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Turning the spotlight on halogens

Halogen spotlight bulbs

•   Halogen spotlights latest to be phased out
•   LEDs begin to dominate market
•   What next for lighting in the UK?

The latest leg of the EU's lightbulb phase-out spells the death knell toll for halogen spotlights. Project Manager Stewart Muir (pictured) explains the ins and outs of the change – and what's on the horizon for lighting in the UK. 

Stewart Muir from Energy Saving TrustHe said: “Publically, this one has been very quiet, compared with the incandescent bulb phase out in 2012. I think people are much more used to energy efficient lighting alternatives such as LEDs and have now had some time to actually experience the benefits they offer.”

“LEDs are by far the best option for directional bulbs. The technology is just superior in efficiency, lifetime, performance and versatility - the difference can be illustrated by the fact that a 50 Watt halogen spotlight can be replaced with a five Watt LED.

“Halogens typically last about two years – far shorter than LEDs. When people come to change their halogens next they will find there's so many more LEDs available than there were before, and they'll be surprised at the cost too.”

A transformed market

Analysis of LEDs available has driven home the changes that have come about in recent years. Stewart explained:

“We’ve seen the price of LEDs come down significantly in the last few years, while the amount of lumens per watt continues to increase – both ahead of projections.”

For a full break down of the comparative running costs of halogens and LEDs, have done some great number-crunching. 

Phase-out is well considered

While people may be getting used to lighting changes driven by Europe, there are still members of the public – and media commentators – who are not fully embracing the idea. Stewart said:

“It's important to remember that these phase-outs aren't arbitrary – they are built on evidence-based analysis of the cost and carbon savings possible from better products. The European Commission had until the end of September last year to demonstrate that LEDs were a viable and superior alternative to halogen spotlights in terms of performance, compatibility and importantly, affordability. This was the conclusion when subject to independent studies.”

Led to a better LED

Halogen bulb price vs LED bulb priceSo what should consumers look for when shopping for LEDs? First and foremost, take a look at what bulbs are featured in Topten UK – which includes just those at the top of the A+ rating band. The costs, again, may come as a pleasant surprise. 

Stewart said: “You can get a Topten 50W halogen replacement from a reputable manufacturer for under five pounds now.”

But outside of the listings, how can consumers be sure they're going to get the light they're looking for?

“Testing lighting can be problematic, especially where longevity is concerned. Most LEDs claim at least 15-20 years lifetime, but if you were to fully verify this in the lab, the product would be off the market before you’d finished testing. However, most problems with lighting are often discovered earlier in a bulb’s life. The Lighting Industry Association (LIA), in partnership with EST have developed a testing scheme, awarding an 'LIA Verified' mark which you can look out for that shows the bulb has been through robust tests.”

More changes...and a revival?

In 2018, non-directional halogens will be phased out as the market for LED GLS bulbs continues to develop. There's even the outside chance of an unlikely comeback of an old – but previously inefficient – household favourite.

The clever folk at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently developed a type of incandescent light bulb that showed a high level of efficiency – so perhaps there will be a potential comeback to satisfy those forever nostalgic for the glow of tungsten filament. But the end may well be nigh soon for the often unfairly-maligned CFLs. 

“CFLs are so much better than they were 10 years ago, but LEDs have developed much more quickly than expected. Now, given the price of LEDs, there's probably not much point in buying a CFL. Given all the things they can do now, and the high levels of light they deliver for very little energy, it's an exciting time for LEDs.”



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Post-Brexit lighting – a flood of crud? 

The Guardian's article on the halogen phase-out did include concerns raised about the potential impact of Brexit on the UK lighting market, with sources cited mooted a potential flood of poor-quality LEDs. Stewart said:

“Energy labelling and Ecodesign have been shown to be highly effective instruments for raising the bar of products, not just in terms of efficiency, but also in quality.  In the short term, there will be no real change on this – during the ‘Article 50’ period ecodesign and energy labelling still apply as they’re written into UK law.”

“The UK now could look to change things if it desired – but where trade is concerned, it makes huge sense to be in sync with other sets of product standards.”

Products exported to the EU will still have to be labelled and demonstrate they meet ecodesign standards, and Stewart added:

“If the emphasis is on cutting ‘red-tape’, having multiple sets of standards would create a huge amount of extra work. There is a strong case for remaining in sync with EU policy on this ahead of going it alone, or adopting the standards of another region that manufacturers and suppliers aren’t already set up to work within.”

“Now is not the time to be going backwards in an area that has already delivered so many tangible benefits by allowing poor products and inferior technologies to stick around on the market – this would not be in keeping with the high ambition the UK has shown with its carbon budgets from the 2009 Climate Change Act.”

Download The Right Light lighting guide, produced in association with NHBC Foundation, for more information. Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us at @EnergySvgTrust.

Gary Hartley's picture
Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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One of the reasons I voted OUT was so Europe would stop meddling with our toasters, light bulbs etc when over in Europe they take absolutely no notice of these ridiculous edicts.

It's all very well that LEDs are cheaper and last longer but they are also the lighting that is the absolute worst for your eyes. Does the Lighting Industry not care that they will be ruining everyone's eyesight? I am very happy to pay more for Halogen lighting knowing it will not harm my eyes.

Halogen down lighters installed with transformers when kitchen was last refitted. Fully accept the benefits of replacing these with LEDs but there will also be the cost of replacing the existing transformers because the reports I read suggest that just fitting replacement LEDs leads to flickering lights or significant shortening in the life of the LEDs. This would make the economics more difficult to justify.

There are lots of light fittings for sale nowadays with non-replaceable LED 'bulbs'.

In the last 12 months, without thinking about the consequences, I bought a floor standing reading lamp and three outdoor security lights (with PIR sensors) - all with fixed and non-replaceable LED lights.

Even LEDs don't keep on working forever, so at some point our recycling centres will get flooded with them. It's incredibly wasteful, obviously, having to throw away a complete light fitting (in case of my reading lamp, made of stainless steel!), just because the light bulb stopped working.

Are there no (EU or UK) rules yet to stop this practice...?? Manufacturers should be made to only produce light fittings with replaceable LEDs.

Energysaving is a great company name .Nowadays, engergy saving is a global issue ,and getting more and more serious . LED light can save 60%-80% engery, eco-friendly be used for enviroment.