EU Lamp Regulation Update

(Updated with amended infographics)

2015 was a sad year for incandescent light lovers in Europe. The EU Commission, rather than celebrating its victories in having forced EU citizens to replace so many of their top quality incandescent lamps with poorer quality CFLs and LEDs (and generated millions of Euros in revenue for lamp manufacturers) is instead hellbent on removing all remaining tungsten lamps, leaving only the synthetic alternatives.

This is the lighting equivalent of banning glass and permitting only plastic, or banning silk and permitting only polyester! It’s beyond absurd. 

Freedom Lightbulb on why lamp regulation makes no sense

The bad news:

1. Special purpose lamps will be more strictly regulated from 25 February 2016 due to a regulation amendment aug 2015 in order to close the last “loopholes” for incandescent-lovers. Decorative & carbon filament lamps that have gotten popular in restaurants etc. can not be called “special purpose” anymore and are thereby no longer included in the exceptions to the regulation. Rough Service lamps appears to be available but restricted (the wording is unclear). Remaining stocks can still be sold but no new lamps can be imported into EU or “placed on the market”. So it’s a good idea to stock up now if you can still find them.

Banned 2 Special Purpose

Commission Regulation Amendment of 25 aug 2015 (legal text)
Save The Bulb about the amendment

2. Incandescent and halogen reflector lamps will be banned from Sep 2016. So, start stockpiling if you appreciate their beauty, dimmability and broad usefulness at home.

Banned 3 Reflector lamps

3. The halogen energy savers phaseout, scheduled for 2016, was postponed until Sep 2018 – rather than to 2020 as the lighting industry requested, or scrapped altogether as some of us have suggested as the promised Energy Class B halogen to replace the Class C halogen no longer exists on the market.

Banned 4 Halogen

Commission article about the halogen ban 2018

The (possibly) good news:

1. Halogen G9 mini-lamps for mains voltage will still be available. They last longer than standard incandescent lamps and can be used in a conversion kit as incandescent replacement, which has the added bonus that the base and bulb E re-usable, and are available in a wide range of models: A-bulb (GLS), pear, candle, flame, golfball, PAR, globe, diamod etc; clear, frosted, tinted, dicroic, decorated etc. The base and bulb of course costs more than the old lightbulbs used to, but once invested in, only the inner bulb needs to be changed so it’s really eco-friendly. It’s also perfectly legal (for now, anyway, but there is the threat of another amendment yet to be voted on, so best stockpile G9 bulbs too).

Paulmann halogen conversion kits (German/international)
Lysman halogen conversion kits (Sweden)

G9 conversion manual

2. Just a few weeks ago it was announced that, by using nanotechnology, scientists at MIT have found a way of recycling the “wasted heat” [which of course is not always wasted…] of an incandescent lightbulb and focusing it back on the filament where it is re-emitted as visible light, making it 3 times more effective now, and in the future potentially even substantially more effective than LEDs. This possibility can mean a comeback for the incandescent bulb, if any manufacturer wants to invest in developing the technology. It certainly has huge market potentials as many of us still prefer those old “golden standard” lightbulbs to the new synthetic copies. This would also satisfy the EU Commission’s ever more stringent energy standards, as well as those of the U.S. and other countries.

New development could lead to more effective light bulbs
Save The Bulb comment on the new bulbs

3. Many online lamp shops in EU have remaining stocks of phased-out incandescent lamps. Markedly more expensive than they used to be, of course, but at least still available until stocks run out. (Importing from outside of EU is illegal.)

Banned 1 Incandescent

U.S. Light Bulb Ban – Bad Idea!

Tomorrow the United States’ incandescent phase-out scheme bans incandescent halogen energy savers brighter than 43W (roughly equivalent to a 55W standard incandescent bulb).

The regulation has been found invalid, but the U.S. Government keeps acting as if this is not the case and keeps enforcing the scheme.

Despite most of the world falling for the same deceptive and easily refuted arguments from vested interests, this regulation is an extremely bad idea which will only lower light quality in everyone’s home, put health and the environment at risk and save almost nothing.

The only ones truly benefiting from the ban are lightbulb manufacturers who can sell new, lower quality, technically complicated patentable bulbs, costing up to several hundred times as much as the original lightbulb, and thereby make billions in profit.

Summary of why this regulation is such a bad idea:

Incandescent vs Luminescent Light (pdf)

Article showing how savings will be minuscule at best:

Light Bulb Regulation – President Fails Elementary Math

More  info:

Rik Gheysen’s website

Freedom Lightbulb: How bans are wrongly justified

The Lamp Guide (lightbulb and home lighting guide for the confused consumer)

(See left margin for more related websites, info and article links about the ban.)

Heat Replacement Effect Again

Friday evening, something rare happened in conformist Sweden (where no article may be published without praising the politically correct lamps):

On prime-time national news, a representative of the Swedish Energy Agency (one of the strongest anti-lightbulb forces in Sweden*) was caught blatantly lying about the incandescent lightbulb. Can be viewed here for another 5 days (at 9:55 in the clip): Rapport 31 Aug, 19:30 My description, transcription and translation to English, reporter in green, his narrative in citation marks:

News anchor: From tomorrow the lightbulbs will be gone. The Energy Agency thinks this is an important measure for the climate and claims this will save energy comparable to the heating of 80 000 houses. But it turns out that the Agency uses exaggerated and outright erroneous numbers.

Cue Energy Agency representative Peter Bennich, turning on a an incandescent bulb:

– Well, this is a very nice light source, but unfortunately it uses a lot of electricity. So therefore it will be phased out. 

Then an elderly man in a lamp shop is interviewed while buying incandescent lamps:

– You’re stockpiling?

– Yes, absolutely! These modern lamps are so horrible, strange colours and… 

Clip new picture of lawn mowing.

“Environmental bombs like old lawn mowers and two-stroke engines are allowed but lightbulbs are banned.”

Back to Peter Bennich again (filmed at the Agency in front of a huge flat screen TV):

– They waste so much. It’s like buying 10 liters of milk and throwing away 9 liters every day.

“Only 1/10 of the electricity is of any use in a light bulb, the rest is pure waste. This is what the Energy Agency says.” (Document of the statement is shown.) “And this way we will save 2 TWh, 10% of the electricity in Sweden. This is the equivalent of 80 000 [electricity-heated] private homes they claim.”

– It saves at least 80% compared with the other lamp, says Peter Bennich again (likely referring to the CFL or LED).

“But something has been forgotten….”

Back to the man in the lamp shop:

– I have electric heating at home. The radiators turn on less frequently when I have the lamps lit.

“Lasse is quite right. If a lot of the of the electricity used for lamps is turned into heat, it logically follows that one can just turn down radiators a little instead. Most Swedish houses need heading, during most of the year anyway.”

