EU Halogen Ban Review

As described in detail by Freedom Light Bulb, the planned halogen ban 2016 is up for review on Monday 25th.

The recommended regulatory changes include:

1. changing the entry into force of the stage 6 requirements to 1 September 2018, allowing LED technology to mature further and reach an optimal time point in terms of monetary and energy savings;

2. removing the current loophole by extending the stage 6 requirements to halogen lamps with G9 and R7s socket;

3. and introducing a provision that luminaires sold after 1 September 2015 should be compatible with LED technology to prevent future obstacles to efficient lighting.

Even the lamp manufacturers themselves find this a bit extreme, as there are no good replacements for some lamps.

The reason for extending the ban to these previously excempt lamp models is that a small number of adapter kits exist which can turn a G9 mini bulb into a frosted incandescent bulb, and an R7 mini tube into a screw-in bulb. The latter is absolutely ridiculous, as such a contraption would not fit in any normal luminaire. These tubes are needed for halogen floodlights and torchieres, for which there are no replacement tubes at all, not even poor quality ones.

Here are 12 good reasons to keep all models of Halogen.

Edit: Kevan Shaw reports from Brussels: The latest from Europe


Swedish Consumer Tests Autumn 2012

There were two major Swedish tests made during fall 2012. Råd & Rön and Testfakta. The former is issued by Sweden’s leading consumer organisation, Sveriges Konsumenter, and the latter is a privately owned consumer testing company supplying independent testing of consumer products for major newspapers in Scandinavia.

Råd & Rön

Compact Fluorescent Lamps

I won’t bother making translated tables of the CFL data as they still have the same inherent problems as reported from earlier tests, so nothing new there. Instead I’ll let a translation of the CFL part of the Råd & Rön article summarise their test results:

The quality is more varying among the fluorescent lamps than in LEDs. Our test shows that there are many bad CFLs. Durability is a sensitive subject. Sure, only some lamps had gone out after 2000 hours. (We tested five samples of each lamp.) But many of the poorer quality fluorescent bulbs cannot withstand many on-and-off cycles. Philips Softone 20W can handle just a little over 5 000 on-and-off cycles. Manufacturers indicate lifetimes of 6 000 to 12 000 hours, resulting in a life expectancy of 10 years. This is hardly true for the worst lamps in the test. Sylvania Mini-Lynx Fast Start is a really bad lamp. As all lamps had gone out before 2 000 hours, we could not do the remaining tests.

Not for outdoor lighting

The fluorescent lamps have been on the market for a long time. Many have complained that they take time before reaching full brightness, and this is still the case. This is particularly true in low temperatures. There is a clear disadvantage if you want them in outdoor lighting, or for example in bathrooms and closets where you are anxious to reach full brightness quickly. Philips Softone Candle 8W for example, reached only 2 percent of its light output after 10 seconds when it was lit at plus 5 degrees and 1 percent of its light output at minus 10 degrees [Celcius]. The fluorescent lamps have also consistently slightly worse color accuracy than the old bulbs.

Well, lo and behold! This is the first time Råd & Rön have totally dissed the precious CFLs, even though these problems have been found in every one of their previous tests, and usually a lot worse too – as CFL quality has improved slightly over the last few years compared with the really really bad earlier specimens – which previous Råd & Rön articles have still insisted were mostly great, despite their own test results showing a different story.

So why this sudden change of tune? Ah, because now there is a new, even more politically correct lamp on the market, which makes manufacturers even more billions.

LED bulbs

From September 1st 2012, incandescent bulbs are no longer manufactured in the EU. They are very inefficient, only 10 percent of the energy becomes light, the rest is heat. They have been phased over several years and now the last models are gone.

Interesting that a supposedly independent and neutral consumer test article feels a need to insert the PR line about the alleged – but disproven – energy inefficiency of the now banned incandescent lamp. They don’t seem to realise that this is the equivalent of adding that one of the soda pops in a test “gives you wings” or “because your’re worth it!” when testing face creams.

And then the unabashed PR for their new pet lamp, the LED, just goes on and on:

Now even the LED are entering the market in a big way. They are even more durable and efficient than the fluorescent lamps. Previously, there has not really been models adapted for the fixtures we have in our homes. LEDs have also been very expensive. Now, there are LED lamps in a form that fits into standard fixtures. The prices are also coming down, LED – lights in our test cost from SEK 400 down to 100 each.

Oh hooray! Aren’t we lucky now that we can get a 400 lumen bulb (less than the equivalent of a 40W incandescent) for ‘only’ 10 to 40 €! Old bulbs were 5 SEK (half a euro) and gave a much better light. The lamp industry must be laughing their socks off all the way to the bank: “There’s one born every minute.”

Said to last for 25 years

LEDs are incredibly durable. We have in this test so far let them burn for 2000 hours, and only one copy of all the lights (we tested five samples of each lamp) went out during that time. Since previous tests, we know that LED bulbs can burn longer than that, 5,000 hours. We will let them burn as long this time and will be back with updates of the results. Manufacturers usually specify lifetimes for LED lamps of 15 000 – 25 000 hours, that is, a life expectancy of 15-25 years. There are values ​​that we obviously have not been able to verify.

So, how can Råd & Rön state as a fact that they are “incredibly durable”? Sounds more like a “probably the best lamp in the world” slogan to me. And why not actually test them for the full stated life? Or at least half? Then we would see how little light comes out of them by then, and how durable they really are.

LEDs are also very effective. They consume less energy than fluorescent lamps and much less than halogen lamps. Not to mention the old incandescent light bulbs – an LED bulb uses 80 percent less energy than an old bulb.

For this to be true, they would have to give 5 times more light per lumen than an incandescent, and consistently over time. From their own numbers I get a mean of 4.6 initially and this will decrease over time. Taking the heat replacement effect into account, this number should be cut in half. IKEA, Philips and other lamp producers often claim as much as 85% more effective to make it sound more worthwhile buying these hilariously expensive lamps instead of the CFLs that have now become less profitable.

Lights up at once

LEDs provide plenty of light as soon as you turn the switch, unlike fluorescent lamps. Another advantage is that LED lamps also work well at cold temperatures, the lamps actually work even better then. And even at cold temperatures, the tested bulbs light up immediately. Suitable for outdoor lighting in other words.

Well, not all of them: the Verbatim lamp took longer to light up, according to test data. But yes, LEDs are often a better choice for outdoor fixtures than CFLs in countries with cold winters.

One disadvantage is that the LEDs can have a well cold, almost bluish white light. They also reproduces colors slightly worse than halogen and incandescent bulbs.

But technology advances and the number of lights in the test have received a warmer light, and also a better color reproduction. Osram LED Parathom ClasA60, Ikea Conductors 8, 1W and Philips Led MyVision have received the best results for color among LEDs.

Yes, they are getting better. But they will still never be able to reach the same light quality as incandescent and halogen incandescent lamps because the light is still a composite light, from a mixture of phosphors trying to emulate the real thing.

If in doubt, ask to see how the LED lights in the store before you buy it.

This piece of advice is only partially helpful since the store is not dark. It helps you weed out the clearly blue-white, green-white or violet-white lamps. But as can be seen in my previous LED reviews, a warm-white lamp can look great in the shop. But then when you switch it on at home you’ll find that the colour is a bit off, that it produces a duller ambiance and generally doesn’t feel as good as more natural light sources such as sunlight and incandescent lamps.

Here are the test data put into my own table for easier comparison with old incandescent lamps (click to enlarge):

R&R 2012b LED

I will also add a copy to the Consumer Tests LED page to keep them all together.

Halogen bulbs

The Råd & Rön article continues:

Halogen lamps, on the other hand, have good colour properties. They reproduce colors accurately, just like the old bulbs did. They are also considerably less expensive than both LED lamps and fluorescent lamps, and cost SEK 15-30 each. But they are far less energy efficient and have a shorter lifespan. Ikea 70W Halogen was the only lamp in our tests where all samples still burned after 2000 hours. This means a life of about two years and more promises nor manufacturers.

The table actually shows quite poor results for all the tested halogen lamps. All top quality when it comes to colour rendition and light quality, of course – except one IKEA lamp which also had a higher colour temperature, so they must have done something to it. But quantity-wise, these halogen energy savers appear only marginally more effective than the original equivalent incandescent lamps.

When this happens year after year, despite the fact that it is quite possible to produce halogen lamps with both higher efficacy and durability, I’m starting to suspect that this is by design so as to help these last incandescent-family low-profit lamps out of the market when up for review by the EU Commission in 2014. This is not acceptable!

2012b Halogen


LED bulbs

This test doesn’t measure durability over time but some other interesting features such as flicker and how the light spreads. It also adds an incandescent lamp for reference. Translation of the test article [emphases added]:

Testfakta have investigated eight omnidirectional LED bulbs and compared them with their glowing predecessor. The lamps test correspond to about a 40-watt incandescent bulb in brightness and color temperature.

– One major difference lies in how LEDs spread the light. But what surprised me most was the time it took to light a couple of lamps, and some gave excessive flicker, says Håkan Skoogh, test manager at the Swedish Technical Research Testing.

Together with fluorescent lamps, LED technology is the incandescent-replacing alternative that provides the greatest energy savings.

The Testfakta test also shows that LEDs provide between five and seven times as much light per watt as incandescent lamp. While it differs as much as 30 percent between the most efficient lamp from Jula and the least efficient from Ikea.

– In this context, Ikea’s energy efficiency is on the low side. On the other hand, it has the good color rendering and these things usually go together – if you want good color, you often get poorer efficiency, says Håkan Skoogh.

But it is possible to have both high efficiency and high color rendering. It shows the overall test winner V-Light from Clas Ohlson, which is also among the least expensive lamps in the test. V-Light is the only lamp that comes close to the incandescent bulb’s ability to reproduce colors. Osram, Megaman and Cosna on the other hand, fall just below the limit of what is recommended for home environments.

– Unfortunately, this is a problem that we have to live with for a while in terms of LED technology. If you want the perfect color in the bathroom or above the hall mirror, for example, to see how the clothes match, you may unfortunately put up a halogen lamp instead, says Håkan Skoogh.

Another challenge for the LED industry is that the light from small LEDs is so directional. It is ideal for spotlights, but worse when you want to replace the incandescent bulb’s omni-directional effect. Laboratory measurements clearly show how most of the LEDs spread the light at an angle forward and not so much to the sides.

– If you have for example a decorative lamp with a side shade, then you want some of the light to come through it. But with lamps such as the Osram lamp, a large part of the light rather goes straight up to the ceiling.

The exception among the tested lamps is Connect from Jula. Here, the manufacturer uses another technology with a light guide that leads the light from the diodes and outward.

– It works quite well even if the light ahead will be somewhat weaker than in the bulb, says Håkan Skoogh.

There may also be advantages to different types of light scattering. Forward-facing light is preferable, for example, a desk lamp.

– It would be best if the producers had a light distribution curve on the package so that you as a consumer can see which bulb fits best.

The laboratory also examined how much flicker the lamps produce. Research suggests that flicker from screens and lamps can have adverse medical effects such as fatigue and stress. It was found that the lamps from Jula and Cosna flickered unnecessarily much.

