Incandescent Light Quality

Bye Bye Light Bulb – Do NOT Rest In Peace!

Now the last standard incandescent bulbs (15W, 25W, 40W) are banned from production and import in the EU. Remaining stocks may still be sold. Small special lamps, some decorative and rough service lamps will still be available (see Freedom Lightbulb for details). Reflector lamps will be restricted from next year and most incandescent halogen lamps from 2016.

This is truly sad because there is NO replacement for incandescent light quality, because the alternatives do no not produce light by incandescence (glow) but by technical, electronic and chemical processes which create radically different light properties, besides containing both more electronics and more potentially toxic, environmentally destroying or rare and expensive substances.

Here I’ve made a rough overview of lamp types family tree:

Whereas standard incandescent lamps and halogen incandescent lamps can be said to be ‘siblings’, all other lamp types have nothing more in common with incandescent lamps than being powered by electricity.

So, no matter how much effort is put into creating a phosphor mix that will superficially look more or less incandescent-like, it will just never be the same because it is a chemical composite light, a sort of digital soul-less light, totally lacking the warm natural glow of incandescence.

Banning a top quality product in favour of totally different and quality-wise inferior products is like banning wine with the argument that “wine-lovers can just as well drink cider, practically the same thing” because both are mildly alcoholic beverages with a superficial similarity. Or banning silk because there are micro-fibre materials with a silk-like look – everyone knows it’s not the same thing! Both have their respective uses and both should naturally be available on the market unless harmful.

What’s so special about incandescent light then?

Incandescent light (along with sunlight) is the ‘gold standard’ against which all other types of light is measured (even according the Global Lighting Association, p. 10 in this document). This is why so much effort has been put into trying to copy its light colour, colour rendering capacity, dimmability, heat- & cold resistance, perfect power factor and other unique qualities – without ever having hope of succeeding on more than the most superficial levels, because:

• Unlike other artificial light sources, incandescent and halogen lamps are tungsten black-body radiators, a safely contained and electrically amplified version of the same fire-light which humanity has evolved with since fire was first discovered. Lighting designer Ed Cansino in a highly informative interview:

“…if I were forced to choose the best lighting for residential overall, it would have to be incandescent. I feel that we as humans have had a deep connection to flame for many thousands of years. It’s almost like it’s in our DNA. It’s interesting that as time moves on, people are still drawn to sitting around the camp fire, a fireplace, even a barbecue. Think of a Yule log. It’s just that this particular quality of light is ingrained in us. You can even get a screen saver of log flames. Incandescents with their glowing filaments are a form of flame and are thus an extension of this inborn affinity that we have for fire.”

(photo: ALAMY, source: www.telegraph.co.uk)

• Incandescent light colour follows the Planck curve so that when dimmed or used at lower wattages, the light colour gets proportionally warmer and more candle like. Increase brightness or use a higher watt lamp, and it gets whiter again. This is how a natural light source behaves. Whereas LED and CFL gets more blue, green or grey, even if they were reasonably warm-white at full power. Example of how an incandescent (left) and an LED (right) looks before and after dimming in a Consumer Reports test lab video from KOMO News (click on link to see full video, these are only snapshots):

Incandescent & LED full power
(source: http://www.komonews.com)

Incandescent & LED dimmed(source: www.komonews.com)

Incandescent & LED dimmed
(source: http://www.komonews.com)

• Like natural daylight, incandescent light has the highest possible colour rendering (CRI 100) due to naturally continuous spectrum, and a warm-white, human-friendly light which radiates and makes colours come alive (unlike the duller light from CFLs and LEDs with CRI just over 80).

Strawberries (source: http://www.cielux.com)

Ron Rosenbaum describes it more poetically:

I’ve tried the new CFLs, and they are a genuine improvement—they don’t flicker perceptibly, or buzz, or make your skin look green. There is a difference, and I’d be in favor of replacing all current fluorescent bulbs with CFLs. But even CFLs glare and blare—they don’t have that inimitable incandescent glow. So don’t let them take lamplight away. Don’t let them ban beauty.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a plea for Ye Olde Times, for gaslight and quill pens. It’s just a plea not to take for granted the way we illuminate our world. Not all change is improvement. Why do I put such a premium on incandescence? For one thing, I am a bit romantic about it. A lamp fitted with an incandescent bulb and dim translucent shades casts a lovely, painterly glow on human faces, while the light of fluorescents recalls a meat locker.

Why do you think there is such artistry to so many lampshades? They are the lingerie of light.