Back to the Energy Agency and Peter Bennich again to check:

– Is it true that 90 % is pure waste? 

– Yes, that is my opinion. 

“In the Energy Agency propaganda incandescent bulbs are presented as only wasteful.” (A leaflet is shown.) “But the Agency has made their own calculations that show that throughout a whole year, not all but about 50% of the heat from the lightbulb is useful.”

Presented with this undeniable fact, Peter Bennich tries to spin it the other way:

– Well, it turns out then that max 50% of the heat from incandescent lamps are of any use… 

“Oops, earlier it was 10% that was useful. The truth was 50%! Which means that then the 2 TWh savings are not true, and not the other numbers in the information either. For those who want to save energy at home, there are much worse climate villains than the little lightbulb.”

Then the reporter presents Bennich with an infrared heater and a lightbulb, and turns up the heat in his questions:

– If I use this [lightbulb] as a reading lamp for half an hour every day for a whole year except June, or use this [infrared heater] for one evening, which uses most electricity?

Without even a second’s hesitation Bennich replies:

– The incandescent bulb! 

– No.

– Yes, Bennich insists.

“Wrong again. My reading lamp uses 2.7 KWh per year in my example. The patio heater uses 3.6 KWh after only 3 hours!” 

“But”, the reporter seems compelled to add (probably to not get in trouble with his superiors), “if you look at all of Sweden, the ban can still save energy.”

He then lets Bennich get the last word (despite just having proven what that word is worth):

– Lighting uses a very large part of electricity use in Sweden. 

– It sounds as if we are not very good at turning the lights off when not in use?

– Yes! We Swedes are extra poor at turning lights off. 

***  The End  ***

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Note how the Energy Agency representative is extremely careful to use the word ‘electricity’ rather than ‘energy’. That is a very deliberate  and well-coordinated strategy in order to make lighting part sound more than it is, as electricity itself is only a smaller part of total energy consumption.

It’s not a lie but it’s not telling the whole truth either. The largest part of most households’ total energy consumption is space heating (or cooling in warmer areas) followed by water heating. Lighting is only a small fraction of the remaining household electricity. EU average according to official statistics, is less than 3% of total household energy use – of which an estimated 46% was already fluorescent or halogen at the time of the ban (!) according to the preparatory study that was used as foundation for the ban (see my post EU Energy Statistics for details and references).

What is also deceptively concealed is the fact that the largest lighting part of national electricity use is in the commercial, industrial, public building and road illumination sectors, which use the most number of lamps, the highest wattages, and keep them turned on for most of the day or night. And most lamps in these sectors is already fluorescent or gas discharge! Some of them can still be optimised with newer and more efficient lamps of the same or similar lamp groups, better control systems etc, and by being turned off when not in use. That’s where the real savings on lighting can and are being made!

Whereas the private sector lighting use is such a microscopic slice of the total energy pie that it can easily be saved without banning any lamps.

I am sadly becoming more and more convinced that this whole lamp issue is just a diversion to keep us all believing that both we and politicians have really made a difference now by switching a few lamps. The planet is saved and we can all go back to sleep and keep consuming as usual. While the multi-billion-dollar CFL and LED industry is laughing all the way to the bank.

When the truth is that no one wants to rock the boat and start restricting the things that really pollute and deplete resources. Such as petrol-fueled cars & airplanes and the gazillions of electrical gadgets, clothes, trinkets and junk food we’re continuously being prodded to buy more and more of. No restrictions there.

__________________________

* The Swedish Energy Agency (STEM) has been leading the Swedish part of the global Market Transformation Programme (away from incandescent lamps) all through the 1990s until now. As I reported in The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign post, Kalle Hashmi, Executive Officer of Technology & Market Unit at the Swedish Energy Agency, in his Market Transformation Programme paper from 2006 admitted that:

STEM does not necessarily enjoy a commanding or trusted position vis-à-vis the consumers due to previous campaigns launched by STEM during the 90s. These campaigns may be summed as:

STEM engaged in ill conceived, inconsistent and ad-hoc promotions.
STEM did not take into account the consumer perspective but rather concentrated exclusively on energy efficiency and technical issues.
STEM relied indiscriminately on the information provided by the vendors.
STEM was very passive about dealing with CFL technology failures that affected main benefit claims.
STEM did not study, did not know or admit technology limitations.
STEM did not demand or work to establish minimum performance requirements.
STEM never questioned why long life claims were not backed by a guarantee.

And it seems that they’re still at it…

Incandescent Light Quality

Bye Bye Light Bulb – Do NOT Rest In Peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s so special about incandescent light then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Rosenbaum describes it more poetically:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaving many in the dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of lighting designer Howard Brandston:

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

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

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

Lighting designers against the incandescent ban

IALD – International Association of Lighting Designers
IALD Statement

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

PLDA – Professional Lighting Designers’ Association
PLDA Statement

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

Michael Gehring, Principal of KGM Architectural Lighting
Gehring statement

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

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

SaveTheBulb also lists Artists against the incandescent lamp ban

 

 

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.)

SCENIHR (EU):

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):

Abstract

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 3.4.3.2);
2. UVA-hazard for the eye (section 3.4.3.2);
3. Blue-light hazard for the retina (section 3.5.2.3);
4. Thermal retina hazard (section 3.4.3.1) and
5. IR-hazard for the eye (sections 3.4.3.1 and 3.4.3.2).

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”.

3.5.2.3. Assessment of effects on the healthy eye

Glare

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.

3.5.3.1. 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.

Conclusions

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!

Ban The Ban – Sign The Petition!

EU incandescent ban

Now it has been three years since the first step of the incandescent phase-out was enforced in the European Union. In a few weeks, the last of the regular incandescent bulbs, 25 and 40 W, will be prohibited from production and import into the European Union. Remaining stocks may be sold until they run out. Next year reflector lamps are up for restrictions and 2016 most halogen lamps will be banned.

Was this a good idea?

Evidence is mounting that this was a very poor decision.

But CFLs are so great?

Since the ban, we have had a never ending flow of reports on CFL issues, from dimming problems, slow start-up time, poor performance at cold temperatures, lamps burning out prematurely, starting fires, emitting UV, radio frequencies and causing disturbances on the grid. Plus consumer tests showing much still to be desired when it comes to producing promised brightness etc.

And worst of all: Chinese workers and environment poisoned to produce ‘green’ lamps for us, risk for toxic contamination of your home, poor recycling rates, and recycling plant workers at risk from people throwing CFLs in glass recycling bins.

But incandescent lamps use more mercury than CFLs..? 