– It shows very clearly and is not good. Flicker has primarily been a problem in old fluorescent and should not be in the LED lights. It must be about poor construction, says Håkan Skoogh.

Another thing that should not have to occur with LED technology is long ignition times. And yet the lamps from Osram and Star Trading clearly react slower later the rest.

– It is unnecessary and distracting, says Håkan Skoogh.

2012 LED Testfakta

Link to Testfakta test table

Article: Billig lampa ger bäst belysning


Blue Light Hazard?

The blue light issue has several aspects. First one needs to separate between the tiny bright blue diods used on some electronic devices, the blue-white light from white LEDs, CFLs and xenon arc car headlight lamps, and the (more or less) warm-white light from incandescent-mimicking CFL and LED.

This blog is primarily about replacement lamps for general illumination, not signal lights, monitor backlighting and the like, but the information on bright blue light may still be relevant for the cool-white light as well.

Blue light

Let’s start with the bright blue lamps. From the Wikipedia LED page:

Blue hazard: There is a concern that blue LEDs and cool-white LEDs are now capable of exceeding safe limits of the so-called blue-light hazard as defined in eye safety specifications such as ANSI/IESNA RP-27.1–05: Recommended Practice for Photobiological Safety for Lamp and Lamp Systems.

This web article Blue LEDs: A health hazard? explains the problems with bright blue light in detail:

Blue appears brighter at night

Firstly, blue light appears much brighter to us at night, or indoors where ambient light is low – an effect known as the Purkinje shift. This is because the rods – the sensitive monochromatic rod light detectors which our retinas rely on more at night – are most sensitive to greenish-blue light. (Some hypothesize that animals evolved the rods in underwater and jungle environments, hence the bias to blue or green – later we developed separate full color vision on top of that system, but the sensitive rods remained).

A practical example of the Purkinje Shift: a cool blue power LED on a TV might catch your eye and even attract you to buy it in a well-lit store. But after you take it home, the same LED appears distractingly bright when you watch the TV in a darkened room.

And blue is brighter in peripheral vision

The Purkinje shift also noticeably brightens blue or green lights in our peripheral vision under medium to low light conditions, because there are comparatively more rods towards the edge of the retina – hence complaints that blue LEDs are distracting even when they’re not the focus of attention.

“Glaring LEDs on displays that you need to see at night… that’s poor design,” says Brandon Eash. Remarkably though, it is a mistake that manufacturers continue to make.

Blue does not help you see clearly

We tend to associate blue with coolness, accuracy and clarity. But paradoxically, our eyes cannot focus blue sharply. We actually see a distracting halo around bright blue lights.

“It’s well recognized that blue light is not as sharply focused on the retina as the longer wavelengths. It tends to be focused in front of the retina, so it’s a little out of focus,” explains Dr. David Sliney, a US Army expert on the physiological effects of LEDs, lasers, and other bright light sources.

The various wavelengths of light focus differently because they refract at slightly different angles as they pass through the lens of the eye – an effect known as chromatic aberration.

For similar reasons, blue scatters more widely inside the eyeball, says Dr. Sliney, who answered questions by phone last year from his office at the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine in Maryland.

We’re half blind in blue

The modern human eye evolved to see fine detail primarily with green or red light. In fact, because we are poor at distinguishing sharp detail in blue, our eyes don’t really try. The most sensitive spot on the retina, the fovea centralis, has no blue light-detecting cones. That’s right: we’re all color blind in the most sensitive part of our eyes.

In addition, the central area of the retina, the macula, actually filters out some blue light in an effort to sharpen our vision. Snipers and marksmen sometimes improve on nature by wearing yellow-tinted ‘shooters glasses’, which block the distracting blue light.

“You throw away a little bit of color information in order to have a sharper view of things,” explains Dr. Sliney.

Blue glare interferes with vision

The twin effects of fuzzy focus and blue scatter both make intense blue light from a point source, like an LED, spread out across the retina, obscuring a much wider part of our visual field.

Although our retinas simply don’t handle blue very well, nobody told the rest of the eye that. If blue is the strongest color available and we want to see fine detail, then we strain our eye muscles and squint trying to pull the blue into shaper focus. Try to do this for too long and you’ll probably develop a nauseating headache. This won’t happen in a normally lit scene, because the other colors provide the sharp detail we naturally desire.

A dazzling pain in the eye

By the way, the physical pain some people feel from high intensity discharge (HID) car headlights and particularly intense blue LEDs seems to be a combination of these focus and scatter effects, together with a third. We have a particularly strong aversion reaction to bright blue light sources, including bluish-white light. “Pupilary reflex is down in the blue [part of the spectrum]. The strongest signal to the muscles in the iris to close down comes from the blue,” says Dr. Sliney.

Intense blue light can cause long-term photochemical damage to the retina. Now, nobody is claiming that you’re likely to suffer this kind of injury from a normal blue LED (unless you stare fixedly at it from a few millimetres for an hour). However, it is theorized that this may be the evolutionary driving force behind the immediate feeling of pain we get from bright light with a very strong blue component.

Our body’s instinctive reaction is to reduce blue light entering the eye by closing down the pupil. This means that blue light spoils night vision. After a brief flash of blue, you can’t see other colors so well for a while.

White light

When it comes to lamps for general illumination, the issue gets more complex. Cool-white or daylight-mimicking indoor illumination may not be as good for vision as previously assumed. But can it be harmful?

CELMA-ELC-GLA (lighting industry):

In June, PLDA Greenpages blog reported on new studies that “have concluded that LEDs present no greater optical hazard than other common artificial lighting sources”. The link required business and registration to be accessed, but the abstract appears to be the same as in this March 2012 white paper of the Global Lighting Association on The Optical & Photobiological Effects of LED, CFLs and Other High Efficiency General Lighting Sources, which in turn appears to be fairly identical to the July 2011 position statement from CELMA and ELC (European luminare and lamp manufacturers, respectively): Optical safety of LED lighting.

If it is the same document, I wouldn’t exactly call it a study as it only gives technical explanations of why LEDs and CFLs belong to risk groups 0 or 1, which may be correct, but cites no studies on actual health effects; it’s all just extrapolation of their own data. Quoting some relevant parts of the document (not all in original order):

Potential effects on the eye
Commonly discussed hazards affecting the eye are blue light hazard (BLH) and age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) which can be induced or aggravated by high intensity blue light. Furthermore, UV (ultraviolet) may affect the eye, causing cataract or photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea); IR (infrared) radiation can induce IR cataract (also known as glassblower’s cataract); and, radiation of all wavelengths can lead to retinal thermal injuries at extreme intensities.

Potential effects on the skin
Optical radiation, particularly UV can be harmful to the skin. By far the most hazardous source to consider is the sun. Sunburns (UV erythema) and skin cancers due to long‐term exposure to the sun are well‐known problems caused by radiation. Moreover, patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or photodermatoses can be highly sensitive to UV radiation, and sometimes also blue light. There is concern among some patients who suffer from such sensitivities that phasing out of the known incandescent lamps will leave them without lamps for indoor use that are low in radiation of UV and blue light. 

4.1 Conclusions on blue light emission
Evaluation at a distance producing 500 Lux: Taking the 500 Lux criterion as the measurement basis, none of the LED products belongs to risk group 2. This was also confirmed by a study of the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health & safety (ANSES) in 2010 which found that even high‐output discrete LEDs are classified into risk groups 0 or 1 if the 500 Lux criterion is applied.

Precautionary measures with regard to children
The lens of a child’s eye filters blue light less efficiently than an adult’s lens. Children are thus more sensitive to blue light hazard. Therefore, at places frequented by children particular care must be taken to ensure that lamps and luminaires are chosen and installed in such a way as to avoid people looking directly into the light source. It is not necessary that LEDs (or blue light in general) are avoided in an environment with children present, for the reasons stated above. If used across a broad surface or area, in a way which does not produce glare, even “pure” blue light is completely harmless; regardless of whether it is the blue in daylight or produced by LEDs or other light sources.

Guidance for people with high sensitivity for blue light
The above statements are valid for healthy people in the general public. People with highly sensitive skin or eyes for blue light may be wise to investigate alternative light sources that operate on a more specific radiation band not covered by the applied action curves that cover a broad range of radiations. The comparative data given in the annexes of this paper serve to give guidance in selecting the best available type of light source for a given sensitivity.

The biological importance of blue light
It needs to be mentioned that blue light exposure is important to human beings. Blue light with a peak around 460‐480nm regulates the biological clock, alertness and metabolic processes. CELMA‐ELC has installed a special working group to translate these findings into practical application norms and standards. In natural conditions, outdoor daylight fulfils this function. Yet, people spend most of the day indoors (offices etc.) and are often lacking the necessary blue light exposure. Blue and cool white light sources can be used to create lighting conditions such that people will receive their daily portion of blue light to keep their physiology in tune with the natural day‐night rhythm. Due to the highly flexible application possibilities, LED based light sources are particularly well suited for that purpose. 

Annex 3: Blue light radiation data of light sources
When evaluating the risk of blue light hazard posed by LED (and other) light sources, two fundamentally different cases need to be considered:

Case A: Looking at an illuminated scene
[…] Case A can generally be considered safe. To give an example, looking at the scattered blue sky (high blue irradiance but low radiance) is completely safe, and so are artificial light sources, containing way less blue irradiance than daylight.

Case B: Looking at a light source
[…] Looking straight at a light source (case B) is also in general safe for diffuse and warm white light sources, like frosted or white diffusing lamps. Yet, caution is advisable for cool white or blue, bright (high intensity), point‐like light source, for instance an incandescent filament, electric arc or an LED die, even an LED die behind the lens of a directional lamp.  Such point‐like sources are projected on the retina as a concentrated light spot and can damage that spot on the retina when the intensity is high enough and the spectrum contains blue light in congruence with the blue light hazard action spectrum curve.

4.2 Conclusions on ultraviolet radiation (UV) 
LED based light sources do not emit any UV radiation (unless specifically designed for that particular purpose). Therefore, they are not harmful to people with a specific sensitivity for certain UV radiation and can bring relief to certain groups of patients. In this respect, LED based light sources provide advantages over traditional incandescent, halogen and Compact Fluorescent lamps. For more details see Annex 2.

4.3 Conclusions on infrared radiation (IR)
In contrast to most other light sources, e.g. halogen and incandescent lamps, LEDs hardly emit IR light (unless specifically designed to emit a certain type of IR). For available types of indoor light sources the IR radiation is not powerful enough to pose any risks to human.

To summarize the key findings, LED sources (lamps or systems) and luminaires are safe to the consumer when used as intended.

Which is: Don’t sit too close to a UV-emitting light source. Don’t look straight into cool-white or bright light sources (risk increases with proximity, brightness and time). Always use low-voltage halogen mini bulbs and halogen mini tubes on luminaires with glass cover (regular glass filters out the UVC which the quartz glass lets through). Use warm-white LED, CFL or halogen in frosted outer bulb if UV-sensitive.

In terms of their level of photo biological safety, LED lamps are no different from traditional technologies such as incandescent lamps and fluorescent tubes. The portion of blue in LED is not different from the portion of blue in lamps using other technologies at the same colour temperature.