But the appeal of incandescence is not just a matter of romance. I suspect there are also answers to be found in the physics and linguistics of incandescence.

I’d speculate that it has something to do with the different ways light is created by incandescents and fluorescents. Incandescent light is created by heat, by the way an electric current turns a thin metal filament (usually tungsten) red then white hot in a transparent or translucent globe filled with an inert gas that prevents the filament from burning up, allowing it to give off a steady glow. (That explains the warmth: The fact that incandescence emanates from heat creates warmth, distinguishes it from the cold creepiness of fluorescence.)

Fluorescent light bulbs, on the other hand, are coated inside with chemical material that lights up as energy reaches the tubes. (It’s a bit more complicated than this, but that’s the general idea.) Fluorescents sometimes appear to flicker because alternating current brings that energy to the bulbs in pulses, rather than steadily. In incandescents, the hot filament stays hot—and therefore bright—despite alternations in current; it can’t cool fast enough to dim or flicker.

The new CFLs pulse faster than their ancestors, so the flickering is less perceptible, but at some level, it’s still there. CFL manufacturers may be right that the new bulbs are an improvement, but there is still something discontinuous, digital, something chillingly one-and-zero about fluorescence, while incandescent lights offer the reassurance of continuity rather than an alternation of being and nothingness.

Who wants to have a romantic dinner in the dull gloomy light of a CFL or LED? I’ve been to such restaurants and it was just awful!

Halogen-lit restaurant in Waikiki
(source: http://www.chefmavro.com)

And why do lighting designers or business owners often choose soft warm incandescent lamps or bright glittering halogen spotlights in hotels, spas, reception areas, high-end boutiques etc? Because they are well aware of the fact that no other light can create such attractive, intimate, relaxing or luxurious-looking environments.

Halogen-lit jewellry store
(source: http://www.pdmurphyjewellers.com)

Leaving many in the dark

There are both visible and measurable differences in quality between incandescent light and the light from even the best CFLs and LEDs on the market, well known to the lighting industry and documented in their own technical specifications.

If there is a more efficient product within the same group, that has exactly the same properties and not just similar (including spectral power distribution, colour rendition, power factor, glare safety, price, fit, availability, functionality etc) a ban might be tolerable if not acceptable. But you cannot reasonably replace a product from one group with a product of a completely different technology without getting something altogether different. Some may not mind the difference, but for those who do, the original, higher quality product must remain available.

Also, there are many sensitive people in general and light sensitive people in particular who experience everything from discomfort or dislike to severe symtoms from the recommended alternatives. There are also the elderly to consider. Even the extremely pro-ban Swedish Energy Agency (STEM) representative Kalle Hashmi earlier pointed out that:

When you get older, 60+, you need more light to be able to see, and our ability to distinguish colours and contrasts diminishes. Then we need to choose a light that solves all three problems. When in a situation where colour rendition is very important, where you need to match colours, then it is very important to use a mains voltage halogen lamp because it has much better colour rendering capacity. It can be a situation like cooking, where all colours seem matte to the eyes. So what an elderly person perceives as ‘brown’ may actually be burnt. With halogen you see better.

In other words, incandescent light. The banning of frosted incandescent and halogen replacement lamps already creates a lot more glare – something the ageing eye is also more sensitive to. So what will the elderly or vision impaired do when halogen incandescent lamps are also banned? And all those of us who simply enjoy beauty and warmth and who prefer to save by dimming or switching lights off when not in use, rather than compromise on quality?

Not to mention artists, photographers, designers and many other groups dependent on perfect colour rendition to be able to do their job.

Update: This song perfectly captures how many of us feel:

FL/CFL or LED light may have its use where lamps are left on all day and quantity matters more than quality, e.g. at work, in public building corridors etc, but not necessarily in all retail, hospitality or domestic environments where consumers expect a more attractive and/or relaxing light. There is certainly no, even remotely similar, replacement for the romantic glow of the ‘carbon-filament’ type decorative bulb often used in restaurants, for example.

Light is like air, food and water – it is essential to our well-being. And quality matters!

In the words of lighting designer Howard Brandston:

Human beings evolved with and in response to light—sunlight, moonlight, the incandescence of fire. Our physical mechanism, the neuroscience that makes us who we are, is exquisitely attuned to light’s qualities and rhythms. The light that envelops us steers our very existence. To impose limitations on how we choose to illuminate our world carries profound biological implications.

Lighting is one of the most powerful mood-enhancers, can markedly affect how environments are perceived, as well as both comfort, well-being and health.