No, they don’t. This clever PR lie was invented in 1993 by the EU-funded anti-lightbulb lobby organisation IAEEL and based on a fantasy calculation exercise at a Danish university in 1991, with an imaginary scenario of a CFL containing only 0.69 mg mercury (impossible to attain at that time, and still is), while electricity production from coal was assumed at a whopping 95% (as was the case in Denmark at that time but nowhere close to true for the rest of EU then, and even less so today). 

So poof, the main argument that has gotten environmentalists, politicians, journalists and the general public alike to believe a mercury containing product is the best product for the environment, has no substance at all. 

See my Mercury posts for details and references on mercury issues above.

See also Good Greek Philosophy

But what about LEDs?

LEDs (and OLEDs) are great for TV and computer monitors, for coloured Christmas decoration, signal lights, possibly road illumination, stage lighting, spectacular lighting design (such as could be seen during the last Olympics) and many other creative purposes, just not as replacement bulbs for home illumination. Even industry leaders don’t seem to believe in that concept, as they know of the many challenges and that this is not the area in which LEDs perform best.

Most LED replacement bulbs available to consumers today are a joke when it comes to light colour, output and price. There are a few decent looking ones from top brands, but the prices on those are even more of a joke, and how long they last and give a useful light is still unknown. Many have electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues and may cause grid disturbances. Most are not dimmable, and the ones that are do not dim well.

But what about halogen energy savers?

Well, they give the same type of top quality light, can be dimmed nicely and have all the other advantages of incandescent light, plus longer life. But recent consumer tests disappointingly show that they don’t save as much as promised. They also contain bromine or iodine and can be quite glaring unless shaded or frosted.

Unfortunately, frosted bulbs were also banned by the EU in the first stage of the phase-out 2009, due to wanting to force the majority who likes frosted glare-free lamps at home to buy CFLs instead – that was the whole point of the ban. (Not that CFLs are always glare-free, but they can pass for ‘frosted’ by their phosphor coating.)

That the halogen energy saver is still permitted for a few more years was a temporary compromise, as there exists no clear bright point replacement for when such is desired. Its existence on the market – although at first, very hard to find – has been used by the Commission to stifle all the numerous complaints about CFL shortcomings: “But for those applications, you can use a halogen energy saver!” What the commission doesn’t tell the general public is that halogen lamps will also be banned – unless this regulation hysteria is put to a halt by EU citizens!

Time to ban the ban!

Freedom Lightbulb explains How bans are wrongly justified. Quoting from just one of the many excellent points:

CFLs are simply not suitable for all locations and uses: Hot or cold ambience, vibration, dampness, enclosed spaces, recesses, existing dimming circuits, timers, movement sensor switching, use in chandeliers and small and unusual lamps, aesthetical use if clear bulbs are preferred, rare usage when cheaper bulbs are preferred – and so on – apart from light quality differences, particularly noticeable when dimming. Usage in children’s rooms might be restricted on breakage and mercury release issues, see point 10 below.

LEDs offer an alternative choice especially for directional lighting – but otherwise, with several similar location and usage issues to CFLs, as well as having their own light quality issues in spiky emission spectra. LEDs also have even more light output problems than CFLs to achieve bright (75-100W and over) omnidirectional lighting equivalence, and at reasonable cost.

To put it bluntly:
Incandescent technology is optimal in BULB form,
Fluorescent technology is optimal in TUBE form,
LED technology is optimal in SHEET form.
Fluorescent and LED lighting technology advantages are compromised in trying to replace what incandescents can do.

You don’t make savings by regulating what products are on the market – unless they’re toxic, then you remove them for environmental and health reasons. You do it by using the appropriate lamp type and brightness for a particular environment and task, and by tuning it down or switching it off when not used. Lighting designer Kevan Shaw points out the obvious in Ecodesign Regulation Failure? (emphasis added):

As has been shown in previous studies the amount of lighting energy used in households is far more dependent on behavior than the type of lighting equipment used. Ultimately the length of time a light is left switched on has significantly more influence on total energy used than the wattage of the lamp. Another interesting point is that the proportion of electricity used in households for lighting is now being overtaken by that used for Audio Visual and Computers in the home. Despite this no one so far is proposing that plasma large screen tellys are banned in favour of LED types that use a fraction of the electricity!

Also, you can make an incandescent or halogen incandescent both use less electricity and last longer by simply dimming it – something many are already doing! Jim on Light:

Dimmer maker Lutron says that by dimming a halogen lamp by 30% will give you many of the same benefits as using a compact fluorescent lamp.  Lutron also says that a 3,000 hour halogen lamp will last 12,000 hours when dimmed by that 30%.

As Freedom Lightbulb frequently points out: people are not stupid. If there was a better product that truly saves both money and the environment and last as long as promised, we would buy it without being forced. We gladly buy energy-star fridges and washing machines. We have willingly followed energy authorities’ advice on better insulation of our houses; taking a shower instead of a bath; switching appliances off instead of leaving them on stand-by; turning lights off when leaving the room; installing sensors, timers and dimmers. We recycle and try to be as green as we can manage and afford.

All EU authorities need to do is enforce the energy and performance information on the package label, make tests to check that it’s accurate, and leave us all free to make our own informed choices on what we want to spend our hard-earned money on.

The market failure of incandescent replacements is a product failure, and banning the original high quality product in order to force an unwilling public to pay more for a problematic and lower quality replacement is just too absurd for words!

Save the bulb – sign the petition!

Here is a German petition to revoke the ban. It’s not very well written, but please sign anyway – every vote counts:

-> Avaaz petition to repeal the EU ban

Edit: Two more German petitions to sign (thanks to Lighthouse for the links):

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/pro-gluhbirnen.html
https://www.openpetition.de/petition/online/aufhebung-des-gluehbirnenverbots

Update: The incandescent ban is actually illegal as the replacement lamps have not fulfilled criteria a, b and c in the Ecodesign Directive. Se my updated post New EU Ecodesign Directive

EU Light Regulations Expanded

Updated Aug 20

Translated and condensed from Swedish Energy Agency’s website.

Reflector lamps, LED and halogen

Now LED and reflector lamps will be included in the regulation and energy label reqirements.

On July 13, the Committee for Eco-design agreed on the regulation proposal for reflector lamps, LED lamps and related equipment. If accepted, the new requirements will take effect from September 1, 2013. With this new regulation virtually every light source is covered, as the requirements for omnidirectional, road and office lighting is already in place.

The new requirements are introduced in four stages so that manufacturers, importers, retailers and consumers will have time to convert:

Step 1: September 1, 2013 
Between Steps: March 1, 2014 
Step 2: September 1, 2014 
Step 3: September 1, 2016

The requirements set for reflector lamps such as halogen lamps (230 V and low voltage), discharge lamps and LEDs. Omni-directional LED bulbs, which previously only had the energy efficiency requirements, are now also included, as well as related equipment, i.g. the driver and controllers for lighting.