The last sentence seems a bit tautologous as otherwise it would not have the same colour temperature. How the blue portion can be “the same” for same colour temperature LED and incandescent despite their different spectral power distribution is given an explanation:

White LEDs typically show a peak in the blue (at around 450 nm when a royal blue LED is used) and more broadband emission in the green/yellow part of the spectrum. Next to the blue peak, a dip is visible at around 490nm that also falls under the BLH action curve (…). The blue peak of the LED lamps is “compensated” by the dip, therefore the total blue output (…) of LED of 2700K is comparable to an incandescent lamp of 2700K.

This still does not make the spectrum exactly the same, even if the net result is a similar blueness. And most LEDs available on the home market is very much bluer than the 2700 K of the very best (and most unaffordable) warm-white LEDs. 

Nevertheless, looking straight into bright, point‐like sources (LEDs, but also other strong point‐like light sources, like clear filament or discharge lamps and including the sun) should be prevented. However, when people happen to look into a bright light source accidentally, a natural protective reflex occurs (people instinctively close their eyes or look away from the source).

True enough.

A comparison of LED retrofit products to the traditional products they are intended to replace reveals that the risk levels are very similar and well within the uncritical range.

But that was for the 6 watt warm-white LED in a frosted outer bulb included in the comparison. White 4000 K LEDs and directional high power LEDs, as well as other bright point light sources, including clear tungsten filament lamps, fall into risk group 1.

The bar chart included in the document shows that the higher the CCT, the higher the blue light hazard, regardless of light source (as would be expected);

(Two other bar charts (fig. 5 & 6) quite strangely compared frosted warm-white LED lamps with clear incandescent lamps, in order to make incandescent light appear to to have more blue light, rather than to compare it with the other point-like sources. In those charts, the frosted incandescent lamp seemed to be the safest.)


In 2011, the European Commissions Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (one of the independent scientific committees of the European Commission, which provide scientific advice to the Commission on consumer products) issued an updated report on Health Effects of Artificial Light which seems partly based on the information given by European Lamp Companies Federation, ELC (extracts, emphases added):


A: Potential health impacts on the general public caused by artificial light

In general, the probability is low that artificial lighting for visibility purposes induces acute pathologic conditions, since expected exposure levels are much lower than those at which effects normally occur, and are also much lower than typical daylight exposures. Certain lamp types (quartz halogen lamps, single- and double-capped fluorescent lamps as well as incandescent light bulbs) may emit UV radiation, although at low levels. However, according to a worst case scenario the highest measured UV emissions from lamps used typically in offices and schools [usually fluorescent tubes] could add to the number of squamous cell carcinomas in the EU population.

Household lighting involves an illumination level which is so low that exposure to potentially problematic radiation is considered negligible. There is no consistent evidence that long-term exposure to sunlight (specifically the blue component) may contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Whether exposure from artificial light could have effects related to AMD is uncertain.

No evidence was found indicating that blue light from artificial lighting belonging to Risk Group 0 (“exempt from risk”) would have any impact on the retina graver than that of sunlight. Blue light from improperly used lamps belonging to Risk Groups 1, 2, or 3 could, in principle, induce photochemical retinal damage in certain circumstances. There is however no evidence about the extent to which this is actually occurring in practical situations.

There is mounting evidence suggesting that ill-timed exposure to light (light-at-night) may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and can also cause sleep disorders, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular disorders, and possibly affective states. Importantly, these effects are directly or indirectly due to light itself, without any specific correlation to a given lighting technology.

But bluer light (such as from cool-white or daylight LEDs and CFLs) has a greater effect on melatonin, even at very low intensities if used at night (see Circadian Rhythms below).

B: Aggravation of the symptoms of pathological condition

The SCENIHR opinion on Light Sensitivity identified that some pre-existing conditions (epilepsy, migraine, retinal diseases, chronic actinic dermatitis, and solar urticaria) could be exacerbated by flicker and/or UV/blue light. At that time there was no reliable evidence to suggest that compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) could be a significant contributor. More recent studies indicate a negative role for certain CFLs and other artificial light sources (sometimes including incandescent bulbs) in photosensitive disease activity.

UV, and in some patients, visible light can induce skin lesions of true photodermatoses. Although sunlight is reported by most patients as the main source of disease activity, artificial lighting is reported to play a role in some cases. The blue or UV components of light tend to be more effective than red components in aggravating skin disease symptoms related to pre-existing conditions such as lupus erythematosus, chronic actinic dermatitis and solar urticaria. UV and/or blue light could also possibly aggravate the systemic form of lupus erythematosus. It is recommended that all patients with retinal dystrophy should be protected from light by wearing special protective eyeware that filters the shorter and intermediate wavelengths.

3.3.3. Lamp emissions

Based on emissions from the lamp, the Standard EN 62471 (and also IEC 62471 and CIE S009, since they are all identical in this sense) categorizes the lamps according to the photo-biological hazard that they might pose. The different hazards are:

1. Actinic UV-hazard for eye and skin (see section;
2. UVA-hazard for the eye (section;
3. Blue-light hazard for the retina (section;
4. Thermal retina hazard (section and
5. IR-hazard for the eye (sections and

According to the standards, measurements should be performed according to two approaches; viz. at a distance where a light intensity of 500 lx is obtained and also at a distance of 20 cm (…). Based on these measurements, lamps are then classified according to the “Risk Group” (RG) to which they belong. RG0 (exempt from risk) and RG1 (minor risk) lamps do not pose any hazards during normal circumstances. RG2 (medium risk) lamps also do not pose hazards because of our aversion responses to very bright light sources, or due to the fact that we would experience thermal discomfort. RG3 (high risk) include only lamps where a short-term exposure poses a hazard. This classification is based on acute exposure responses (a single day, up to 8 hours) and applies only to individuals of normal sensitivity.

The contribution from the European Lamp Companies Federation (ELC) included six lamp types from eight manufacturers, considered by ELC to be “representative lamp types”. Assessment of effects on the healthy eye


Discomfort glare does not impair visibility but causes an uncomfortable sensation that causes the observer to look away from the glaring source. It increases when the light source is facing the observer.

Disability glare is due to the light scattering within the ocular media which creates a veil that lowers any contrast and renders viewing impossible.

The luminance of the sky is rather stable at about 5,000 cd/m2. This value can be exceeded on bright surfaces on clear days when luminance can reach several tens of thousands cd/m2. The sun is never viewed directly except when it is at sunrise or at sunset when its luminance is about the same as the sky and its colour temperature low or moderate. 

It is when both the luminance and the colour temperature of the light are high that the blue light hazard increases.

The UV/blue light risk on the healthy majority is considered by ELC to be very low and SCENIHR accepts this, but with some questions regarding high power LEDs, wrong use and “non-representative lamps” (= lamps other than the “representative lamps” submitted to SCENIHR by the ELC):

The results presented in the ELC report suggest to SCENIHR that there is little or no risk to individuals of normal sensitivity from the UV, IR or blue light optical radiation emission from lamps which are considered to be “representative” of the type of lamps selected to replace incandescent lamps. SCENIHR however considers that “non-representative” lamps may emit levels that are much higher than those included in the report; however quality control limits applied by lamp manufacturers were not reported. Further consideration should also be given to the “intended” vs. “reasonable foreseeable” use of lamps. Further consideration also needs to be given to the risk classification of high power LEDs. Also, halogen lamps that are intended to be used with an external glass filter must not be used without the filter because of the risk of exposure to UV radiation. Circadian rhythms

Recent studies indicate that ill-timed exposures to even low levels of light in house-hold settings may be sufficient for circadian disruptions in humans.

A comparison between the effects of living room light (less than 200 lx) and dim light (<3 lx) before bedtime showed that exposure to room light suppressed melatonin levels and shortened the duration of melatonin production in healthy volunteers (18-30 years) (Gooley et al. 2011).

Cajochen et al. (2011) compared the effects of a white LED-backlit screen with more than twice the level of blue light (462 nm) emission to a non-LED screen on male volunteers. Exposure to the LED-screen significantly lowered evening melatonin levels and suppressed sleepiness.

In another study from the same group (Chellappa et al. 2011) 16 healthy male volunteers were exposed to cold white CFLs (40 lx at 6,500 K) and incandescent lamps (40 lx at 3,000 K) for two hours in the evening. The melatonin suppression was significantly greater after exposure to the 6,500 K light, suggesting that our circadian system is especially sensitive to blue light even at low light levels (40 lx)

However, no study has investigated whether the impact of warm white CFLs and LEDs (2,700-3,000 K) on melatonin suppression is in any way different from that of incandescent lamps.


There is a moderate overall weight of evidence that ill-timed exposure to light (light-at-night), possibly through circadian disruption, may increase the risk of breast cancer. 

There is furthermore moderate overall weight of evidence that exposure to light-at-night, possibly through circadian disruption, is associated with sleep disorders, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disorders, and with affective disorders

The overall evidence for other diseases is weak due to the lack of epidemiological studies.

It seems that bright white light in the daytime can be helpful in keeping one alert for work (though preferably the real thing rather than a daylight-mimicking copy). But at night – very bad idea! Unless you’re doing shift work and really need to stay awake.

I have started noticing the effect of bright white light at night. My macbook has a LED screen and the cool-white background on most pages tends to be a very bright. Great in the daytime, not so great at night… So I’ve installed the f.lux app that adjusts the screen light temperature to follow the sunset at one’s particular location, and a similar app for my OLED screen Android.

I also try and make sure to get enough real daylight in the daytime and then I dim indoor lights more and more as the evening progresses. With these simple measures, my very easily disrupted circadian rhythm has gotten markedly more normal, almost miraculously so.

ANSES (France):

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety have issued official warnings about selling white LED lamps to the general public due to the toxic effect of blue light.

The principal characteristic of diodes sold for lighting purposes is the high proportion of blue in the white light emitted and their very high luminance (“brightness”). The issues of most concern identified by the Agency concern the eye due to the toxic effect of blue light and the risk of glare.

The blue light necessary to obtain white LEDs causes toxic stress to the retina. Children are particularly sensitive to this risk, as their crystalline lens is still developing and is unable to filter the light efficiently.

These new lighting systems can produce “intensities of light” up to 1000 times higher than traditional lighting systems, thus creating a risk of glare. The strongly directed light they produce, as well as the quality of the light emitted, can also cause visual discomfort.

Blue pollution

From the Wikipedia LED page:

Blue pollution: Because cool-white LEDs with high color temperature emit proportionally more blue light than conventional outdoor light sources such as high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, the strong wavelength dependence of Rayleigh scattering means that cool-white LEDs can cause more light pollution than other light sources. The International Dark-Sky Association discourages using white light sources with correlated color temperature above 3,000 K.

So, no cool-white LED or metal halide streetlights please!

Incandescent Home Lighting

In this post, I thought I’d share what kind of lights I use in my own home.

