The Glories Of Light Bulb Regulation

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We all recall when we used to use incandescent light bulbs. Simple, cheap, the result of a century’s worth of fiddling with the basic technology to make it around and about right for the use to which it was put.

Then they were banned. Sure, there was that energy and thus planet saving argument but that was always very weak indeed. It was an excuse, not the actual reason itself. The reason was that the big three manufacturers, Phillips, Osram and GE, had invested heavily in the next generation of technology, compact fluorescents. These cost not pennies per bulb but pounds. Rather better profit margins that is. Oh, and also, not subject to that crippling competition from China.

So, we get the EU ban on incandescents, driven entirely by the manufacturers. There’s a lot of the Baptist and Bootlegger in here given the environmentalist support for it.

The problem with the technology being the use of mercury in those bulbs.

An aside, I made my living for a number of years selling weird metals that are added to that mercury. I do actually know quite a bit about the nuts and bolts here. I’m also out of the business and have been for a decade and more. So it’s knowledge driving this, not knife sharpening.

Mercury’s not good stuff to have floating around. So, what happens next? Yep, a decade or a bit more after the incandescents were banned so now they’re coming for the CFLs.

A row over lamps is emerging as a first major test of the EU’s commitment to its much-vaunted European Green Deal and the bloc’s target of carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.

A debate over the continued use of mercury in fluorescent lighting has split the 27 member states with Germany’s industrial interests being pitted against the environmental concerns of Sweden, according to leaked correspondence.

The European commission is being asked by Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to continue to allow manufacturers to use mercury in light bulbs despite the potential damage to the environment and human health.

The three main companies in the sector, General Electric, Philips and Osram, are major employers, particularly of German and Hungarian workers.

See, the argument is about the producers, as it was before.

The current argument being that LEDs are now good enough that we don’t need to risk the mercury. They might even be right in that.

So, why isn’t the industry happy about this idea? Well, the truth is that LED technology, the ability to manufacture it, use it well, is widely dispersed. Those no name Chinese factories can make the things in a manner that they can’t really the CFLs. There’re also no import restrictions given that there’re none of those mercury etc issues over the tech.

The banning of the incandescents was the creation of an oligopoly for the big companies. The banning of CFLs would be the destruction of one given their lack of control over LED tech.

Gonna be fun to see which way it goes but given the way the EU operates my best guess is that the companies will win – no CFL ban.

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mitch
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mitch

The Electrician who installed these awful things at work told me they are dangerous and not to stare directly at them.
https://metro.co.uk/2019/05/16/led-lights-can-cause-eye-damage-disturbed-sleep-9561475/

jgh
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jgh

Over Christmas I tidied up my office and re-arranged the lighting, resulting in needing one more fluorescent strip light fitting. I went to the local ‘leccy store. “Oh, they don’t make them any more” YerWot? You mean I have to strip out all the existing lighting to replace the lot* because some numpty has decided people shouldn’t use them. I’m also fuming ‘cos just a couple of years ago I threw away a handful of fittings because “they’re mucky, covered in paint, and they’re only a tenner each, I’ll but new when I need one”. *Ok, I could just add… Read more »

Thomas Knapp
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On the other hand, if you replace them all with LED, they’ll cost half as much to operate and last eight times as long.

This is simply not true
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This is simply not true

CFLs have a low efficiency compared to LEDs, but full-size fluorescent tubes do not. Electronic-ballast t8/t5/t5HO tubes give you 80-100 lumens per watt, exactly the same as the LED fittings you get from B&Q or Screwfix. There do exist more efficient LEDs, but they’re expensive and hard to get hold of here. The main way LED tubes for UK retail achieve power savings is by simply emitting less light. If you look at your 22W “4ft” LED light, you’ll usually see it only puts out ~2000 lumens: it uses a third less electricity because it puts out a third less… Read more »

jgh
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jgh

In my kitchen I’ve had the same fitting that came with the house in 1992, and have replaced the tube once for a fiver, and the starter twice for a quid each time. And it emits what I call “proper” working light.

Pcar
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Pcar

T12 6ft Tube in windowless corridor On 24/7 (exc power cuts)

On and working when moved in 1977, still working when moved out 1983

Ffwd to 2010s
Osram CFL – On 24/7 in open fitting – sold as 12 year life*, failed after 13 months

* Claim: 12 Year Life, small print 3hrs/d (13,149 hrs). Whut 3 hrs/d, Germans go to sleep at sunset? 24/7 13 months 9,490 hrs, 72% of MTBF

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

I’ve one fitting that’s chewed through 3 LED bulbs in 3 years. Good, expensive, Philips bulbs, not Chinese no-name flickery crap.

look on eBay
Guest
look on eBay

The second-hand market is full of them, along with brand-new electronic starters pulled from fittings that were taken out the box and converted to LED.

Whilst you can put t8 bulbs in a t12 fitting, the ballast runs them at slightly too high a current which damages them. Plus the electronic start is nicer on the bulbs. If you had t12s and now can’t get them because they were banned, I highly recommend replacing the t12 gear with an electronic t8 starter.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

My pet peeve is that output of the damn LED’s is given in lumens, whereas I naturally just want an ordinary 100 watt incandescent. Of course instead of all bulbs being bayonet fittings, they now sell the bloody things with screw fittings as well. So instead of just going into the supermarket and buying a nice simple 100 watter, I have to look at the damn figures on the box, try and translate them into something that makes sense, and then open the box and and check that the damn thing really is a bayonet fitting. Obviously if the market… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

The argument in northern Europe was that incandescents give out heat, which (given that they’re mostly running during dark winter evenings) means the thermostats on central heating systems cut out a bit sooner than they would with LEDs. That argument may not hold in Oz.

you see the light out not the power in
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you see the light out not the power in

Just forget the term “100W”, and remember that what you like is 1600 lumens, and you’ll be golden. IKEA sells screw/bayonet adapters for 50p. Most light fittings you can replace the actual bulb holder without having to replace the whole fitting. Neither screw nor bayonet is clearly better, but China makes the bulbs and China has standardised on screw, so you’re probably best off replacing your bayonet fittings or fitting adapters to them. Bayonet seems to have lost the format war, and all the sexy new bulbs are only available in screw. Personally, I’m of the opinion that the current… Read more »

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

I like Edison Screw. My light next to the bed is a CFL ES bulb and to turn the light on or off I literally turn the bulb. It’s much much easier to find in the dark.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

IKEA didn’t have any bayonet/screw adapters when I checked the internet so I bought some from Amazon. They seem to work.

Thanks for the advice.

Pcar
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Pcar

@Tim W

In 1995, helical CFLs, manufactured in China by Shanghai Xiangshan, became commercially available. Since that time, sales steadily increased
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp

EU and others should butt out and allow us to buy which lamps we want.Yes, Mercury is nasty, but we’re talking miniscule amounts per lamp

starfish
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starfish

IIRC incandescent bulbs can last far longer but were engineered to fail early by the bulb manufacturers’ cabal (Phoebus cartel)

Anyone think that still is happening?