OLED lights are still excluded because this technique is still regarded as immature, but may be included in future revisions of the regulation. 

The regulation includes both energy efficiency and function. Typical performance criteria are longevity, number of ignition and extinction cycles, start time and color capabilities. In addition there are demands for expanded information about the light that should be on the lamps themselves, packaging, and specific sites. This makes it easier for both common and professional users and clients in the selection of lighting solutions.

It seems then, that the original time table for different lamps, as described in my 2009 ban summary, is being kept by the EU. Meaning that from 2016, all halogen lamps must be Energy Class B, which only the very expensive Philips halogen bulb with infrared coating and integrated transformer achieves. And that lamp is currently nowhere to be seen… (I managed to locate one in a small special lamps shop in Stockholm a couple of years ago and it was nice and bright but didn’t last very long.)

This may mean that all the mini halogen bulbs for low-voltage reflector lamps are also banned from that date! The industry wants to see all halogen lamps gone and replaced by much more profitable CFLs and LEDs, and EU politicians willingly oblige. Some of the more attractive metal halide lamps that have made many shops more brightly and beautifully lit since the 90’s may also be at risk. But no one is really sure exactly which lamps will be removed, even professional lighting designers are being kept in the dark! And possibly for quite appalling reasons:

From PLDA Greenpages (emphasis added):

The current draft legislation for reflector lamps, the final draft of which is dated January 2012, will result in the phasing out of several types of lamps, with mains, low voltage and metal halide reflector lamps most likely to be affected. The signals are clear that there will be significant reductions in the availability of these lamps from September 2013, with further reductions scheduled for 2016.

The concern is that specification of these lamp types could lead to a risk of Professional Indemnity Claims if said lamp types could not be provided for installation after September 2013.  Specification of products which then become unavailable from September 2013 would likely result in claims from clients regarding delays and mis-specification.

The main problem is that there is insufficient data available to determine exactly which lamps will be phased out, the specification of which should be avoided accordingly, as manufacturers and legislators have not, at the current time, provided the necessary information.

Changes in Reflector Lamps Legislation may prove problematic for Lighting Designers

This seems to be quite in line with EC behaviour openly on their website too. For the general public, one graph is provided that makes it seem like halogen energy savers (class C ‘improved incandescent bulbs’) will be permitted indefinitely, while the timeline in the information material for professionals tells another story.

Public timeline from Changes – bulbs and packaging

Professional timeline from Frequently asked questions

Tighter standards & new labels

Looking at this last regulation installment, one thing that strikes me is the stunning amount of regulation and label info needed for CFLs and LEDs to cover all the technical issues they have, in order to produce just a little more light per watt:

(a) Nominal useful luminous flux displayed in a font at least twice as large as any display of the nominal lamp power;

(b) Nominal life time of the lamp in hours (not longer than the rated life time);

(c) Colour temperature, as a value in Kelvins and also expressed graphically or in words;

(d) Number of switching cycles before premature failure;

(e) Warm-up time up to 60% of the full light output (may be indicated as ‘instant full light’ if less than 1 second);

(f) A warning if the lamp cannot be dimmed or can be dimmed only on specific dimmers; in the latter case a list of compatible dimmers shall be also provided on the manufacturer’s website;

(g) If designed for optimum use in non-standard conditions (such as ambient temperature Ta ≠ 25°C or specific thermal management is necessary), information on those conditions;

(h) Lamp dimensions in millimetres (length and largest diameter);

(i) Nominal beam angle in degrees;

(j) If the lamp’s beam angle is ≥90° and its useful luminous flux as defined in point 1.1 of this Annex is to be measured in a 120° cone, a warning that the lamp is not suitable for accent lighting;

(k) If the lamp cap is a standardised type also used with filament lamps, but the lamp’s dimensions are different from the dimensions of the filament lamp(s) that the lamp is meant to replace, a drawing comparing the lamp’s dimensions to the dimensions of the filament lamp(s) it replaces;

(l) An indication that the lamp is of a type listed in the first column of Table 6 may be displayed only if the luminous flux of the lamp in a 90° cone (Φ90°) is not lower than the reference luminous flux indicated in Table 6 for the smallest wattage among the lamps of the type concerned. The reference luminous flux shall be multiplied by the correction factor in Table 7. For LED lamps, it shall be in addition multiplied by the correction factor in Table 8; 

(m) An equivalence claim involving the power of a replaced lamp type may be displayed only if the lamp type is listed in Table 6 and if the luminous flux of the lamp in a 90° cone (Φ90°) is not lower than the corresponding reference luminous flux in Table 6. The reference luminous flux shall be multiplied by EN 22 EN the correction factor in Table 7. For LED lamps, it shall be in addition multiplied by the correction factor in Table 8. The intermediate values of both the luminous flux and the claimed equivalent lamp power (rounded to the nearest 1 W) shall be calculated by linear interpolation between the two adjacent values.

If the lamp contains mercury:

(n) Lamp mercury content as X.X mg;

(o) Indication of which website to consult in case of accidental lamp breakage to find instructions on how to clean up the lamp debris.

So, 16 different parameters to learn and keep in mind, plus websites to consult for safety instructions, just to buy a simple lightbulb!!

When buying an incandescent bulb, all you needed to know was watts and type of base.

All incandesent bulbs switched on immediately; worked with timers, dimmers and sensors; dimmed beautifully; worked just as well in the oven as in the freezer; worked in any position; power factor was perfect; colour rendering was perfect; light colour adjusted itself perfectly along the Planck curve according to brightness; life span was predictable and was not shortened by switching it off within 15 minutes of use. You knew that if you wanted to save energy, you either dimmed the lamp or simply turned it off when not needed.

And when producing it, you stuck a piece of tungsten in a glass bulb, put a metal screw base on it, replaced the air with some inert gas and that was it. Easily done in a local factory.

You did’t have to go mine for toxic metals and phosphors, manufacture various components all over Asia and then ship them to China for assembly, then ship the finished lamps to Europe, then collect them again after use to recycle the toxic elements. Or keep tweaking it for 3o years to get it to only almost resemble incandescent light, almost give as much light as promised, and almost (but often not) last as long as promised, while still having all those issues that the EU Commission now finally sees fit to regulate and require on the label.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s excellent that this info is now required on the label! That’s what national and federal authorities should be there for, to keep the free market in check and make sure it delivers what it promises. These mandatory labels should have been required years ago, but then the Committee either didn’t know about all these issues or chose to ignore them. I only hope these requirements will be forecefully enforced, with regular tests and fines and sales bans on any lamp that doesn’t live up to its label info.

But legislating on product labels and doing quality controls is one thing. Banning safe and popular products is truly taking things to extremes.