I use mainly incandescent light, but very little of it. As a principle, I only turn on as much as I need at any given moment. For maximum flexibility, I have many more light points than I generally use, so that there is always the right light for different moods, tasks, seasons and time of day. Here are some of them:

Ceiling spotlights with 3 x 40 W incandescent or halogen replacement reflector lamps. I have one of these in every room (3 sets in my L-shaped kitchen) but I only turn them on when cleaning, so they get used only a few minutes per week. They produce an excellent light for vacuuming, as they project the light down onto the floor.

2014-11-09 02.18.32

Around the living room, placed very low, I have several wall luminaires with 25 watt silver-top incandescent lamps for cosy ambiance without glare.

Over the sofa: a spotlight with flexible arm and 25 watt reflector lamp for reading.

In the Holiday season, I turn on the incandescent light strings I have fastened around the arched doorways.

2014-11-09 02.19.28

I also have a couple of salt lamps (made of real chunks of salt) with 15 watt mini bulbs inside. One in the living room and one in the TV room. Perfect for late at night when you want a dim, cosy and extra warm light in order to not suppress melatonin levels.

On the kitchen walls, I have 4 single spotlights, with 25 or 40 W incandescent or halogen reflector lamps. Some of them I’ve connected to a remote control for quick switch-on. These get used several times a day but only for short periods. (Lamp cables I’ve stapled to the wall with special U-staples designed for the purpose.)

Over the stove, sink and countertop I removed the ugly fluorescent tubes and put in 2 or 3 x 20 watt halogen under-cabinet luminaires. The one over the stove could not be screwed to the metal exhaust fan so I fastened it with self-adhesive velcro strips. These lamps get used only when cooking and washing up.

The bathroom already had 3 x 10 watt halogen downlights, which get nicely doubled by the large mirror. The only thing I miss here is a dimmer, as the light feels too bright late at night…

Edit: …so I bought a coloured LED strip that can be set to red in the evening (see Coloured LED review 2).

Red light (photo: Halogenica)

For safe navigation around the house during dark evening hours, I have window lights with 7 watt incandesent mini-bulbs in the most used rooms. Just enough light to see, and makes the rooms look cosy both from the inside and the outside. Here is the one in the kitchen.

For ambient room lighting in the study, I use a 35 watt halogen desk luminaire with built-in dimmer, adjusting the light level to suit mood, task and time of day.

If I need a brighter light, I turn on the other desk luminaire that takes up to 75 watts if needed. I currently use a clear 42 watt halogen energy saver, which gives a crystal clear, sunny bright white light. The wide shade spreads the light nicely over the whole desk and the construction is very flexible. (Used to have one of those asymmetrical desk luminaires popular in the 90s, but that was not half as useful despite its ridiculously high price.)

By the bed I have a similar but older model with narrower shade, onto which I mounted a dimmer when I rewired it. Not the most attractive contraption, but very practical. Can’t stand bright light right before bedtime so it’s perfect to be able to tune it way down to a soft, warm, almost candle-like light. When I want to read in bed, I just turn the 40 watt frosted incandescent bulb up a bit and adjust the flexible arm to just the right angle.

For safe navigation in the middle of the night I have a 1 watt orange LED nightlight (of the ‘golfball’ model described in my Coloured LED Review post). It has a built-in light sensor and turns itself off during the day.

Outdoors: Around the house I have wall lanterns with 60 watt decorative carbon filament lamps. These only get turned on when I’m outdoors at night, which is not that often.

For porch light I use a 53 watt halogen energy saver.

For driveway security light (connected to a light sensor) I use warm-white LED.

U.S. Incandescent ban – will it save the planet (and my economy)?

Possibly not as much as you may have been led to believe. But decide for yourself with the official government data from my newly updated Energy Statistics post:

A. The residential sector (private households) total energy consumption is 12% of total delivered U.S. energy.

B. Of total delivered energy to the residential sector, 58% comes from various fuels (oil, kerosene, natural gas, renewable etc) and most  is used for space heating. The remaining 42% comes from electricity and is split as follows (my own pie chart, from two different EIA ingredients):

C. Lighting uses around 15% of household electricity and 6% of total household energy consumption.

DIf all household lamps were incandescent, the replacement bulb might save (depending on what type and quality of lamps one replaces them with, how often and how long they are used, how long they last etc) 25 -75% =  1.5 to 4.5% (optimistically) of total household energy consumption.

E. But not all household lamps are incandescent since many have already switched to CFL or LED, and already had about 5% linear fluorescent lamps. According to a July 2011 Energy Star report, CFLs accounted for nearly 28 percent of all residential light bulb sales. This leaves 67% standard incandescent. Of which not all are suitable for replacement (e.g. in bathrooms, hallways, in small or antique luminaires or luminaires designed specifically for halogen or LED etc). So, say 50% left that could be switched = 0.75 to 2.25% potential savings savings of average total home energy use (could be more or less in any individual household).

This is not a lot, is it? True that every little bit counts, and any little bit that can be saved is for good of everyone. But at what cost?

I. The first cost is light quality.

CFLs have a Color Rendering Index of 82-85. This means you get a duller light and won’t be able to see colours as well. A simple trading of quality for quantity, just like in the office. If you don’t mind that in your home, that’s fine then.

LED quality can vary widely between manufacturers. LED lamps have CRI of 75-92. They often reflect more of the spectrum, but the light color can still be off and it will lack the vibrancy of incandescent light.

Halogen Energy Savers will save less (25-30%) but give top quality light with perfect color rendering capacity, as it is also a form of incandescent light.

II. The second trade-off is health & safety.

CFLs contain small amounts of highly toxic mercury vapor and should never be used around children, pets or pregnant women, in case they break. There are silicon-covered bulbs on the market that don’t shatter as easily, but most don’t have that protection. All CLFs must be recycled safely and never thrown in the trash. Some CFLs also emit some UV-radiation at close range. May not be enough to pose much of a risk to a healthy person unless used very close for prolonged periods of time, but persons with UV-sensitive conditions may have adverse reactions.

LEDs have been shown not to be quite as green and non-toxic as assumed either, but probably safer than CFLs.

•  Incandescent lamps, including halogen, contain no toxins and pose no known health risks.

So, why go after the tiny portion that is used for lightings pecifically, while we keep using more and more other electrical gadgets? A chart from the EIA page Share of energy used by appliances and consumer electronics increases in U.S. homes shows how the electronics pie slice has grown to almost twice its size since the 1970s:

Isn’t it interesting also that the total household energy use has hardly changed since 1978 (!) while the proportions of how that energy is spent has changed dramatically? This seems to me pretty solid proof of the often-scoffed-at Jevons paradox and may pose more risks when switching to energy saving lighting.

1. The first is that one may feels one has done so much for the environment that not much more needs to be done. This impression is enhanced by the fact that the switch may make a big change in a room’s apperance (and not always to the better) and by the fact that CFLs have been promoted by everyone, from gazillions of bloggers and journalists to state presidents as the one thing that will make a difference. (And they in turn have been targets of two decades of multi-million dollar lobbying to make them belive that.)

2. The second is that since one belives one is saving so much on the lights, one can leave them on for a bit longer. An article comment illustrates this sentiment well:

“My dad switched to CFLs, but now he just leaves the lights on all the time because he says ‘they use so little power, I can’t be bothered to turn them off’.”

3. Many CFLs are also supposed to be turned on for 15 minutes to 3 hours at a time in order not to shorten their life dramatically.

But if you still want to save a little, and if you opt for the least less energy saving but non-toxic, top quality halogen lamp, you can easily save the remaining 1.5% by turning the heating or cooling down a degree or two, taking shorter showers, skipping coffee & toast, using dimmers and turning lights off when you leave the room and still have a green conscience.

Q&A about the U.S. Incandescent ban

Q: Is it a ban or not?

A: Yes and no. It is not a ban per se (such as in EU and other countries) but a raising of the efficacy standards to a level which normal incandescent lamps cannot reach. The end result is still the same, as far as the original Edison bulb is concerned.

Q: What lamps are affected? 

A: In this first stage of the gradual ‘phase-out’, starting January 1st, 2012: incandescent bulbs of 100 watts or more.

New edit: After debating whether 75 watts are also prohibited or not – which they officially are not until next year – Freedom Light Bulb discovered that the regulation is even more bizarre than we first thought:

US Regulation Absurdity: Dim 100W bulbs allowed, Bright 100W bulbs banned!

If you want incandescent you can still buy 72 watt tungsten halogen Energy Savers and get as much light as from a 100 watt lamp (see my Halogen Energy Savers review). If you can find them. Amazon sells them, Home Depot only have reflector lamps, Lowe’s have more flodlight reflector models, but they can be hard to find in regular stores (ask for them).

Q: So now 75 and 100 watt bulbs can’t be produced or imported?

A: Yes and no. In the words of Kevan Shaw: “The ban is still effectively in force in law however it cannot be enforced.”

Read the longer explanation of this confusing issue here: The American Ban Collapses

And here: After the Funding Amendment: Clear Explanation of American Light Bulb Regulations

Follow the progress state by state here: Progress Track of US Federal and State Ban Repeal Bills


The inability of DOE to enforce the standards would allow those who do not respect the rule of law to sell inefficient light bulbs in the U.S. without fear of enforcement, creating a competitive disadvantage for compliant manufacturers.

As standard incandescent lamps are no longer as profitable to make or sell, the risk of that happening is probably negligible. If you can find a higher watt bulb anywhere you’re still free to buy it, but people have been hoarding.

Leading manufacturers couldn’t wait to get rid of the bulb, so they started closing their North American bulb factories in 2009 and the last major U.S. bulb plant was closed in September 2010.

And just a few days ago IKEA proudly announced that they will not sell any incandescent lamps (spinning more-$$$-for-IKEA-from-new-$14-LEDs to sound like “IKEA-saving-the-planet”). More retailers may follow, regardless of how the dispute ends.

And California started the phase-out a year early.

So choices and availability for top quality incandescent light are shrinking, while choices for lower quality but somewhat more energy efficient CFL and LED lights have increased to a confusing profusion which can make finding the right lamp rather difficult.

Q: So, whose fault is this anyway? Who came up with the idea? Those pesky treehugging-commie Democrats, or the reactionary out-of-my-cold-dead-hands Republicans? 

A: Well, both. The original light bulb legislation was written by Fred Upton (R-MI) and Jane Harmon (D-CA) says CNS News.

“In 2007, Harman and Upton introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation–which became law as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act–that bans the famously inefficient 100-watt incandescent light bulb by 2012, phases out remaining inefficient light bulbs by 2014, and requires that light bulbs be at least three times as efficient as today’s 100-watt incandescent bulb by 2020,” explained a 2009 press release put out by the two House members.

The bill was passed under the Republican Bush administration and signed by president G.W. Bush in 2007. President Obama and the Democratic party have embraced it. However, Upton later changed his mind, as did many other Republicans (and many didn’t think it was a good idea in the first place). And now this issue has been turned into a symbolic item for both parties to fight each other over.

Hope that cleared it up. 😉

Edit: Good article about the ban: Five Myths About the Federal Incandescent Light Bulb Ban

New EU Ecodesign Directive

Updated Dec 2012

Let’s look at the crucial parts of the European Union’s amended (Oct 2009) Ecodesign Directive:

5. Implementing measures shall meet all the following criteria:

Please notice the word “all”.

