers are concerned about, they should look out for the information on the product packaging, where the manufacturers will be required to display the number of times the lamp can be switched on before failure.

Short translation: Yes, it is true. That CFL life may be shortened by up to 85% by being switched on and off frequently, according to Osram and Chen W, Davis R, and Ji Y. 1998. “An Investigation of the Effect of Operating Cycles on the Life of Compact Fluorescent Lamps” which found that when the length of time the lamps were on was reduced from 3 hours to 1 hour, the lamp lasted for 80 percent of its rated life. When reduced to 15 min and 5 min, the lamp lasted for 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of its rated life.

As most of us don’t have and many possibly can’t afford the new and improved CFLs of higher quality that can withstand frequent switching, this means that in reality CFLs used at home and turned on and off many times a day do not last as long as their rated life. Consumer complaints all over the internet appear to support this assumption.

III.6. Dimmability

Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps cannot be dimmed?

Untrue, there are compact fluorescent lamps on the market that can be dimmed, and there are dimmers that can dim any compact fluorescent lamp. Consumers should carefully read product information concerning dimmability.

Most CFLs still cannot be dimmed. The few dimmable CFLs are a) hard to find; b) cost up to 20€; c) will not create that warm candle-like light like dimming incandescents does, but just make the already poorer quality light even more grey and dull than it already is. The only advantage is that you can use them in existing dimmable luminaires without destroying both lamp and luminaire and causing a fire hazard.

Improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology will also remain available and provide full dimmability in all circumstances.

Not frosted halogens.

III.7. Starting and warm up times

Do compact fluorescent lamps really take longer to switch on and warm up to full light output than conventional incandescent lamps?

True. In order to guarantee an acceptable level of service with any compact fluorescent lamp, the regulation introduces minimum requirements on switch-on and warm-up times. Switching on a compact fluorescent lamp shall not take more than 2 seconds, and it should reach 60% of its full light output within one minute. However, there are now compact fluorescent lamps on the market that come close to conventional incandescent bulbs for these performance parameters from the point of view of the average consumer. If these are features consumers are concerned about, they should look out for the information on the product packaging, where the manufacturers will be required to display warmup-times.

An awful lot of things consumers need to educate themselves on, or ask well informed staff about, in order to get the right bulb for the right application. Before CFLs, you could just grab a bulb at the supermarket and stick it anywhere without problem. All you needed to know was watts and socket type.

Improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology will also remain available and provide full light ouput instantly.

Not frosted.

III.8. Shape and light quality

Isn’t the shape of compact fluorescent lamps ugly and do they not produce unpleasant light (also in terms of colour rendering, colour temperature and light spectrum)?

Consumers usually find modern quality CFLs perfectly suitable for everyday tasks and aesthetically pleasing.

Eh, no. If this was true, there would be no customer complaints, there would be no objection to this regulation, or indeed a need for it at all, and people would not be hoarding incandescent bulbs in desperation.

Yes, they keep getting better, but that’s still not good enough. I keep checking state-of-the-art CFLs and LEDs just to make sure I’m not missing any acceptable replacements, but I have yet to find one that gives the same light as an incandescent or halogen.

There may be some substandard compact fluorescent lamps on the market, but those will be removed through the functionality requirements of the regulation.

Well, some are worse than others, yes, but all standard CFLs, even from leading manufacturers, have suboptimal colour rendering (CRI 82-85) and give a dull and dead light compared to incandescent/halogen.

Improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology will also remain available and produce exactly the same light quality as conventional incandescent bulbs.

Yes they do, but you’ve already banned frosted halogens and want to phase out most of the rest too.

Overall, the perception of shape and light quality is quite subjective, however there are parameters that can be measured. On some of these parameters, CFLs are actually doing better than conventional incandescent bulbs and halogens.

Really now? Well, let’s see:

Size and shape

Modern CFLs come in a variety of sizes and shapes approaching that of conventional incandescent bulbs. The outer lamp envelope that hides the small twisted lighting tubes has become commonplace, and makes CFLs resemble frosted (non-transparent) conventional incandescent bulbs in appearance.

This is mainly an aestetic advantage to make them look and function more like a traditional bulb. But the outer bulb also makes them less efficient and durable so this isn’t what the Commission really wants us to use, it just sounds good to be able to use this example in reply to complaints about fit and look.

Colour rendering

In order to ensure proper colour rendering (ability to reproduce the colours of the objects lit) for CFLs, the regulation introduces a minimum requirement on this product parameter.