This is why many lighting designers are upset over being robbed of one of the many tools of their craft. It is their job to create the most optimal lighting environments where energy use, cost, quality, quantity, desired functionality, mood etc are all factors to weigh against each other for each unique situation, which they, unlike politicians, are well educated to do.

Lighting designers against the incandescent ban

IALD – International Association of Lighting Designers
IALD Statement

Jeff Miller, President-elect IALD, Director of Pivotal Lighting, statement

PLDA – Professional Lighting Designers’ Association
PLDA Statement

Kevan Shaw Lighting Design, PLDA Director for Sustainability
Summary of points against the CFL Save The Bulb blog

Michael Gehring, Principal of KGM Architectural Lighting
Gehring statement

Scott Yu, Principal, Chief Creative Officer of Vode Lighting
Yu statement

Howard M Brandston, FIES, Hon. FCIBSE & SLL, FIALD, LC
Brandston Statement

SaveTheBulb also lists Artists against the incandescent lamp ban

 

 

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Lamp Guide

Now that the market is being flooded with such a confusing profusion of different lamps to replace the incandescent bulb, it is more difficult than ever to find the right lamp for the right place.

Swedish national TV consumer program Plus last week tried to sort it out with the help of Kalle Hashmi at the Swedish Energy Agency, STEM. [1] My translation of his unusually informed and balanced recommendations:

• In closed luminaires it is not advisable to use CFLs as they get too hot which shortens their life. Where you have very short burning time, such as in a closet or the bathroom, the lamp life will shorten significantly if you turn it on and off a lot. In such a situation you could preferably choose a halogen lamp.

• If temperatures are too low [= outdoors in northern winters] the [CFL] lamp does not perform at its best. The lamp is made to function best in 25 degrees [C]. In such a situation we think the best option is to use an induction lamp. Very expensive but on the other hand it lasts 100 000 hours.

• When you get older, 60+, you need more light to be able to see, and our ability to distinguish colours and contrasts diminishes. Then we need to choose a light that solves all three problems.

• When it comes to contrast, for example, it is usually limited to reading text, black on white. Then you need to choose a CFL with higher effect, e.g. 15W and you can use a correlated colour temperature around 4000K, but only for reading.

• When in a situation where colour rendition is very important, where you need to match colours, then it is very important to use a mains voltage halogen lamp because it has much better colour rendering capacity. It can be a situation like cooking, where all colours seem matte to the eyes. So what an elderly person perceives as ‘brown’ may actually be burnt. With halogen you see better.

• CFLs are not the answer to all our prayers. When it comes to colour rendering they are not as good, and they also contain mercury. LEDs will be the dominating technique, but it’s better to replace low voltage spotlights with LED spotlights than replacing standard bulbs for general lighting.

My comments: Good advice all of it, except for the recommendation to use cool-white CFL for reading.

Some research suggests that contrast decreases rather than increases with higher correlated colour temperature (blueness) and that certain blue wavelengths may harm rather than help in cases of macular degeneration. [2] The small traces of UV which some naked CFL tubes emit may at close range may also worsen cataracts and skin conditions. [3] If you sit closer than 30 cm for more than an hour per day, the the British Health Procection Agency recommend that you use a covered CFL with an extra outer bulb. [4] 

I would instead recommend frosted incandescent or halogen for reading, as clear bulbs tend to give disturbing light patterns on the page and most LEDs are either too dim or too directional. Unfortunately, thanks to the European Commission, that’s no longer an option.

Replacing spotlights with LED is a better idea as LEDs are already directional by nature and perform better as reflector lights than as omnidirectional light trapped in a bulb – if you don’t mind the slightly lower light quality and paler colours which can be seen clearly in this comparison between ‘warm-white’ & ‘daylight’ LED and incandescent downlights:

More tips:

For those who prefer a daylight-simulating light, despite the lower contrast, white LEDs are naturally cool-white already and need no special phosphor mix like CFLs to achieve a daylight look.

But daylight lamps usually look best in the daytime. At night the cold light can look and feel more unnatural when contrasted against the dark as we humans are traditionally used to firelight at night (though cultural and individual preferences may vary).

• Where warm-white incandescent type light with perfect colour rendering is needed, there exists no replacement other than halogen (which is also incandescent). No CFL or LED has that special sunny feel and warm glow which makes colours come alive. 

 In traditional environments with antique furniture and art, CFLs and LEDs tend to look particularly out of place, whereas they may look acceptable with more contemporary designs, even if a bit dull. 