(a) there shall be no significant negative impact on the functionality of the product, from the perspective of the user;

• With CFLs, the user gets poorer quality light with suboptimal colour rendering (CRI 81-83 of 100), sensitivity to heat, cold, moisture and frequent switching (not recommended for bathrooms and shortly visited spaces); that may not fit well in many existing luminaires; is often incompatible with dimmers, (will fry existing electronics); may cause disturbances on the grid and use more power than marked watts; has recycling difficulties (being hazardous waste they must be taken to special recycling facilities, often reachable only by car, instead often contaminating other recycling materials); and risk of mercury contamination of one’s home if accidentally broken.

• With LEDs, the consumer gets a poorer quality, dimmer light with often strange light colour, dimmability problems, suboptimal colour rendering; extremely high purchase price and poor electromagnetic compatibility (may disturb the power grid and other electronic devices).

• With clear class C Halogen Energy Savers, you get good quality light but more glaring and can get very hot. Frosted would be ok but they were banned 2009. Clear class C halogen lamps will be banned 2016.

• With clear class B Halogen Energy Savers with integrated transformer; glare, higher EMFs, very high price, and not available on the market at all! The only European manufacturer who made these lamps for a few years, Philips, replied when asked a direct question, that that they have no plans on re-introducing this halogen lamp on the market, and that all R&D will go towards developing [the more profitable] LEDs.

–> Thus, this condition is not fulfilled.

(b) health, safety and the environment shall not be adversely affected;

CFLs can not be considered anywhere near safe for health or environment as long as they are breakable and contain highly toxic mercury vapour. Increased mercury mining in China due to rising demands from the West is causing an environmental disaster in AsiaCFLs  may also emit other carcinogenic chemicals and UV radiation (through cracks in the phosphor layer in the inside of the tube).

LEDs can also flickercontain toxic chemicals, emit potentially harmful amounts of blue light and cause health problems for a number of patient groups, as well as disrupt circadian rhythms.

As there are also many patient groups, an estimated 250 000 light sensitive people in EU which SCENIHR thinks will be adversely affected, and anecdotal evidence for even more patient groups reporting everything from subjective discomfort or serious illness in FL/CLF and LED light. Others have estimated that 2 million will be affected in the UK alone.

–> Thus, this condition is not fulfilled.

(c) there shall be no significant negative impact on consumers in particular as regards the affordability and the life cycle cost of the product;

• The reason standard CFLs are now more affordable, besides competition from poor quality no brand bulbs, is that they are often subsidised by tax moneyYour tax money. And you may also be paying an extra nominal fee on your electricity bill to compensate for the poorer power factor of most CFLs, LEDs and other home electronics. In both cases: whether you’re actually using them or not.

• Dimmable CFLs and LEDs are still prohibitively expensive to buy, even if they allegedly last longer. And most of the replacements don’t save as much as claimed, give as much light as the lamp they replaced, or last as long as promised. Burned-out CFLs often have to be delivered by car to special collection places, or to recycling stations for hazardous waste.

• Recovery of the higher purchase price is dependent on the product lasting as long as advertised, something which CFLs continue to fail even under optimal lab testing conditions, and even more so in real life conditions where they easily get overheated or get switched on-and-off more frequently than recommended etc. The promised life of LEDs still remains to be proven. As CFLs and LEDs become dimmer over time and some also change colour, they may neeed to be replaced even before they burn out prematurely.

• Savings are also 50-60% less in North Europe due to the scientifically established Heat Replacement Effect.

• The whole life cycle cost of the product typically never includes the mining of the mercury, phosphors and rare minerals in Asia, and all the cost to health & environment for the workers there. Nor for the shipping of the many electronic and chemical parts over Asia for assembly in a specific factory; shipping by polluting oil tankers from Asia to Europe; transport to recycling facility for toxic waste after the lamp has burned out; and then for the complicated recycling process to recover the mercury and cleaning the glass; and finally for depositing the mercury and other toxins as they cannot be exported from EU according to the RoHS Directive.

• If a CFL breaks in your home, you should first of all already have bought an expensive mercury spillage kit for safe clean-up. Then you may have to replace all carpets, textiles and other contaminated things in that room. If your children inhale the noxious mercury vapour, they may become sick and develop learning disabilities for life. What is the cost of all this?

–> Thus, this condition is not fulfilled.

(d) there shall be no significant negative impact on industry’s competitiveness;

(e) in principle, the setting of an ecodesign requirement shall not have the consequence of imposing proprietary technology on manufacturers; and

(f) no excessive administrative burden shall be imposed on manufacturers.

I’ll leave that part for manufacturers to comment, on the remote chance that they find anything to complain about, as the ban has been a direct result of their lobbying. But they have had to change the lamp labels to include much more information than earlier. And I believe leading lamp manufacturers hold most of the patents for creating decent LEDs.

= As A, B, C are clearly not fulfilled, the incandescent phase-out is invalid and should be revoked immediately. 

• Furthermore, naked tube & spiral CFLs for private use should be banned effective immediately, as they are a hazard to health and environment both! This is very urgent and imperative!

• LEDs should also be restricted to professional use only, due to the blue light hazard – which is greatest for children and certain patient groups – and/or only warm-white LEDs allowed on the market.

• A special ban on cool white/light blue lamps for vehicle headlamps is urgently needed for safety reasons, as glaring blue-white light is a very real danger to traffic and vision both.

• The old ineffective Mercury Vapour street lights should be banned according to schedule as there are more effective replacements with better colour rendition, such as ceramic metal halide.

All other gas discharge lamps should be permitted on the market in order to offer lighting designers and engineers a full range of options for various situations when lighting public spaces. Different environments call for different lighting solutions, optimised for that particular situation. Sometimes more quantity than quality is needed (e.g. in parks and attractive tourist areas), sometimes quantity and long life is the highest priority (e.g. for illuminating highways). Each type of lighting has its unique qualities and one lighting technology is NOT replaceable by another without getting completely different light qualities. Lighting designers know this and are well educated to choose the most optimal lighting technology for each situation.

Light is a bio-nutrient just like food, air and water, and good light quality should be a basic human right.  The quality, colour, colour rendition, direction and quantity can have a very profound effect on how a space is perceived, as well as direct biological effects on the endocrine system, vision, mood and performance on normal healthy people. Lighting is also one of the most potent mood enhancers at the disposal of an interior designer, architect or lighting designer.

Restricting choices for both professionals and for the general population is just wrong, unless a product is found harmful – such as the CFL and some LEDs.

Banning fire-based incandescent light in order to force everyone to use chemical-technical light is the equivalent of banning water in order to force everyone, including diabetics, to drink only Coca-cola when they are thirsty. That’s how big the quality difference is. Truly. Just check any manufacturer’s online catalogue. Even the best CFLs and LEDs for the consumer market only have 80% colour rendition (CRI) whereas incandescent and halogen lamps have 100%, just like sunlight.

Anyone can see this for themselves by taking a dark room and lighting it first with CFLs or LEDs (especially one’s that have been used for a few years) and then light that same room with only incandescent or halogen light and you will see that in the former you will strain your eyes to see anything through the dim, gloomy, greyish fog.  With incandescent/halogen light you will see and feel like letting in the sun on a cloudy November day; all colours will come alive and look more brilliant, and people will no longer have a sickly pallor.

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

1. Plus, SVT, 17 sep 2009
2. Artificial Lighting and the Blue Light Hazard
3. SCENIHR: Light Sensitivity
4. HPA – Emissions from compact fluorescent lights


No lighting blog is complete without a CFL FAQ page. In this case it will consist of my comments to a EU CFL FAQ defending the decision to phase out incandescent light despite the many problems and drawbacks with CFLs.

It is a very long list of concerns and complaints they have seen necessary to address, so I’ll only quote and comment some of the most relevant points here (not necessarily in original order). Surprisingly, EU actually confirms the crucial points I’ve described in this blog (CFL light loss, misleading conversion charts, poor power factor, heat replacement effect etc) but still defends the CFL.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp issues

EU FAQ Question: “III.3. Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps produce less light than incandescents?

EU FAQ Answer: “Compact fluorescent lamps can produce just as much light as 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 incandescent, which is not true).”

My comment: Correct. And this means that CFLs do not save “up to” 80% energy as is often claimed.

“The regulation will introduce restrictions on equivalence claims made on the product packaging, in order to keep the claims reasonable. Until then, for guaranteed satisfaction, a simplified method could be used to compare wattages when selecting the compact fluorescent lamp, by applying a 1:4 ratio (example: the light output of 15W compact fluorescent lamp is slightly more than the light output from a 60W incandescent). Even with this conversion ratio, compact fluorescent lamps are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.”

Correct (just as I’ve been saying, see Conversion Charts). Good to see EU suddenly having realised this (after the ban was voted through on the premises that CFLs save “up to 80%”). After this insight, I expect to henceforth never again see the “save 80%” or “give 5 times more light” in an EU document.

“Nevertheless, it is highly recommended to consider the light output of the lamps instead of their wattage if you want to compare them. It is this quantity (expressed in lumens on all lamps from 2010) that really describes the performance of a lamp, therefore it allows direct comparisons without a need for conversion. For example, a 15 W compact fluorescent lamp typically provides 799 lumens of light and a 60 W incandescent lamp 710 lumens. See also III.9.”

This is good advice and I hope it will become mandatory information on the package so as to make this comparison possible for consumers.

Life Span

“III.4. 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. The regulation introduces requirements on lifetime so that national market surveillance can eliminate free-runners.”

Many of the best CFLs have gotten better in this regard, if the right CFL type is used in the right luminaire so they don’t get overheated etc. But there are still a lot of CFLs out there which, for various reasons, don’t last as long as claimed (see Life Span).

Light Loss

“III.10. Do compact fluorescent lamps lose light as they age?

“It is true that during their long lifetime, compact fluorescent lamps will gradually emit less light than at the beginning (incandescent bulbs lose light too, but because of their short lifetime the loss is less noticeable).”

Manufacturer catalogues do not mention this so I’ve called and asked. Sylvania claim their incandescent bulbs lose no light, Osram says around 5%, Philips Lighting says theirs may lose 5-10% but that they don’t last long enough for this to be noticable.

“At the end of their life, compact fluorescent lamps often lose 30% of their initial light. This is why the regulation requires that when claims are made on the packaging of a compact fluorescent lamp concerning equivalence with an incandescent bulb (see III.3), the light output (and power) required from the compact fluorescent lamp is overstated. This way the user will get initially more light from the compact fluorescent lamp than from the incandescent bulb that is claimed to be equivalent to the compact fluorescent lamp on the packaging.”

I’m assuming this means requiring packages to recommend a 1:4 switch instead of 1:5 (as stated under III.3 above). A good start, but since an 11-12W CFL gave less light than an incandescent to start with, even using a 15W is often not quite enough when light loss is taken into consideration. To stay on the brighter side, a 20W CFL may be more appropriate for the European market = 1:3 switch (see Conversion Charts for more details).

“The regulation also introduces a minimum requirement on light output at the end of life of the lamps. Nevertheless, over its life, the light output of the compact fluorescent lamp may decrease below the light output of the “equivalent” incandescent bulb. Most users should not notice the difference, those who do will have the option of replacing the compact fluorescent lamp earlier than its normal end of life.”