Link to EC label guide for consumers: How to read the new information displayed on light bulb packaging

See also Freedom Light Bulbs post about the new labels.

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.

The Lightbulb Conspiracies

The 1st Conspiracy (1924-1939) – The Incandescent Bulb

The first conspiracy was presented earlier this year in the documentary The Lightbulb Conspiracy, about planned obsolescence. (Freedom Lightbulb has review, comments and links to the full movie.) Here is a summary of the lightbulb part of the film:

In the early 1900’s, the goal was to make the light bulb last as long as possible. Edison’s lamp lasted 1500 hours, and in the 1920’s, manufacturers advertised lamps sporting a 2500 hour life. Then leading lamp manufacturers came up with the idea that it might be more profitable if the bulbs were made less durable.

In 1924, the Phoebus cartel was created in order to control global lamp production, to which they tied manufacturers all over the world, dividing the various continents between them. In the documentary, historian Helmut High shows the original cartel document that states: “The average life of lamps may not be guaranteed, advertised or published as more than 1 000 hours.” The cartel pressured its members to develop a more fragile incandescent bulb, which would remain within the established 1000-hour rule. Osram tested life and all manufacturers that did not keep the lower standards were heavily fined. Bulb life was thereby reduced to the required 1000 hours.

The film claims that there are patents on incandescent light bulbs with 100 000 hours lifetime, but they never went into production – except Adolphe Chaillets bulb of Livermore Fire Department in California, which has burned continuously since 1901. In 1981, the East German company Narva created a lamp for a long life lamp and showed it at an international light fair. Nobody was interested. (It later became accepted as a special ‘long-life’ lamp but was never a commercial hit.)

Wikipedia states that the Phoebus cartel included Osram, Philips, Tungsram, Compagnie des Lampes, Associated Electrical Industries, ELIN, International General Electric, and the GE Overseas Group. “They owned shares in the Swiss corporation proportional to their lamp sales.”

“The Phoebus Cartel divided the world’s lamp markets into three categories:

  1. home territories, the home country of individual manufacturers
  2. British overseas territories, under control of Associated Electrical Industries, Osram, Philips, and Tungsram
  3. common territory, the rest of the world

In 1921 a precursor organisation was founded by Osram, the Internationale Glühlampen Preisvereinigung. When Philips and other manufacturers were entering the American market, General Electric reacted by setting up the International General Electric Company in Paris. Both organisations were involved in trading patents and adjusting market penetration. Increasing international competition led to negotiations between all major companies to control and restrict their respective activities in order not to interfere in each other’s spheres.”

According to the documentary, the cartel officially never existed (even though their memorandum remains in archives). Their strategy has been to rename all the time, but still exists in one form or another. The film mentions The International Energy cartel, but that seems to be more about controlling world energy production rather than light bulbs specifically.

See also: Freedom Lightbulb: Light Bulb Testimonial

Update: Ceolas.net found an Osram pdf (nicely spotted!) where the Pheobus is mentioned, though of course not called a cartel but “an agreement”. Quoting from pp. 31-33:

The world light bulb agreement (Phoebus agreement)

Soon after OSRAM was founded its chairman, Dr. William Meinhardt, made it his mission not only to unite the German light bulb industry but also to achieve international cooperation among similar companies. His aim was to build bridges and make connections to bring the world’s leading companies closer together. The conditions for such a move were favourable. Preparatory negotiations lasted many years until finally in 1924 Dr. Meinhardt’s initiative bore fruit in the form of the “General Patent and Development Agreement”. A company called Phoebus S.A. was founded under Swiss law. Its highest decisionmaking body was the general assembly. The chairman of the administrative board (supervisory board) was Dr. Meinhardt.

This “world light bulb agreement” was one of the most far-reaching international agreements. It included the most prominent manufacturing companies in the world, with the exception of those in the USA and Canada (through with their agreement) as direct members.

Representing Europe were OSRAM from Germany, Philips from Holland, G.E.C. from the UK, the Compagnie des Lampes from France, Kremenezky from Austria, Tungsram from Hungary, the Società Edison Clerici from Italy and companies from Spain. Swedish and Swiss companies provided a representative together with medium-size German light bulb manufacturers. The initial agreement was set to run for ten years but it was extended in view of its success. It was nullified in 1940 because of the war.

To maintain the effectiveness of the agreement it was necessary to set up a streamlined organisation. The arrangements were generously adapted to suit the purpose of the agreement. 

The agreement related to all electric light bulbs used for illumination, heating or medical purposes. Arc lamps, neon lamps, x-ray lamps and radio tubes were excluded. If, during the course of the agreement, new light sources of general importance were developed they could be included in the agreement. This applied later to fluorescent lamps.

The 2nd Conspiracy (1938 and onwards) – The FL Tube & HID Lamps

OK, this one is perhaps more of a Zeitgeist thing than an actual thought-out conspiracy since at the time it was generally thought that, after millennia of dim lighting, light quantity was always a blessing and quality of no importance at all. It was also an era of industrial optimism and a complete unawareness of environmental and health effects of various toxic chemicals found useful in everyday applications.

So, in the 1929s and 30s, along with functionalism in architecture, there was a great rush to find new and more efficient ways of illuminating work places and public areas. The fluorescent tube (FL) seemed to be the answer and the first tubes were marketed in 1938. But then came WWII.

The situation after the war was ideal: a clean slate upon which to build massive functionalistic buildings lit by overly bright fluorescent light everywhere. Again, likely by the coordinated effort of the lighting industry, the FL tube became the standard light in offices and residential building common areas, as well as in home owners’ kitchens and basements – despite the light quality being outright appalling.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps such as the Mercury Vapour lamps were used factories and cast a harsh eerie blue-green light on public streets; in the 60s joined by Sodium Vapour and Metal Halide lamps (which are Mercury Vapour lamps with halogens added for improved light colour and colour rendition). Not that there was a better alternative at the time: short-lived and ineffective incandescent lamps would not have been practical for road illumination (though there were combination lamps for a time, where the incandescent helped ignite the MV lamp). But some might have preferred to have more quality light than quantity indoors, e.g. in schools and offices, like in earlier decades.

Mercury-based FL/HID light continued through subsequent decades to be spread into every area of human life, eagerly pushed by lighting industry organisations (e.g like Belysningsbranschen in Sweden and their equivalents in other countries) who issue professional lighting standards for all public spaces.

By the 1980s, mainly private homes and some commercial areas such as restaurants, hotels and small shops remained incandescent. But even such romantic sanctuaries were not to be left alone.

The 3rd Lightbulb Conspiracy (1985 and ongoing) – The CFL

This self-confessed conspiracy by lamp companies and utilities and national energy agencies has already been outlined in The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign, and on the New Electric Politics site Shining a Light on Politics and Light Bulbs.