• When it comes to mood lighting of your dinner table, cosy corner or favorite restaurant, CFL and LED have zero romance factor whereas the warm light of halogen or incandescent spots on dimmers will complement candle light and create an attractive, romantic and relaxing atmosphere.

In rooms where you’re mostly sitting down and relaxing (like the living room), use many low-watt (7, 15 or 25 watt if incandescent) lamps placed low around the room, e.g. on walls, tables or in windows, rather than one bright ceiling light. Can be complemented with floor reading lamps and ceiling floodlights to be turned on when needed. Avoid up-lighters and torchieres.

• Around children, I’d use only warm-white LED lamps (which are cool to the touch) or low watt frosted incandescent bulsb in enclosed & shaded luminaires. CFLs contain mercury and can break and should therefore never be used around children or pets. Clear halogen lamps can get too hot, bright and glaring. One exception is IKEAs Snöig series of desk, walland floor luminaires where the halogen lamp is well protected from curious fingers and eyes.

• For night-lights, I recommend LED. Even if you only save 6 watts per lamp, they’re usually on all night, every night, and come in different colours. 

• Coloured lights, e.g. holiday lights, car and traffic signal lights, stage lighting etc. can be replaced by LED. LEDs come already coloured in various colours and are often ideal due to their smallness, low energy use and lack of excess heat. Paying for premium quality incandescent light, only to filter out most of through a colored glass, is truly a waste! 

Detailed home lighting and lightbulb guide:
The Lamp Guide

More lamp comparison photos:
Snarkish Forum
Newest Lightbulb Tech Combines Advantages of Incandescent, Fluorescent, and LED
LED Tints

TreeHugger CFL guide:
Be Careful When You Shop For Compact Fluorescents

EU Commission’s interactive & multilingual Bulb Selector

Lighting design tools:
GE Lighting Style
Philips Lighting Design tool

References:
1. Plus, SVT, 17 sep 2009 http://svtplay.se/t/102796/plus
2. Artificial Lighting and the Blue Light Hazard
3. SCENIHR: Light Sensitivity
4. HPA – Emissions from compact fluorescent lights

The Bizarre Ban

Back to researching & blogging after a month of well needed rest…

The EU incandescent ban

The first phase of the absurd incandescent ban has now taken effect.

* As of this month it is now illegal to produce and import 100W incandescent bulbs and frosted incandescent bulbs. And frosted Halogen Energy Savers!

(Selling already existing stocks is still permitted.)

The regulation also includes requirements for new product information on the packaging for all lamps (which I think is a good thing that should have been required long ago).

Manufacturers support this phase-out. “We are very positive”, says Magnus Frantzell, CEO of the Swedish Lighting Manufacturers Association to Expressen. Well, what a surprise…

But it will not stop here. This is the full schedule:

* 1 September 2010: clear 75W (over 750 lumen) lamps will be banned (through minimum efficiency requirements).

* 1 September 2011: clear 60W (over 450 lm) lamps will be banned.

* 1 September 2012: clear 7W-40W (over 60 lm) lamps will be banned.

* 1 September 2013: tightened standards on CFLs and LEDs. No lamp type will be removed from the market, only lamps with poor performance. Possibly non-dimmalbe lamps will be banned.

* 2014: Review of the regulations by the EU Commission.

* 1 September 2016: tightened standards for clear halogen lamps. Only energy class B halogen lamps (C for some special cap lamps) will be permitted, which currently only the super-expensive IR halogen lamps with integrated transformer reaches. All other halogen lamps will be banned! [1]

Exceptions: “special-purpose lamps designed essentially for applications such as traffic signals, terrarium lighting and household appliances and clearly indicated as such on accompanying product information are not subject to these eco-design requirements.” Examples of special-purpose lamps: aquariums & terrarium lamps; germicidal lamps, lamps for display/optics; stage, studio, TV & theatre lamps; photo flash lamps; projection lamps, IR lamps; traffic signal lamps for roads, trains & aviation; car headlight lamps; oven & fridge lamps; temperarture- & shock-proof lamps; mirror lamps. [2]

Street, office & industry lighting

Somehow, without any public debate whatsoever, it seems that the EU Commission has also just snuck through a regulation on office, industry and street lighting. [4, 5]

* 2010: Phase out of T8 halophosphate fluorescent tubes (through minimum efficiency requirements).

My comment: This is good as they are not very efficient, contain more mercury, often flicker due to old type magnetic ballasts and the poor-colour-rendering light truly sucks. Should have been phased out decades ago.