Which I assume will be CRI between 80 and 85 (= mediocre) as higher CRI means adding more phosphors, making them more expensive?

Colour temperature

CFLs can be produced with different colour temperatures (warm/cold) depending on consumer needs, whereas conventional incandescent lamps can only provide warm white light.

Here in the North that warm light is much appreciated, but those who still prefer a cooler light should use white LEDs as WLEDs are naturally cool-white without the added phosphor coating to make it almost-warm-white. LEDs also last longer, can often be dimmed and contain no mercury. No reason to use CFLs for this. For professional colour discrimination uses, there is also the halogen Solux lamp.

The regulation requires the indication of colour temperature on the lamp’s packaging, so consumers should watch out for this information.

Good. Even if it is another thing the consumers have to educate themselves on. One thing that is not so good is that manufacturers can claim same Correlated Colour Temperature as incandescent light = “same light”. But same CCT does not say anything about light quality or actual light colour. A pink-white CFL or green-white LED can have a CCT of 2700K and still not look at all like the golden-white light from an incandescent. Just like CFLs and LEDs can have a CCT of 5000K and still produce a very different colour than the warmish neutral-white of real sunlight.

Light spectrum

If natural daylight is taken as a reference, both conventional incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps fail to imitate it perfectly, but for different reasons. Natural daylight has a spectrum which is a continuous curve, as strong at the blue and ultraviolet wavelengths as at the yellow and red wavelengths. The light of conventional incandescent bulbs has a continuous spectrum, however it has very little blue component and an extremely high proportion of red and infrared component, therefore it is very yellow and most of it is emitted as heat.

Incandescent light is golden-white and the eye adjusts. As there are no gaps in the spectrum, all colours can be seen. How well depends somewhat on how bright it is, as incandescent light gets whiter at higher wattages.

The spectrum of compact fluorescent lamps differs from natural daylight in that it is not a continuous curve. They emit a high amount of light at certain wavelengths and almost nothing at adjacent wavelengths.

Correct. Which makes colours look rather dull, in comparison with how they look in incandescent light. Do try a direct comparison for yourself. (Yes, you too, commissioners, so you can see with your own eyes what you’re phasing out.) And do try with the back of a CD to see how much of the spectrum you can see under various lamps.

However, in terms of the proportion of light emitted within the blue and red wavelength ranges, there are compact fluorescent lamps that are able to reproduce daylight more precisely than conventional incandescent bulbs.

Those special superduperexpensive ‘full-spectrum’ lamps? I’ve tried them when working with colours and found them lacking. The best I’ve tried for true colour rendering was a 150W halogen floodlight and of course real daylight. Both of which have higher CRI and colour rendering capacity than even the best CFLs.

III.10. Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps do not work in cold temperatures?

A standard compact fluorescent lamp will indeed lose a substantial part of its light output in cold temperatures. However, there exist compact fluorescent lamps designed specifically for outdoor use which can withstand cold temperatures without losing performance. Consumers should watch out for this information (required by the regulation for display on the packaging) when purchasing compact fluorescent lamps. Improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology will also remain available and can operate in any ambient temperature.

Great… more things to look out for…

III.11. Price

Aren’t compact fluorescent lamps much more expensive than conventional incandescent bulbs?

Compact fluorescent lamps are actually much cheaper than conventional incandescent bulbs if you consider also lamp life time and costs related to electricity consumption while using the lamps. During the lifetime of one compact fluorescent lamp you will have used 6-10 conventional incandescent lamps. And the compact fluorescent lamp will consume one fourth / one fifth of the electricity consumed by conventional incandescents, another cost saver. A six-year-life energy-saving bulb would save about €36 during its lifetime (60W conventional incandescent versus 15W compact fluorescent lamp). This is based on an assumption of 3 continuous burning hours per day, for an energy cost of 0,136 €/kWh. The initial difference in the lamp price is paid back in 8 months through electricity savings and because of the distribution of the product cost over a longer lifetime (assuming a price of 4,50 € for the compact fluorescent lamp and 60 cents for incandescent bulb).

Hm, but if one has switched the CFL on-and-off too often (due to not being informed of the 15-minute-on recommendation), or used it in a closed or recessed luminaire (due to not having been informed that it may get overheated), or it loses too much output after a while so that it has to be replaced long before it burns out (and not having been informed that one should buy a 20W to compensate for the inevitable gradual loss that all CFLs suffer from), or one got a poor quality CFL at the local gas station that only lasted half the promised life, this rather cuts expected savings too, doesn’t it?

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