When I wrote that first post two years ago, I was not aware of the first lightbulb conspiracy, but the info about the Phoebus cartel provided the last pieces of the puzzle as to how lamp manufacturers were able to pull off the CFL scam and get a global ban of their by then unprofitable product (the incandescent bulb) in such a short time. One only has to check the ELC (European Lamp Companies Federation) website to see that lamp manufacturers are still extremely well organized, and now brag openly about their lobbying:

We represent the leading lamp manufacturers in Europe. 95% of total European production. 50 000 employees in Europe. 5 billion EURO European Turnover  – view lamp statisticsWe are an international non profit-making association under Belgian law with a secretariat in Brussels. We are a flexible, light & efficient decision-making lobby organisation. See our views on climate change & energy efficiencyRecent newsWe were created in 1985 – view our structure.

Interesting date 1985… right before the CFL was released on an unsuspecting public.

Utilities and national market transformation programmes now also brag openly about how they managed to increase public acceptance of substandard CFLs by addressing consumer concerns with blatant propaganda (see The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign for details).

As for utilities’ part of the scheme, see New Electric Politics

Then in 2009, the conspiracy moved up to United Nations level, with a chance for lamp manufacturers to get subsidies for dumping their unwanted CFLs on unsuspecting Asian and African countries – who a) won’t be informed of the mercury content and other issues and b) are very unlikely to have efficient recycling plans and facilities set up – while getting a green halo for their saintly ‘environmental’ efforts.

“There is growing momentum now, and a very aggressive timeline to address the emerging issues of climate change. We have learned a lot in Europe and the United States over the past few years, and need to apply that in the emerging marketplaces of developing countries,” said Kaj den Daas, CEO, Philips Lighting North America.

I suspect the “aggressive timeline” has more to do with a need to squeeze out as much remaining profit as possible from the CFL before environmentalists wake up to the scam and mercury-free alternatives take over the market. It’s not like they’re going to give away free LEDs or halogen lamps to poor people in developing countries…

The result of this UN – lighting industry cooperation was the en.lighten initiative. Wikipedia has a handy description of it:

“As part of global efforts to promote efficient lighting, United Nations Environment Programme with the support of the GEF Earth Fund, Philips Lighting and OSRAM GmbH has established the en.lighten initiative. The initiative seeks to accelerate global commercialization and market transformation of efficient lighting technologies by working at the global level and providing support to countries.”

See my post Global Ban Craze for details on the deceptive numbers used in the 2009 press release, now perpetuated on the new site.

“Electricity for lighting accounts for almost 20 per cent of global power consumption and close to 6 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If a global transition to efficient lighting occurred, these emissions could be reduced by half.”

See also Freedom Lightbulb for info and comments on the en.lighten initiative.

Edit 1 aug: Yesterday, Freedom Lightbulb posted more proof of the bulb ban conspiracy with an article from 2010 by two dutchmen about the findings of journalist Syp Wynia on how the incandescent bulb ban was achieved through cooperation between Dutch Philips and Greenpeace. Original article:  The Unholy Alliance between Philips and the Greens

Philips, the company involved, started in 1891 with the mass production of Edison lamps, at its home base, Eindhoven, Netherlands. There existed no international court of justice at the time, so they could infringe on US patent law with impunity. In the past 120 years it has expanded continuously, to become the multinational electronics giant it is today. Because nostalgia seldom agrees with the aims of private enterprise, Philips started lobbying to phase out the very product on which its original success is based. They started this campaign around the turn of the century, ten years ago.

Their line of thought is clear: banning incandescent bulbs creates an interesting market for new kinds of home lighting, such as “energy savers” (CFL’s, compact fluorescent lamps) and LED’s (light emitting diodes). The mark-up on these new products is substantially higher than that on old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. The rapid expansion of the lighting industry in China makes the profit margin on ordinary bulbs from factories in Europe smaller yet.  (…) 

Multiple government campaigns, aimed at promoting the idea that energy savers contribute to the well-intentioned goal of reducing the energy consumption of households, failed to convince citizens. 

The spectre of catastrophic climate change offered a new opportunity for the strategists and marketing specialists at Philips headquarters. They changed their marketing concept and jumped on the Global Warming band wagon. From that moment on, energy-saving bulbs could be put on the market as icons of responsibility toward climate change. This would give Philips a head start in the CFL end LED business. The competition would be left far behind by aggressive use of European patent law. That strategy fitted like a glove with that of the environmental movement. For them, ordinary light bulbs had become the ultimate symbol of energy waste and excessive CO2 emissions. Seeing the opportunity, Greenpeace immediately made a forward pass with the ball thrown by Philips’ pitchers. The incandescent bulb would serve as an ideal vehicle for ramming Global Warming down people’s throats. No abstract discussions about CO2-emissions any more: a ban on bulbs would suffice.

The 4th Conspiracy (c. 2005 and ongoing) – The LED

Since at least 2005, the U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy department have had their main focus on solid state lighting (SSL), which is a fancier name for LED. Market Studies and Technical Reports

Naturally in cooperation with leading vested interests such as Philips, Cree, Lumileds Lighting Company, Dow Corning, General Electric, Osram Sylvania and Eastman Kodak (examples from this document: Energy Savings Potential of Solid State Lighting in General Illumination Applications) who made projections spanning 20 years, from 2007-2027, and seem to consider LED (and eventually OLED) to be the optimal replacement for pretty much all other  lamp types in all sectors, but especially for the “high CRI” (CFLs and T8 FL tubes) and “very CRI” (incandescent, halogen) groups in the residential and commercial sectors.

“In both the LED and OLED scenarios, SSL displaces light sources in all sectors by the end of the analysis period, but the significant energy savings are primarily from the displacement of incandescent lamps in commercial and residential applications.”

So, with the pesky incandescent bulb out of the way, and more and more people becoming aware of or experiencing first hand the many drawbacks of CFLs, now the whole circus starts over again with yet another hyped incandescent replacement. Again at ridiculous prices, with more or less appalling light colour, suboptimal colour rendition, dimming problems, heat sensitivity and a promised life that still remains to be seen.

Does this sound familiar? Story of the CFL, for which millions have paid hefty prices to get substandard lamps which only now, after 20 years, appear decently incandescent-looking, decently affordable (due to heavy sibsidies) but still have most of the other problems left. So, do we now have to wait another 20 years for the LED to become decent-looking, affordable and working as promised, while paying even more hefty prices for being consumer guinea pigs in the mean time?

Alas, the Lightbulb Conspiracy film maker didn’t see through this one. Instead a younger generation Philips got to present ‘his’ new generation bulb: the LED, as if he personally made the whole lighting industry suddenly wake up with a bad conscience and now truly wants home bulbs to last for 25 years, hahaha! I predict that future consumer tests will show LEDs lasting a lot less than 25 000 hours, or become dim enough to be useless long before that.

