2016 — the year of the LED revolution

From 1 September 2016 (we’re migrating the best of our blog from coolproducts.eu)

2016 is the year LED light bulbs will go mainstream in Europe. Having already conquered the commercial sector, LEDs are now set to take over in the home. This thanks to a dramatic crash in their retail price in recent years, combined with EU rules banning wasteful halogen spotlight bulbs from being placed on the EU market from today, 1 September 2016. This is all excellent news both for consumers and the environment.

Out: halogen spotlights

Long-agreed EU energy efficiency rules will stop retailers and importers from placing on the EU market all mains voltage directional bulbs below energy label class B from today. This is, in effect, a ban on all halogen spotlight bulbs, which are extremely wasteful (95% heat, 5% light). The phase-out affects GU10 halogen spots and PAR30 halogen floodlights (big reflector lamps). In the EU28, 772 million halogen bulbs were sold in 2013, 20% of which were directional bulbs of the type affected by the phase-out making, according to the most recent available dataset (see page 16). Journalists can contact the press office of market data firm GfK for more recent statistics. Existing stock held by retailers will still be legal to sell, but no new orders can be made. Low voltage halogen spotlights will be unaffected, because they are more energy efficient.

This kind of action is needed, because lighting uses a huge amount of power in Europe, about the same as the residential electricity consumption of France, the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Italy combined. With the earth’s climate getting more and more worrying, such policies do a lot to help the situation.

As consumer association Which? confirms, the effect is good for consumers, with EU product efficiency rules in general set to cut the annual energy bill of every home in Europe by €465 from 2020. The full benefits are spelled out here: page 6. The net effect is to lower the energy intensity of our economies, as demonstrated by a new report from the JRC, showing a “remarkable” drop in energy use in the residential sector. Unlike the EU emissions trading scheme, EU energy standards for products are actually working.

From 1 September 2016, all mains voltage halogen spotlights will be replaced by super-efficient LEDs

In: super-efficient LEDs

The sole replacement for halogen spotlights are LEDs. They already dominate commercial / office lighting and are starting to change the appearance of street lighting and public buildings too, from the Munich stadium to the Sistine Chapel.

Domestic LEDs have seen a cost revolution in recent years, with mainstream retailers across Europe now offering high quality LED spotlights at prices that are 80–90% less than four or five years ago, according to a new CLASP analysis published here. No wonder IKEA switched to 100% LED bulbs only last year, worldwide.

LEDs are now a no-brainer for consumers. A typical 50W halogen spotlight costs ~£1.50 compared to £4.99 for a high quality LED of the same light output. But halogens fail so fast you need 8 to match the lifetime of the single LED. And at energy label class D, they are inefficient, wasting ten times more energy than the LED. This turns their purchase price advantage into a loss after just 6 months of being used four hours per day. It will cost £16.71 to buy and run the LED over ten years, compared to £126.98 to buy and run halogen bulbs. With German prices, that is €191.74 compared to €24.34 for LED, in France €113.42 compared to €16.35 and in Italy €159.67 compared to €20.98 and in Spain €155.97 compared to €21.59. If we assume a typical UK home has 15 spotlights, the household will pay £94 more each year to light it with the halogens compared with LEDs.

No brainer: cost to buy and run spotlight bulbs in the UK over a ten year period. Get infographic for other countries, and separately Portugal.

Out soon — non-directional halogen bulbs

There has been some confusion among journalist and even the European Commission press office about which bulbs are being phased out this year. The phase-out of directional spotlights is going ahead as planned way back in 2012. But the Commission / Council postponed from September 2016 to September 2018 the phase-out of non-directional halogen bulbs, commonly used in living rooms and bedrooms. This decision threw away €6.6bn in consumer energy savings with no good reason other than to please industry. It probably had a lot to do with the fact the world’s biggest lighting firms, Philips & Osram, are supposed to be selling a large part of their lighting businesses to the Chinese this year.

It should be noted that LEDs aren’t perfect. There is now fierce competition between manufacturers and quality can suffer, particularly among some of the smaller newcomer firms. We recommend consumers go with the established brands or get advice from consumer associations like Stiftung Warentest or the excellent TopTen website, that tests the bulbs.