Consumers stockpile old light bulbs as phased ban begins

A PHASED ban on old-fashioned light bulbs began all over the European Union yesterday in a bid to save energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But despite claims the move could save households up to €166 a year in electricity costs, many consumers were reported to be stockpiling the bulbs.

At present the ban covers 100 watt and frosted incandescent bulbs, but will be extended to cover all incandescent bulbs by 2012. Incandescent lights have been in use for more than a hundred years and use a tiny filament that generates heat as well as light.

Consumers are now being encouraged to switch to halogen lamps, which use 30% less energy, or fluorescent lamps, with an 80% energy saving, which last up to 15 years.

The European Commission has said the ban should save as much energy as used by 11 million households – or the country of Romania – and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% a year by 2020.

The Commission has also strongly contested claims that the alternative bulbs do not provide the same quality and amount of light, will dim the normal bright atmosphere of carnivals and fun fairs and may create problems for migraine sufferers .

“Improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology and light-emitting diode lamps will provide exactly the same light quality as conventional bulbs and can be an alternative to compact fluorescent lamps,” said a Commission spokesperson.

Consumers worried about getting headaches or who prefer the look of the traditional bulbs should look for new bulbs with an outer layer of glass or envelope that hides the tube, they suggest.

Environmental groups also point out that the energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) contain mercury and want the Commission to limit the amount used from the current 5mg to 1-2mg per bulb. Light-emitting diodes are expected to replace CFL bulbs in the future.

The ban will extend to 75w bulbs next year, 60w in 2011 and others by 2012.


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