Epilogue

I also suspect that those of us who have spent years revealing all the dirty little secrets of CFLs, are probably in a way just helping to prepare the ground for the LED. (Like with pharmaceutical drugs… First they’re so great. No end to how great they are… Then, when patents start running out, suddenly there is a flood of articles, news snippets and anecdotal reports in less discriminating media revealing all the problems with them – which, of course, have been there all along. But, as it happens, the good news is always that there is now a new and better medicine for that particular health issue. Which is of course is really great… Until that patent starts running out, then it may turn out that the new drug had even more problems than the first one.)

Those of us who genuinely believe that natural, healthy, beautiful light is as basic a human need and right as clean water, food and air, are of course no willing participants in such a scheme, but something to be mindful of.

Consumer Tests

Update Aug 9: The Swedish consumer tests in this post have been moved to separate pages, with tables updated and 2012 test info added:

Incandescent (1997, 2004)
Halogen (2010, 2011, 2012)
CFL (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
LED (2011, 2012)

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

NEMA:

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.

Various short stories

CFL-lit restaurants – ack!

This week I was invited to a Christmas dinner at fine country restaurant. Lovely old building, great company, delicious food, but the lighting put a bit of a damper on the otherwise enjoyable event. It consisted of CFL downlights only, exept for a few halogen wallwashers to illuminate the beautiful brick walls. The effect was dim and gloomy as the dimmed CFL light was too weak to reach the tables and floors – unlike halogen light which does this very effectively – and made the room look dull and grey instead of sparkling and lively. If it hadn’t been for the halogen wall-washers, it would have been even more gloomy. Dimming the CFLs also changed their colour to dim blue and dim rose, and made some of them flicker perceptibly!

New LED traffic lights can’t melt snow

Just as some of us have been warning about. How hard can it be to just use the right lamp in the right place? Incandescent (halogen) lamps for regions with cold and snowy winters, LEDs for warmer regions.

Energy Efficiency: How NOT To Do It

Utilities billing their customers for ‘free’ CFLs, and with a profit margin on top of it, much to the surprise and dismay of their customers when they found out. LOL! Do people think their utilities are Santa Claus or Mother Teresa? As I pointed out in an earlier post, if you get something for free, you usually end up paying for it one way or another.

New Lamps for Old – Light Changing and Burglary

CFL light exchange programs may also attract thieves and scammers seeing an opportunity to get into your home, as well as companies handing out free low-quality CFLs in order to lure you into buying something else. Beware!

Compact Fluorescent Lamps Could Nearly Halve Global Lighting Demand for Electricity

“Aggressively replacing the world’s incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) could reduce lighting energy demand by nearly 40 percent and cut greenhouse gas emissions from day one, according to the latest Vital Signs Update released by the Worldwatch Institute.”

Obviously, World Watch Institute haven’t done their math right. As I clarified in the latter half of my Global Ban Craze post, incandescent lamps are used mainly in the Residential sector, which in turn uses only 15% of world energy (whereas the Industrial and Commercial sectors use 62.5%, the majority of which is already FL or HID). Of those 15% only a small part is used for lighting, and only some of the lamps in the Residential sector are still incandescent.

Stepping out, stepping lively

980 incandescent lamps to light up a slipper?! Ouch! What will happen to Las Vegas when incandescent lamps are phased out? The almost obscene overflow of high quality dazzling light is a huge part of Vegas’ special appeal, I wonder how casinos and hotels will manage without it? (Not that I’d be overly sorry if casino owners get one tool less to manipulate gullible people’s senses with, but I’m sure they will be.)

Ingo Maurer’s Euro Condom

For those EU residents who miss the now banned frosted incandescent bulb and forgot to stock up.

Global Ban Craze

Updated July 2012

More and more countries are being persuaded to phase out incandescent lamps:

Cuba: banned incandescent bulbs 2005.
Brazil: initiated phase-out 2005.
Venezuela: initiated phase-out 2005.
Argentina: bulbs will be banned by 2011.

European Union: gradual phase-out between Sept. 2009 and September 2012.
Italy (EU member): speeded up ban by 2011.
United Kingdom (EU member): speeded up ban by 2011.
Switzerland: “Switzerland banned the sale of all light bulbs of the Energy Efficiency Class F and G, which affects a few types of incandescent light bulbs. Most normal light bulbs are of Energy Efficiency Class E, and the Swiss regulation has exceptions for various kinds of special-purpose and decorative bulbs.”
Finland: is considering a ban by 2011.

Canada: plans ban in 2012 (Update: “On Nov 9, 2011, the federal government approved a proposal to delay new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs until Jan. 1, 2014”)

U.S.A.: gradual phase-out between 2012 and 2014 (a few of the most efficient Halogen Energy Savers may still pass the efficiency requirements). (Update: In 2011, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas and 14 other Republicans joined to introduce the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act or BULB Act (H.R. 91), which would have repealed Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.)

Israel: phase out of 60w and over incandescent lightbulbs has been implemented from 1st January 2012.

Russia: phase-out between 2011-2014, starting with the 100W like in EU.
Tajikistan: has banned import & production 2009.

India: “While not a complete ban, the plan is to replace 400 million incandescent light bulbs with CFLs by 2012.”
People’s Republic of China: “China will ban imports and sales of certain incandescent light bulbs starting October 2012 to encourage the use of alternative lighting sources such as LEDs, with a 5-year plan of phasing-out incandescent light bulbs.”

Philippines: 2010.
Malaysia: “The Government will stop all production, import and sales of incandescent light bulbs by or before January 2014.”

Australia: started ban 1 November 2009. (Lamps must be over 15 lm/W which means some Halogen Energy Savers may still qualify.)
New Zeeland: 2007 ban plan got scrapped by the new government in 2008.

Quotes and info from Wikipedia

*********************

But not even this is enough to satisfy the vested interests and duped do-gooders:

Global Phase-Out of Old Bulbs Announced by UN, GEF, and Industry

Ever since I read this press release two months ago, I’ve been too stunned for words. But now I want to make a few comments:

The close to $20 million initiative, the Global Market Transformation for Efficient Lighting Platform that will be implemented in collaboration with the private sector companies OSRAM and Philips, is aimed at reducing the bills of electricity consumers in developing economies while delivering cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

I would guess it is more aimed at increasing profits for OSRAM and Philips and funding for involved organisations.

It is also aimed at replacing fuel-based lighting systems, such as kerosene, that is linked with health-hazardous indoor air pollution.