Which makes its practical lifespan shorter than claimed (the industry uses something called “economical life rate” which differs from actual life rate) and thereby also alleged savings.

“III.5. 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?

“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”

In other words, this is a problem, and if one wishes to conserve energy by not leaving lights on, one has to buy a specially dedicated (and no doubt extra expensive) CFL that can tolerate a million switches?

Osram, for example, says their Dulux Long Life and Facility are designed to withstand frequent on-off-switching, whereas their standard CFLs need to stay switched on for at least 3 hours at a time and should only be switched on a couple of times a day in order to last 6000 hours, otherwise their lifespan may be drastically shortened! (Which might explain why some CFLs last only a fraction of their promised life for some consumers.)

This does not sound very energy saving since the best way of conserving some of those few % energy that lighting uses, is to turn it off when leaving the room (or use an occupancy sensor that does this automatically). Since most people probably buy the cheaper standard CFLs and are either not informed at all of this limitation, or unwilling/unable to pay extra for CFLs that don’t have these restrictions, the practical lifespan of the average CFL can be considered much shorter than advertised, and potential savings will of course dwindle accordingly.

“…or other energy saving light sources insensitive to switching can be used (such as halogen lamps which will also remain available).”

Yes, halogen lamps do not have the many limitations and huge quality variations that CFLs do and would be an excellent alternative in many cases. But most halogen lamps will be phased out too, starting with all frosted halogen lamps in September.

Other CFL Limitations

“III.11. 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.”

Another detail consumers need to educate themselves on and watch out for. And pay extra for, of course.

“Improved halogen lamps will also remain available and can operate in any ambient temperature.”

Yes, those few low-voltage halogen lamps that will still be permitted after the phase-out period. This is one more reason halogen lamps should not be regulated. They don’t have the many limitations that CFLs do.

“III.6. 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.”

Both of which are much more expensive and may yet be harder to find. Besides, dimming a CFL will not save any energy, only make the light even more grey and dull than it already was. Standard CFLs still can’t be dimmed at all.

“Consumers should carefully read product information concerning dimmability.”

Correct. One more thing consumers have to educate themselves on besides finding out which CFL type a) can’t be used with electronic timers, occupancy detectors or ceiling fans; b) won’t work or give less light at cold temperatures, c) will give less output and die sooner in closed luminaires, d) will give too few lumens compared to the recommended incandescent equivalent; e) will or won’t give the colour temperature desired, besides reading consumer tests to find out which brands and models will be more likely to give as much light as promised and last as long as promised (if used correctly).

This will be a requirement for each of EUs 500 million citizens if they want to get what they think they’re paying for, since the only reliable and good quality options will be phased out.

“Improved halogen lamps will also remain available and provide full dimmability in all circumstances.”

Only clear halogen retrofit bulbs with infrared coating and integrated low-voltage transformers (hardly on the market yet and even more expensive than standard halogen lamps already are) will be permitted after the phase-out period. As all frosted halogen retrofit lamps, including Halogen Energy Savers, will be banned from September, this doesn’t leave consumers a lot of choice when it comes to an incandescent alternative.

“III.7. Do compact fluorescent lamps really take longer to switch on and warm up to full light output than 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.”

60% within a minute? But what if one wants 100% immediately? (Like one gets from those incandescent and halogen lamps now being phased out…)

“However, there are now compact fluorescent lamps on the market that come close to 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.”

Ah, another vital piece of information the consumer will have to search for! And probably pay extra for. And these still won’t reach 100% instantly, since that’s not possible with CFL technology.

“III.9 Is it true that compact fluorescent lamps do not always fit in the luminaires housing incandescent lamps?

“Compact fluorescent lamps exist today in many sizes and shapes to replace incandescent bulbs. Where there is indeed too little room for any compact fluorescent lamp to fit in, improved halogen bulbs could be used to replace incandescent bulbs.”

Which may be too hot or glaring and are not always the most appropriate option even if they give an equivalent high quality light. And low voltage halogen is often somewhat whiter.

Power Factor

“III.16. Compact fluorescent lamps cause losses in the electrical distribution grid due to a poor power factor. Incandescents do not. Is this taken into account when assessing their energy efficiency?

“According to the technical study ordered by the Commission to prepare for the regulation on household lamps ( even if we assume they have a poor power factor, compact fluorescent lamps are overall much more energy efficient than incandescents.”

Translation: “Yes, we have been made aware of this uncomfortable fact, but since CFLs still save something, it doesn’t matter if it’s 50% rather than 80%.”

“Besides, the regulation on household lamps requires a minimum power factor for compact fluorescent lamp lamps.”

So all lamps with below PF 0.85 will be banned from September…? Or just a similar recommendation as for Energy Star: a minimum of 0.5 in order for manufacturers to get the EU energy label by claiming to pass this generous requirement? Which means that such a CFL will use about twice as much energy as is marked with (see Power Factor).

Heat Replacement Effect

“III.17. Incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat, compact fluorescent lamps much less. When compact fluorescent lamps replace incandescent bulbs in a room, does the increased heating need in the room negate the energy saving through the lower consumption of lighting?

Here we get all the standard counter-arguments (see Heat Replacement Effect) listed together:

“Though it is accepted that incandescent lamps emit heat, incandescent bulbs are not an efficient way to regulate indoor temperature.”

And I repeat that people don’t use lights to regulate indoor temperature but to see what they’re doing.

“The location on the ceiling is inefficient”

Invalid argument since heat circulates and most homes have lights lower down in the room.

“electrical heating itself is inefficient compared to other forms of heating (e.g. gas or heat pumps),

Correct, but see above about people using lamps for seeing, not for heating.

“the heating is unnecessary in the summer period and may even result in increased cooling needs, and not all rooms needing lighting need also heating. Because of all these factors, heat from lighting is considered as energy loss rather than useful energy.”

In the summer it is usually lighter so less artificial light is needed. And studies on the heat replacement effect have taken seasonal variations and other factors into consideration when making their calculations.

“Nevertheless, when it comes to quantifying the improvement potential of the switch from incandescent lamps to compact fluorescent lamps, the UK Market Transformation Programme recommends using correction factors [3], to take into account what they call the “heat replacement effect”. But even these factors remove only 20 to 30% of the estimated savings in energy costs and CO2 emissions, meaning that the balance of savings achieved is still substantial both for the consumer and for the environment.”

Hm, let’s see what the study referred to actually says:

“The magnitude of the heat replacement effect for lights in a typical UK dwelling”

“Comparing cases 2 and 3 shows that for the dwelling simulated in this study, 0.363 MWh/yr of electricity is saved by replacing tungsten lamps with CFLs. Because of this, the annual heat requirement increases by 0.220 MWh/yr. This implies a heat replacement factor of 60.6%. However, an allowance should be made for lighting energy used in external lighting. The factor fin (95%) is therefore applied, leading to a heat replacement factor R of 57.6%.

“In terms of delivered energy savings, assuming a 70% efficient gas heating system provides the extra heat, 100% / 70% = 1.429 times the quantity of missing heat from lights will be required to heat the dwelling to the same level. Using the formula from [1] the delivered energy saving factor is thus 17.7%. In other words, only 17.7% of the gross delivered energy saving will be achieved in practice.

“In terms of fuel costs, replacing tungsten lamps with CFLs reduced electricity consumption by 0.363 MWh/yr and increased space heating consumption by 0.220 MWh/yr. However, since electricity is more expensive than gas (by a factor of about 4 in the UK), the gross cost saving will not be so heavily reduced when including the effect of heat replacement. In this case, 84.4% of the gross cost saving will be achieved.

“Similarly, in terms of carbon savings, because electricity is significantly more carbon intensive than gas in the UK (by a factor of 2.2), the gross carbon saving is not as heavily reduced when converting to a saving net of heat replacement. Simulation cases 2 and 3 suggest 61.4% of the gross carbon saving will be achieved.” [emphases added]

Interesting way of focusing on cost and CO2 and conveniently omitting the part about “only 17.7% of the gross energy saving will be achieved in practice”. (And in this simulation they have of course calculated with maximum claimed/imaginary savings for CFLs, as pro-CFL studies always do.)

“The improved retrofit halogen bulbs that will remain available only provide 25-45% energy savings compared to incandescent bulbs (whereas compact fluorescent lamps save up to 80%), which means they still radiate much of the energy they use as heat rather than light.”

But the above study just confirmed that this same heat helps keep heating bills down in the UK and cooler climate countries. And CFLs still don’t save “up to 80%” – especially not with heat replacement effect taken into consideration!

Light Quality

“III.8. 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.”

No they don’t. True that many men don’t seem to notice a difference, but then men often have poorer colour vision than women (but better night vision). Most women I’ve asked or read comments from – and quite a few men too! – do not like fluorescent light or CFLs at all due to the unnatural looking light even from the ‘new and improved’ top brand lamps. (Yes, this is anecdotal but so is the EU claim to the contrary.)

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

But according to recent Swedish consumer tests, over half of the CFLs tested still had a strange colour. And even the most incandescent-mimicking good quality ‘warm-white’ CFL with double envelope still has a pinkish tinge that might be acceptable in a shaded luminaire but looks distinctly fluorescent and sterile in open luminaires where you see the lamp (or part of it). As this type will be the only frosted retrofit lamp available for open and task luminaires after September, I predict a lot of unhappy customers.

The CRI around 80-83 (medium-good colour rendering) for standard lamps has been the same for decades and will not improve since that means adding more expensive rare elements (which have to be mined out of the ground; not exactly improving the environment).

“Improved halogen lamps will also remain available and produce exactly the same light quality as incandescent bulbs.”

Correct about quality, incorrect about availability (see previous comment above).

“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 incandescent bulbs and halogens.”

This is a direct lie. Not even manufacturers’ own catalogues or anyone in the lighting business claim such a thing. CRI values (= colour rendering properties) are always highest for incandescent & halogen light, and spectral power distribution charts show why this is so (see Light quality).

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

Correct, except the resemblence is only in shape, not in light quality. Though due to the bigger base they don’t always fit in existing luminaires, especially not the candle type CFLs. And the smaller/lower watt CFLs often have poorer performance and durability.

Colour rendering

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

Which I assume is the same as the current standard of CRI 80-83? Unless the minimum is set at CRI 95-97 (which improves colour rendition but reduces light output by about 30% and makes it many times more expensive due to use of more phosphors), and poorer quality CFLs will be banned, this sentence only means that EU deems medium-quality light in exchange for top-quality incandescent light an acceptable lower standard for EU citizens.

Unfortunately, the lighting industry have created a lighting standard where CRI around 80 is called “good” when in reality it’s only mediocre. Anyone who has bought a fabric or chosen paint or wallpaper under standard fluorescent lighting in a shop, only to later find it a different shade than they thought they bought, will know the importance of perfect colour rendering – like you get from natural daylight and from incandescent light.

Colour temperature

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

As stated earlier, special incandescent and halogen lamps come in different colours too, and LEDs come in even more colour varieties, so this feature is not unique to CFLs.