* 2012: Phase out of T12 fluorescent (FL) tubes.

My comment: This is probably good too, although it will require many businesses to purchase new fixtures for the thinner, more efficient tubes with HF-ballasts.

* 2012: Phase out of high-pressure sodium (HPS) standard quality lamps (only E27/ E40/ PGZ12 affected).

My comment: This is acceptable as long as there are better quality lamps of the same type available. Not acceptable if it includes the decorative frosted incandescent-like lamps used in parks and Old Town-environments across Europe. These are somewhat less efficient but are needed for sensitive environments. Quality vs quantity. It cannot all be about quantity of light, we also need quality of life.

* 2012: Phase out of less efficient metal halide (MH) lamps (only E27/E40/PGZ12 affected).

My comment: Again fine, if there are better lamps of the same type still available.

* 2014: Review of the regulations by the EU Commission.

* 2015: Phase out of High-Pressure Mercury (HPM) lamps.

My comment: Excellent! Should have been banned decades ago, as soon as there were HPS or MH replacement lamps available for the same lumnaires. HPM lamps are most commonly used as street lights in cities. They give a truly horrid purple-white light which tends to turn green with age, contain more mercury than other lamps and are markedly less efficient than HPS, MH and CMH lamps.

The new warm-white Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) are about twice as efficient and give a very incandescent-like light: truly great for street & park lighting.

* 2015: Phase out of plug-in/retrofit high-pressure sodium lamps (= direct replacement for HPM). Plug-in lamps must correspond to Super/Plus HPS level; almost all plug-in/retrofit lamps will be banned.

* 2017: Phase out of Poor performing metal halide (MH) lamps: (only E27/E40/PGZ12 affected).

My comment: Seems that the EU consultants and Commission are hell-bent on removing any light from the market that is remotely attractive and human-friendly. Warm-white MH lamps, and improved colour HPS lamps are the most incandescent-like alternatives after halogen. Phasing out these lamps may mean that there will be no frosted HID lamps left on the market, despite their usefulness commercially indoors. The Eco-design group does not care how the lamp is used, light quantity at all cost is their only goal.

It also means that every EU country will be forced to replace the whole street luminaire when stocks of replacement lamps run out. This will be good for the environment but may be more costly than some countries or counties can afford. Why not instead give special EU grants or other incentives to those who install the most energy efficient technology available, instead of removing whole lamp groups from the market??

Reflector lamps

As mentioned earlier in this blog, reflector lamps is the next group up for slaughter. [6] Preparation is going on currently and decision will be taken next year.

Halogen replacement bulbs for spotlights, floodlights and downlighters are at high risk of being recommended for phase-out, making millions of expensive desklights, spotlights and recessed luminaires useless as there are no CFL or LED alternatives for these tiny bulbs or tubes. Great for the luminaire market but not so great for the individual home owner who may have invested a gread deal of money into installing recessed fixtures etc.

Professional lighting designers despair at the thought, as should many galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels etc. as they will then no longer be able to create the uniquely luxurious and attractive lighting environments for their customers, made possible only with halogen spots.

If the lobbyists that keep pressuring the EU Commission into such follies have their way, we will be facing a very cold, dull and drab lighting future.

The logical thing to do would be to ban only the poorest performing lamps in each lamp group, since each lamp type has its own unique qualities that oftan cannot be replaced by another lamp type (the only exception being HPM lamps for which replacement with HPS, MH or CMH is an improvement both quality- and quanlity-wise).

* As no other lamps can replace small halogen bulbs for reflector lamps, neither quality-wise or size-wise, only the poorest performing in this class should be banned, not the whole group.

* As frosted incandescent lamps cannot quality-wise be replaced by anything but frosted halogen lamps, the ban on the latter should be lifted.

1. New EU directive: Say goodbye to the light bulb (Osram summary)
2. EuP Directive About Non Directional Domestic Lighting (detailed slide show)
3. EU directive – special purpose lighting (Osram summary)
4. EU directive – street, office and industry lighting (Osram summary)
5. Commission Regulation (EC) No 245/2009 of 18 March 2009 (original document)
6. Spotlight and downlighter bulbs next to be banned by EU

Summary – Lamp Type Pros & Cons

Update Aug 2012: The information in post has been updated, converted into a table and moved to Pages: Lamps Overview

CFL Analysis – Conversion Charts

European recommendations

In Europe, CFLs are often claimed to give “5 times more light” (or “up to” 5 times more, to cover poorer performing covered, reflector and decorative bulbs). Optimistic calculations on potential savings are almost always made on the nominal initial lumen/watt values of the best performing bare tubes. A typical European equivalence chart may look like this:

These recommendations are, however, quite misleading as those who follow them will get less light than they originally had! Astonishingly, the EU 2008 CFL Quality Charter accepts lower minimum initial claimed lumen output from what is considered equivalent wattage CFL, than what you get from the original incandescent bulb (!)