This is good! Or would be, if the plan was to hand out free solar-powered LEDs rather than free CFLs, which are health-hazardous if dropped or not recycled properly. But LEDs are still too dim, too imperfect and too expensive to give away for free, and as manufacturers still meet (often justified) consumer resistence to their CFLs due to lingering quality problems, it seems the plan is now to dump them on unsuspecting developing countries who can’t afford to be choosers.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-secretary General and UNEP Executive Director: “This new project aims to accelerate growing national initiatives to replace old bulbs into a global one by overcoming market barriers in developing economies and by setting international energy and performance standards in order to build consumer confidence.”

I guess manufacturers are in a hurry to find an alternative outlet for their unwanted CFLs before LEDs become good and affordable enough to take over their part of the market. So now they need the help of the UN to “accelerate the plan” and “overcome market barriers” (such as high price for decent quality and dimmable lamps, mediocre light quality, gradual light loss, temperature sensitivity, varying durability, mercury content & recycling difficulties).

Globally, 70% of total lighting market sales are still made up of inefficient incandescent lamps.

But sales do not necessarily reflect use:

– Since incandescent bulbs have a much shorter life than fluorescent and High Intensity Discharge lamps, there will be more incandescent lamps sold, while old tubes and HID lamps keep burning year after year.

– At home, a family may have numerous light points installed but only use a few every day, for just a few minutes or hours at a time, and some on dimmers, sensors or timers.

A market shift, from incandescent lamps to energy-efficient alternatives, would cut the world’s electricity demand for lighting by an estimated 18%.

But this is what the notes at the bottom of the press release says:

Some additional facts and figures

• The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that in 2007 total electricity consumption for lighting was 2,650 TWh. This represents almost 19% of global electricity use.

But only a small fraction of that light is incandescent. And global electricity consumption is only 4.5% of world total delivered energy.

“Eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked with lighting.”

If that is true it does not come from incandescent lighting.

Estimates clearly include all sectors. Please note that the majority of lights in the Commercial sector, and probably nearly all in the Industrial sector, are already fluorescent or HID. Transportation sector lighting is still mostly halogen, but that is not what this project aims at addressing.

Left is the Residential sector, which accounted for just under 15% of world delivered energy consumption in 2009 (according to EIA International Energy Outlook). Note: all types of energy.

Electricity is just under 30% of those 15% = 4.5% of total world energy consumption in the residential sector.

In EU and USA, lighting is estimated at a mean of around 9-10% of household electricity = 2-3% of total household energy consumption (source: EuroStat and EIA) = 0.45% of total. And of the lamps in the residential sector, most but not all are incandescent, and of those that are, only some are suitable for replacement.

Statistics for the rest of the world are often incomplete, conflicting, non-existent or hard to come by, but I doubt it is much more than in EU and USA.

OSRAM representative Martin Goetzeler, CEO: “The lever is enormous. Over 1/3 of the electricity used worldwide for lighting today could be saved. That corresponds to half the electricity consumption of China.”

Above it was 18%! How is it possible to save either “18%” or “over 33%” of world electricity used for lighting when most of this light is already fluorescent or HID? Doesn’t anyone see through this obvious fraud?

As lighting in the Commercial and Industrial sectors together represent a much larger portion of world energy consumption (again, according to EIA) and lamps are typically left on all day and/or all night (!), isn’t it obvious that the greatest savings can be achieved in those sectors? E.g. by upgrading existing linear halophosphate FL tubes with magnetic ballasts to triphosphor tubes with electronic ballasts or metal halide downlights in offices, and to switch from Mercury Vapour street lights to Ceramic Metal Halide and High-Pressure Sodium for highways, or by reducing unnecessary over-illumination. None of which requires a global incandescent ban or a CFL push on the remaining private sector, though possibly a ban on Mercury Vapor lamps.

“Historically, the main barrier hampering the deployment of energy efficient lighting products was their high initial cost. When first launched in the early 1980s, CFLs were 20 to 30 times more expensive to produce than their incandescent equivalents. However, CFL costs have steadily declined through use and increased competition. They now retail for about four times the price of an incandescent lamp. Consumers have traditionally been slow to come on board and according to some reports, were initially unimpressed by early models, disliking the look and functionality of these models.”

Not just initially. A whole new generation have never even seen the early horrendous models so that argument has long passed its best-before-date. The newer CFLs, even if they have admittedly been improved in size, colour, light-up time, affordability etc., and most no longer hum and flicker, still leave much to be desired when it comes to colour rendering and general light quality. Since the light is not incandescent, it cannot ever give that incandescent light quality, period.

The only viable replacement is the Halogen Energy Saver – which oddly enough gets no attention at all despite being probably the best, cheapest and most problem-free and environmentally-friendly replacement on the market today.

“Manufacturers are of the view that consumers need to understand how using energy saving bulbs will allow for long term cost savings, as well as be assured of the quality and reliability of new models, as well as the growing number of energy saving options that are and will become available.”

I’m sure consumers understand this already as it’s been harped and regurgitated millions of times in every conceivable medium for 20 years now. Many still prefer quality over quantity. I think manufacturers and legislators need to understand that there is still good reason not embrace the CFL – if it was such a great product, it would sell itself and no legislation or freebie campaigns would be necessary.

“The new global project, which will include a centre of excellence of lighting, will build on and support further commercialization and market penetration among several developing countries that have already made efforts to promote the adoption of CFLs and to phase-out incandescent lamps—some with GEF support and the involvement of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

1. How can a project aimed at lowering light quality all over the world have the audacity to name a centre “excellence of lighting”? Talk about Orwellian!

2. What about the possible health- and environmental consequences of distributing CFLs free of charge in countries where many are still struggling with literacy and daily survival? CFLs contain mercury and need to be a) handled with care and b) recycled correctly. Will the initiators of this campaign accept personal responsibility for making sure the CFLs are not accidentally broken around children and pregnant mothers, and that every single bulb get properly recycled after use?

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Philips doesn’t even wait for a governmental ban but initiates a phase-out singlehandedly, making it sound like a saintly sacrifice to help the environment when it is just a matter of getting rid of that pesky light bulb with too small a profit margin, in favour of more profitable lamps such as the hard-to-sell-CFL – naturally without mentioning any of its drawbacks such as mercury content etc.

Philips announces the phase-out of incandescent lamps in the GCC

And again this absurd focus on the small part of lighting that is used in private homes and not a word about things that could make a real difference, such as phasing out inefficient standard halophospate fluorescent tubes for offices or mercury vapour street lights.

Lamp Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detailed home lighting and lightbulb guide:
The Lamp Guide

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

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

EU Commission’s interactive & multilingual Bulb Selector

Lighting design tools:
GE Lighting Style
Philips Lighting Design tool

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

The Bizarre Ban

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

The EU incandescent ban

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

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

(Selling already existing stocks is still permitted.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street, office & industry lighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflector lamps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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