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

Good. But colour temperature for non-glowing light sources is only an approximation when compared to a blackbody radiating light source such as an incandescent lamp. It may or may not look like real daylight or incandescent light, depending on the quality of the CFL and relative success in mimicking the real thing. All too often it does not look quite like the original.

Light spectrum

“The light spectrum of incandescent bulbs resembles that of natural daylight in that it is a continuous curve with no abrupt changes across the spectrum of colours. On the other hand, natural daylight is as strong at the blue and ultraviolet wavelengths as at the yellow and red wavelengths, whereas light from incandescent bulbs has very little blue component and an extremely high proportion of red and infrared component (therefore their light is very yellow and most of it is emitted as heat).”

Correct. Incandescent light (at wattages normal for indoor use) is like sunlight towards sunset. This warm golden-white light is often preferred for home use and makes people and natural materials look their best. This is why manufacturers have tried to copy it in CFLs (with varying degrees of success) and why people are clearing the shelves to stock up on incandescent lamps. And despite being warm in tone, the incandescent spectrum includes enough blue to make blue colours fully visible – unlike fluorescent light which doesn’t let the eye see all wavelengths due to spikes and gaps in the spectrum.

“Compact fluorescent lamps differ from natural daylight in that they do not have a continuous spectrum. They emit a high amount of light at certain wavelengths and almost nothing at adjacent wavelengths.”

Correct. Which is what often makes a room look strange, dull and unappealing when lit solely by CFL light.

“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 incandescent bulbs.”

Correct. But ‘full-spectrum’ daylight CFL is a more expensive specialist product, just like there are Solux halogen daylight lamps which have even higher light quality and colour rendering properties. But these special products have little to do with the standard, reasonably affordable, CFL that people can buy in their local supermarket and which we are discussing as replacements for standard incandescent bulbs.

“Q: III.12. Aren’t compact fluorescent lamps much more expensive than incandescent bulbs?

“Compact fluorescent lamps are actually much cheaper than incandescent bulbs if you consider also lamp life time and costs related to electricity consumption while using the lamps.”

The original sales argument repeated once again. Is this a CFL FAQ or a CFL ad?

“During the lifetime of one compact fluorescent lamp you will have used 6-10 incandescent lamps. And the compact fluorescent lamp will consume one fourth / one fifth of the electricity consumed by incandescents, another cost saver.”

I thought the “one fifth” argument was not going to be used anymore since it was already established earlier in this document that no CFL saves that much?

“A six-year-life energy-saving bulb would save about €60 during its lifetime (80W incandescent versus 20W compact fluorescent lamp). This is based on an assumption of 3 continuous burning hours per day, for an energy cost of 0,15 €/kWh.

Double envelope and poorer quality CFLs of course save less since they don’t give as much light in the beginning and lose more as they age. If one has to replace the CFL sooner due to light loss, that too cuts savings. Same if one gets a CFL that gives up sooner than promised, or is used in the wrong luminaire. One may also be charged extra by one’s utility to compensate for poor power factor, and pay extra for the heat loss in cooler climates etc.

So, net savings are often markedly less than promised in these optimistic calculations, especially with a poor quality CFL (it is actually more economic to pay more for a brand CFL, if you don’t mind fluorescent light).

If EU should ban every top quality product on the market because there is a poorer quality product that might save the consumer a few euros per year (if used correctly) there would be very few products left. I wonder what would happen if the same policy was applied to the auto industry? (That might actually save the planet but it would probably not be very practical or popular…)

Total Energy Use

“III.13. More materials and energy are needed to produce a compact fluorescent lamp than an incandescent bulb, and it also results in more waste at the end of life. Does this not outweigh the benefits of its energy efficiency?

“According to the technical study ordered by the Commission to prepare for the regulation on household lamps (, the impact of energy savings during the use of a compact fluorescent lamp clearly outweigh the environmental impact of its production and its end-of-life. Therefore using them rather than incandescent bulbs reduces the overall energy use and the environmental impact of lighting.”

A more exact reference would be desirable. I’m sure they were made by CFL enthusiasts on the premises that CFLs “give 5 x more light”/”save 80% energy”. And that they only cover the assembly, not the mining of rare minerals, turning the oil into plastic, or manufacturing and shipping of all the different parts (e.g. like the ballasts which, even for the same brand and lamp type, are made by many different manufacturers from different parts of the world).


“III.14. Is it true that because of high energy use at start-up, compact fluorescent lamps have to remain switched on for 45 minutes before they bring any energy saving at all?

“No. The energy use of compact fluorescent lamps in the first 2 to 3 seconds of their operation is slightly higher, but after that their power uptake is stabilised. In practice, they provide energy savings right from the moment they are switched on.”

Probably correct, though savings, as we have seen, are not as big as claimed. And many standard CFLs need to be switched-on for at least 15 minutes or more in order to not shorten their life, which makes them unsuitable and uneconomical in places you only visit for a short while, e.g. bathroom, closet etc.

“III.15. Compact fluorescent lamps contain mercury, a hazardous material, incandescent bulbs do not. If more compact fluorescent lamps are used, does it not mean more mercury pollution in the EU?”

“Mercury is present in compact fluorescent lamps in such a small amount that during its lifetime a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) will have saved more mercury emissions from electricity production in coal power plants (compared to the mercury emissions related to the incandescent bulbs’ electricity need) than is contained in the CFL itself.”

The usual flawed PR-argument recycled once more (see Mercury).

“Moreover, CFLs should be recycled according to EU legislation already in place.”

Should be does not mean that all will be.But 5 mg x millions of CFLs still adds up to tons of mercury in landfills if not recycled properly. The fact that dental amalgam and old thermometers contain more mercury does not in any way make CFL mercury less of an environmental hazard, only makes it seem as if EU has some vested interest in downplaying the significance of mercury in CFLs.

“Compact fluorescent lamps have been widely used in European homes in the past decade, they will not be introduced by this regulation.”

But they will be more or less mandated by banning its most popular and affordable competitors. The whole idea of this ban is to boost CFL sales, whether consumers want them or not, isn’t it?

That CFL sales have been permitted for a decade without adequate information and routines for recycling is not exactly a point in favour of the CFL lobby, but a scandal in itself, as who-knows-how-many CFLs have already ended up in landfills?!

“Most office and public buildings, and also most streets have been equipped for the last 50 years with fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lamps containing mercury (often much more than compact fluorescent lamps).”

Correct, but linear FL tubes in offices are used in ceiling luminaires and street HID lamps are placed far above pedestrian level, neither which can be knocked-over or thrown away with household garbage, so there is little health risk to citizens, and businesses & public agencies usually have well-established recycling routines for their burned-out lamps. So the fact that other types of mercury-containing lamps have been used safely in non-residential environments is not as reassuring as it’s meant to sound, and has absolutely nothing to do with home lighting or CFLs (which is what is being discussed here).

“The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (2002/96/EC) provides for the collection and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipments (WEEE), including lighting equipment such as CFLs. The Directive sets out collection requirements for all WEEE, specific treatment requirements and a recycling target for gas discharge lamps (including CFLs). According to the requirements, mercury needs to be removed from the collected lamps through treatment, and their recycling should meet an 80% minimum target. Once consumers learn that they have to take back their burned-out CFLs to collection points just as they do with batteries, the mercury content will be recycled and not released to the environment.”

“Member States have to ensure that users of electrical and electronic equipment are given the necessary information about the requirement not to dispose lamps as unsorted municipal waste and to collect such waste separately, as well as about the return and collection system available to them. After the regulation is adopted, the Commission will remind the Member States of the need to reinforce the recycling of CFLs on their territory.”

I’m sure some member states already have or will be able to put time, money and effort into informing their citizens and establishing good recycling routines, while other member states may have more pressing matters on their agenda and few funds to finance such operations with.

And even with successful information campaigns and easily accessible recycling facilities, states still can’t guarantee that every individual will comply. The only way to ensure no more mercury in landfills is to not allow mercury-containing products on the market if there exists a mercury-free alternative. And we do have such alternatives: incandescent, halogen and LED.

“The Commission also proposed to recast the WEEE Directive on 3 December 2008, so that the collection target for all WEEE is increased and the recycling target for gas discharge lamps is set at the level of 85%. This proposal will now go to co-decision with the Council and the European Parliament.”

Good target but target still doesn’t mean 85% will be recycled (see Recycling).

“From a life-cycle perspective, the proposed regulation is in any case the most eco-efficient solution. Indeed, according to the technical study ordered by the Commission to prepare for the regulation on household lamps (, even in the worst possible case that a CFL goes to the landfill, during its lifetime it will have saved more mercury emissions from electricity production in coal power plants (compared to the mercury emissions related to the incandescent bulbs’ electricity need) than is contained in the CFL itself, so the overall mercury pollution balance will be positive.”

Again assuming that:

a) all energy for light bulbs comes from coal, which is not correct (Eurostat says 29% of EU electricity production 2006 come from coal) and type of energy source may vary greatly between countries and regions;

b) CFLs save 80% energy, which they don’t (more like 50% for the best, and less for the rest);

c) that reducing up to 1.5% of the c. 3% of domestic energy that is used for lighting will reduce emissions from coal fired power plants better than mandating filtering systems for EU power plants that would deal directly with the coal powered part of the remaining 97%. See

“III.21. Compact fluorescent lamps contain mercury, which is a highly toxic substance. Do compact fluorescent lamps represent a danger to health because of that?”

“Mercury is an important component of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that plays a key role in their energy efficiency and also other parameters such as lifetime and warm-up times. There are up to 5 milligrams (0,005 grams) of mercury contained in a CFL (compared to 0,5 g in dental amalgam filling or several grams in older thermometers). The 5 mg limit is set in the Restriction on Hazardous Substances Directive (2002/95/EC).”

“The mercury content cannot escape from CFLs, except in the event of accidental breakage of the lighting tubes. In that case less than 5 milligrams of mercury could be released.”

Correct. And this is obviously too much, or safety guidelines would be unnecessary:

“The draft Ecodesign regulation requires manufacturers to explain on their websites how consumers should clean debris in case the CFL’s tubes accidentally break, and to include on the packaging of each lamp the link to online explanations. Such an explanation is already available on the website of the European Lamp Companies Federation.”

Good. Though one wonders how many were broken before these recommendations came up. And why the Commission hasn’t issued its own guidelines.

“Buying commonly available CFLs with an outer non-breakable lamp envelope is another way to address the issue of mercury leakage in case of accidental lamp breakage, but the envelope slightly lowers (about 10%) their efficacy.”

This doesn’t eliminate the risk but lowers it (and makes the light less glaring and unattractive).

“Consumers who would particularly worry about mercury can choose alternative technologies such as improved halogen lamps.”

See previous comments about the limited availability of halogen, and non-availability of frosted halogen.

About the incandescent ban

“III.2. By banning incandescent bulbs, are you forcing the use of compact fluorescent lamps? Are they not bad alternatives to incandescent bulbs?

“The best compact fluorescent lamps today can offer lighting functionalities approaching and in some respect surpassing that of incandescent bulbs (e.g. higher variety of colour temperatures).”