As can be seen in my thumbnail chart above (click to enlarge), incandescent lamps usually have a higher lumen output than the minimum EU requirements for equivalent CFL! [1]

If a typical CFL does not produce as many initial lumens as the lamp it is supposed to be replacing, it cannot possibly be said to give “5 times more light” of incandescent energy use. This is consumer fraud, first accepted and perpetuated by utilities and state authorities, and now by EU!

Light Reduction

As explained in under Life Span, CFL output degrades with age. After 2000 hours, the EU Quality Charter accepts a 12% light loss for bare CFL tubes, 17% for covered CFL bulbs, and 25% for both types towards the end of their life.

To illustrate how this works out in lumen output for various wattages, I’ve used lumen numbers from manufacturer catalogues [1, 2, 3] for standard incandescent A-bulbs and a typical good quality CFL bare tube at different wattages for comparison. In the following columns I’ve deducted the permitted 12% and light loss after 2000 hours and 25% towards its end of life.

Here I’ve deducted the permitted 17% and 25% light loss for double envelope CFL bulbs (a Swedish consumer test showed 15% loss after 2 000 h and 27% light loss after 6 000 h for this particular model).[5] In the manufacturer’s catalogue, it is still sold as “saving 80% light” (= giving “5 times more light” than an incandescent) but as we can see here, it is less than with light loss included in the calculation.

To get the same lumen output as from an incandescent bulb and to compensate for the the poorer light quality and expected reduction in output as the CFL ages, one needs to choose a higher watt CFL than usually recommended – just like professional lighting designers often do when installing new lights, as they are well aware of these factors. This will, however, give a light that may be too bright and glaring in the beginning and too weak and dull towards the end of its life.

Thus, an Energy Class A-rated, good quality CFL bare tube does not give 5 times more light, but 3-4. And this is for some of the top brand most effective CFLs on the market, and only using numbers from manufacturer’s own catalogue claims and EU quality charter accepted light loss. As consumer tests keep showing, real output may be even lower, both for quality CFLs (since EU has accepted a lower standard) and even more so for ‘bargain’ lamps.

1. Philips Lighting
2. OSRAM
3. Hawells-Sylvania
4. Råd & Rön 7/01

North American recommendations

U.S. and Canadian ENERGY STAR requirements stay more reasonable and require a minimum initial lumen output that roughly translates to a 3:1 or 4:1 switch. [1, 2]

Again, required initial lumen output is slightly less than incandescent output, and light loss and light quality is not taken into account, despite General Electric being more realistic and stating mean lumen values in their online catalogues, which presumably includes eventual light loss.

As can be seen in the above example, a fair switch, to compensate for eventual light loss and not fall below incandescent output, is closer to 3 than 4 – for the most effective bare tubes3:1 = 66%. For covered bulbs, globes, reflector lamps and decorative bulbs, it may be even less. Yet on the same page, it is still claimed that:

“ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.”

1. U.S. ENERGY STAR
2. Canadian ENERGY STAR
3. GE Lighting

Summary

Based on manufacturer figures for initial lumens, with light reduction included, the best tubes give only 3-4 times more light in Europe and around 3 in the U.S.A and Canada (due to incandescent light being more efficient at lower mains voltage). Less for covered, reflector & decorative CFLs, for CFLs used in the wrong luminaires, and for poorer quality CFLs of all types.

Consumers therefore need to be advised to choose a higher watt CFL than recommended to get as much light as from the original bulb and to compensate for the eventual light degradation and poorer quality of the CFL replacement. And the EU standardisation directive needs to be adjusted to reflect reality.

Update July 2012: Added better and updated graphics. The examples used above may now have been replaced by other models, but according to more recent consumer tests, most CFLs still do not give as much light even initially as the equivalent incandescent lamps did, and all CFLs still become markedly dimmer with age.

Now that manufacturers have gotten away with this consumer fraud (because everyone is too lazy to read catalogues and consumer tests) and consumers have gotten used to living in dimmer light, the plan seems to be that faulty equivalence charts are being done away with altogether. Soon we will have to keep (lowered standard) lumen numbers in our heads to know which lamp brightness we want. Read more about the new labels here.