There are incandescent lamps too that come in ‘peach’, ‘cream’, ‘daylight’ etc. so this is not unique to CFLs. This sonds more like a desperate attempt at finding something good to say about them.

And this ‘colour variety’ diversion evades the questions, to which the answers are: yes – EU is forcing the use of CFLs, and yes – they are bad alternatives to incandescent bulbs, for all the reasons listed above and below and now confirmed by this very EU FAQ.

“In order to guarantee a minimum quality for compact fluorescent lamps on the market, the regulation also establishes requirements on product functionality (lifetime, warmup times, colour rendering etc.).”

This still won’t make them start immediately or have perfect colour rendering like incandescent and halogen lamps since this is not possible with flourescent light technology.

Nor will retailers be prohibited from importing and selling poor quality CFLs. EU will just give a ‘quality stamp’ to those CFLs that are reasonably decent, meaning very little the regulations is like EnergyStar, which is based merely on manufacturer claims or tested on bulbs chosen by the manufacturer.

“The ENERGY STAR labeling program for residential lighting products merely requires data submission and certification by the product manufacturers. Product samples tested are “self-picked” by the manufacturer. No follow-up testing on actual products purchased from retail is required by ENERGY STAR. In addition, no centralized data review or challenge process exists within the lighting industry relative to the performance of residential ENERGY STAR lighting products.”

U.S. DoE Eergy Star Lighting Verification Program

“Requirements for adequate information provision on the product functionalities will also ensure that consumers can make informed choices. See the other questions in section III for the details.”

Similar but not the same. The main similarity is the frosted outer bulb on CFLs that have a double envelope. But fluorescent light doesn’t radiate and glow like incandescent light does, as it’s a ‘dead’ chemical light.

“but different light from clear (transparent) lamps which are bright point light sources. In order for such lamps to continue to exist, the regulation allows transparent improved (class C according to the lamp energy label) halogen bulbs on the market.”

Correct. They may do to replace some clear bulbs, but are more glaring and may not be a suitable as replacement for frosted bulbs.

“Improved halogen bulbs provide exactly the same type and quality of light as incandescent bulbs or conventional halogens, they come in the same shapes and appearance, and fit into all existing luminaires. They start and provide their full light output as soon as they are switched on, and they are insensitive to frequent switching. These lamps can be useful also for consumers who are looking for alternatives to compact fluorescent lamps for other reasons (sensitivity to light or aesthetic considerations such as need for small lamps in decorative luminaires). Improved halogen bulbs for luminaires using incandescent bulbs are already available on the market, however their use is not yet widespread. Large manufacturers have them in their product portfolio (look for lamps such as ‘HaloLux Classic ES’, ‘EcoClassic30’ or ‘MasterClassic EcoBoost’).”

Correct. But the clear ones will only be permitted for a few more years. And the frosted Halogen Energy Savers will be forced off the market now in September – exactly one year after their market introduction! If this incandescent ban is not revoked, frosted retrofit Halogen Energy Savers must still be permitted indefinitely, or until an even better alternative has been created.

Frosted bulbs don’t give less light than clear bulbs so there is no reason whatsoever to ban frosted other than to force people to buy CFLs against their will. Forcing consumers to buy a mercury-containing product they don’t want – because it is an inferior quality product – is clearly a gross violation of personal freedom!

“I.8. People are likely to stock up incandescent bulbs when they hear about the regulation. Does this not weaken the impact of the measure?

“Communication to consumers about available equivalent alternatives to incandescent bulbs (such as improved halogen bulbs) could help prevent much of the stocking of bulbs. Consumers will realise in the end that the alternatives provide substantial savings and have equivalent light quality to incandescents. They might decide not to use their old energy-wasting bulbs, or to install them only in rarely used places such as cellars. Moreover, the estimate of 15 Mt CO2 savings was calculated for the year 2020, by then any delaying effect of “hamstering” will have disappeared.”

That’s 11 years away! By that time we need to have done some something about the real problems instead of hunting droplets in the energy ocean… like that less than 1% used for home lighting in Europe.

“I.9. Is it not disproportionate to ban incandescent bulbs from the market? Would it not be better to make use of other measures to achieve the switch (such as voluntary restrictions as in the UK, information to the public or taxation)?”

“The draft regulation introducing minimum efficiency requirements (rather than a voluntary approach) is in line with the principle of proportionality. There is clearly a market failure in moving to the alternatives providing the least life cycle cost to the consumers. Since 1998, household lamps have to indicate their energy efficiency on the packaging, thanks to implementing measure 98/11/EC of the Energy Labelling Directive (92/75/EEC).”

Which resulted in the CFL Quality Charter, right? The “Quality Charter” that requires only 660 (initial) lumen from a CFL to replace a 700 lumen standard 60W incandescent lamp, and permit labels that recommend an erroneous 1:5 switch (adressed earlier in III.3)? This is what the European Commission has said about it:

“The CFL Quality Charter is a voluntary scheme. It is opened to lamp manufacturers, CFLs importers and retailers willing to comply with the Charter rules and market in the European Union CFLs that meet the Charter requirements.”

Residential Lighting Consumption and Saving Potential in the Enlarged EU

Yet even such EU-sanctioned exaggerations from manufacturers, utilities and governmental agencies alike, obviously hasn’t impressed consumers enough to replace all their top quality incandescent lamps with inferior quality CFL. Perhaps because they would rather save on something else than ruining their home atmosphere by compromising on something as essential as light quality?

“In spite of the clear indications provided on the packaging and campaigns in many Member States, consumers have failed to direct their choices to the more efficient lamps offering equivalent service, and have been largely sticking to incandescent bulbs. This is due to the fact that the purchase price difference between incandescent bulbs and more efficient alternatives constitutes a psychological barrier, even if the higher initial investment pays off within a year and brings substantial (but much less visible) savings over the life cycle. Another deterring factor has been the sometimes poor quality of the so-called economic lamps placed on the market without being subject to quality requirements. This market failure can only be tackled with mandatory requirements on the efficiency level of all household lamps placed on the market in the EU.”

What? Manufacturers fail to produce a decent enough alternative and it is considered a “market failing” that people don’t like the inferior product and refuse to replace all of their lamps, despite such an unprecedented global PR-campaign from governmental agencies, utilities and environmental organizations, including free giveaways, subsidies, events, commercials, articles, brochures – and most people nowadays really wanting to be green – so this has to be tackled with “mandatory requirements”? Doesn’t that go against the very idea of the free market and consumer choice?

“This also serves the interests of the internal market, as voluntary restrictions or taxes introduced in certain Member States or by some retailer groups in Europe would create barriers to the free movement of goods. They would have different efficiency limits and timing of the restrictions. In addition, for taxation to be an effective deterrant, it should multiply by 10 the price of incandescent bulbs.”

If the EU can legislate about a universal bulb ban, they can just as easily mandate a lower VAT for A-rated energy products and higher for E-rated products. Even a small price increase may inspire those who don’t mind compromising on quality to buy alternative products. Especially when LEDs get affordable enough.

“Still the main point is that efficient lighting as provided for in the draft regulation is a way to save energy, to limit CO2 emissions and to help consumers save money without loss of functionality.”

As we have seen above, the CFL doesn’t save as much as claimed of either and functionality is lost for all those who for various reasons need top quality incandescent light and cannot tolerate CFL light (see Health & Wellbeing).

As this is not in accordance with the draft regulation and the decision seems to have been taken on the false premises that CFLs save “up to” 80% energy and lighting constituting 20% of home energy use when it is only around 3%, this should be enough grounds to revoke the ban and just keep educating people on energy saving measures while subsidising measures that can make a real difference, which is switching to alternative fuels/methods for space heating & cooling, electricity production and transport.

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 – Light Quality

Updated Aug 2012

Fluorescent and CFL light is a composite, chemical light, produced b y a mix of (usually three) phosphors trying to emulate incandescent light, with varying degrees of success. Even in some of the best, is still an artificial replica of the real thing that just doesn’t feel the same and does not behave in the same way, and for technical reasons can never have the same radiance and glow. FL/CFL or LED light is no more the same thing as incandescent light than a gold-coloured alloy can be called real gold, or synthetic microfiber real silk. Both the original and the copy have their respective uses, but in many cases a substitute just won’t do.

• When dimmed, CFL light just turns cooler and more grey and dull, not warmer. The same happens when you dim an LED.

• CFLs give a duller, non-radiating light which makes colours look pale and dead due to lower colour rendering (CRI 81-83), spiky spectral distribution that lacks parts of the spectrum. Check this out for yourself with the back of a CD under a fluorescent light source, and see the spectrum broken up into 3 blocks of colour with all the wavelenghts inbetween more or less missing. These spectral power distribution charts show the differences between incandescent and fluorescent light spectra:

Incandescent light with continuous spectrum and full colour rendition (CRI 100)


Standard CFL with uneven spectrum and limited colour rendition (CRI 82-85)

Lighting designer Gad Giladi, D.E.S.A., M.F.A. FPLDA, explains what happens when wavelenghts are missing:

Not only are the quantities of light of CFL ‘equivalents’ not equal to those of the planned replaced incandescents but also the quality of the light greatly differs. This is due to the fact that the spectrum of the incandescent is a continuous one, i.e. has energy in all wavelengths of the visible electromagnetic spectrum while the spectrum of the CFLs, like all discharge lamps is a discontinuous one, i.e., depending on the composition of the phosphor coating of the tubes will present a lack of or a deficiency in energy at certain wavelengths of the visible spectrum.

This characteristic is not immediately visible to the human eye until the emitted light falls on a surface or an object: the energy in each different wavelength corresponds to a colour perceived by the human visual system. If that colour does not exist in the light, its corresponding pigment in materials cannot be perceived by the eye; if the energy in a specific wavelength is deficient, the corresponding pigment in materials will be perceived as dead, washed-out and distorted. (…)

That means that where colour perception is important, i.e. everywhere the human being lives and spends time, the replacement of incandescents by CFLs is going to inevitably create dull looking spaces, distort colours of architectural finishes (stone, marble, timber, paint, stucco etc.), of furnishings – curtains, carpets, upholstery, furniture finishes, artwork etc.), warp the colour of skin (people are continuously going to look bad/sick in their mirrors as well as in the eyes of their partners).

Incandescent lamps are close to theoretical ‘point sources’ which allow for the design of precise optical systems around them to direct the light in an accurate manner. This permits the creation of accent lighting, a means to create visual interest and drama in spaces. CFLs are diffuse light sources and no engineering will truly make a diffuse light source into a ‘point-source’. Gone is accent lighting!

Example of how food can look when illuminated by a low colour rendering light source (top) such as CFL or LED, vs a high colour rendering light source (bottom) such as incandescent light:

Low CRI (photo from: ScreenLight & Grip)

High CRI (photo from: ScreenLight & Grip)

When a whole room is lit by a fluorescent light it will look more like in the top picture, unless there is an incandescent lamp or halogen spotlight in the room, which will then immediately bring some warmth to the room and make colours come alive again.

See also this interview with a pro-CFL professor explaining the quality problems with CFLs: Why Efficient Light Bulbs Fail to Thrive

Edit: Some content moved to separate post about incandescent light quality.