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... on the phasing-out of incandescent bulbs and on energy efficient lighting.


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In case you do not find your question in the list, or need more details, you can also check the full technical FAQ in the Professional Area.


Q: Why has the EU decided to phase out conventional incandescent bulbs?

A: To reduce CO2emissions (by about 15 million tonnes a year).

Lighting can account for as much as one-fifth of household electricity consumption.

The most efficient lighting technologies use up to 5 times less electricity than the least efficient

Energy saving bulbs can reduce a household's total electricity consumption by 10-15%, saving the EU some 40 billion kilowatt hours a year (roughly equal to the annual consumption of Romania).


Q: How will I benefit?

A: Apart from the long-term environmental benefits, energy saving bulbs can easily save you €50 a year (including the price of the bulbs).

And the money saved overall – €5-10bn a year – will end up going back into the EU economy, boosting overall prosperity.


Q: When and how will inefficient light bulbs be phased-out?

A: Household bulbs that cannot meet the new EU energy efficiency requirements are gradually being phased out between now and 2012.

No non-clear incandescent bulbs can meet these requirements – they have already been withdrawn.

Clear incandescent bulbs are being phased out gradually.

Those of 100W or more have already been phased out. This limit will be reduced gradually until 2012 (75W in 2010, 60W in 2011, 40W and under in 2012).

Timeline for the removal of inefficient bulbs

Full-size chart jpeg - 207 KB [207 KB]


Q: What proportion of EU light bulbs were energy-inefficient before the new rules (in 2009)?

A: About 75% (2.1 billion out of a total stock of 3.9 billion bulbs).


Q: What about special purpose bulbs (e.g. oven lights, Christmas lights)?

A: Where special purpose bulbs can't be replaced by energy-efficient alternatives, they will not be affected by the phase-out.


Q: What about non-compliant (incandescent) bulbs already in stock with retailers?

A: These will continue to be sold until stocks run out.

The rules will apply only to new bulbs shipped for sale in the EU.



Q: What are the available alternatives to inefficient light bulbs?

A: After conventional incandescent bulbs have been phased out from the EU market in 2012, you will still have many bulbs to choose from:

  • improved incandescent bulbs (with halogen technology) - the same as traditional incandescent bulbs in terms of shape and light quality, but more efficient
  • compact fluorescent bulbs – very efficient and long-lasting
  • LEDs – very efficient, long-lasting bulbs using the latest technology

More on energy-saving bulbs

Although more expensive to buy, these alternatives are cheaper overall because they use less electricity.

You will save between €25 and €50 a year, depending on the size of your household and the bulbs you choose.


Q: When should I use improved incandescent bulbs?

A: Advantages of improved incandescents

  • same look and shape as conventional incandescent bulbs
  • produce the same sort of bright crisp light
  • give full light immediately when switched on
  • always dimmable
  • not influenced by ambient temperature
  • cheaper to buy, initially


  • don't save as much energy as other energy-saving bulbs
  • last far less time (2 years) than the alternatives (against 6-10 years for compact fluorescents and LEDs)
  • more expensive overall (higher electricity costs, more frequent replacement)
  • only available in "warm white light colour" (colour temperature), limiting the range of uses
  • get very hot during use (like the old bulbs)

Use improved incandescents:

  • where bright crisp light is needed for decorative reflections
  • for lights that are not used much – when it would take a very long time for the longer life and lower electricity consumption of a an energy saving bulb to offset the higher price.


Q: When should I use compact fluorescent bulbs?

A: Advantages of compact fluorescents

  • use up to 80% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs
  • up to €60 cost savings over bulb lifetime
  • last at least 6-10 years (compared to 1-2 years for conventional incandescent bulbs)
  • no risk of burning due to low operating temperature
  • wider choice of light colours (colour temperatures)

Things to be aware of

  • The operation of standard compact fluorescent bulbs is affected by certain factors, such as frequent switching and extreme temperature. They cannot dim and take some time to provide their full light after they are switched on.
  • But there are special compact fluorescent bulbs that can cope with each of these factors.

    Check on the packaging whether the bulb you're buying is suitable for frequent switching, dimming, extreme temperatures, or fast start.
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs are always frosted, so they can only produce soft light, equivalent to that of frosted incandescent bulbs.
  • When they burn out, they cannot be discarded in household waste. They need to be taken back to the shop or handed in at recycling points that take them.
  • In case a compact fluorescent bulb breaks in your home and its contents spill, air the room before cleaning the bulb with a wet cloth. Skin contact with debris should be avoided and no vacuum cleaner should be used for the cleanup.

Use compact fluorescents:

  • for all fittings in use frequently or for longer periods
  • where soft light rather than bright crisp light is needed
    (but check on the packaging whether the light colour matches what you want, warm white or cold white).


Q: When should I use LED bulbs?

A: Advantages of LEDs

  • use up to 80% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs
  • cost savings over bulb lifetime (although currently less due to high purchase price, likely to go down in coming years)
  • last at least 10 years (compared to 1-2 years for conventional incandescent bulbs)
  • no risk of burning due to low operating temperature
  • resistance to frequent switching
  • full light output right after switch-on
  • wider choice of light colours (colour temperatures)
  • bright, crisp or soft light, as needed.

Things to be aware of

  • LEDs are currently only available with low-to-medium light outputs (less than the equivalent of 75W incandescent bulbs).
  • some LEDs are sensitive to temperature and can't be dimmed - although dedicated LEDs exist for each of these circumstances.
  • when LED bulbs burn out, they cannot be discarded in household waste, but need to be taken back to the shop or handed in at recycling points that take them.

Use LEDs for:

  • all fittings in use frequently or for longer periods.

Check on the packaging whether their light colour matches what you want ( warm white or cold white) and if they are suitable for dimming or extreme temperatures.


Q: How can I assess the brightness of the new light bulbs?

A: A bulb’s brightness is often expressed in terms of equivalent wattage to incandescent bulbs, e.g. "this 15W energy saving bulb is equivalent to a 60W bulb".

However, since incandescent bulbs will no longer be available after 2012, we need a new way of assessing brightness.

The best measure is lumens, which expresses a bulb’s light output (not electricity used, as in wattage).

E.g. the light output of a 60W incandescent bulb is around 810 lumens. So to get an equally bright energy-saving bulb, forget the wattage and look for bulbs providing 810 lumens.

Lumens have been displayed on the packaging of bulbs carrying the “EU Energy Label” since 1998. From September 2010, the lumens will be displayed more prominently than watts.


Incandescent bulbsEnergy-saving bulbs
100W1300-1530 lumens
75W920-1060 lumens
60W700-810 lumens
40W410-470 lumens
25W220-250 lumens



Q: Are energy saving bulbs more expensive than incandescent bulbs?

A: No. Compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs are much cheaper than conventional incandescent bulbs because they:

  • last longer – as long as 6-10 conventional incandescent bulbs.
  • use less electricity – as little as one-fifth of that used by conventional incandescent light bulbs.

A 23W energy-saving bulb lasting 6 years would be about €100 cheaper than using multiple 80W conventional incandescent bulbs over the same period (assuming an energy cost of €0.136 kWh).


Q: Will energy saving bulbs get any cheaper?

A: Maybe, when sales rise - though prices have already come down in recent years.

Currently it does still cost more to produce energy saving bulbs than incandescent bulbs.


Q: Do energy saving bulbs produce less light?

A: No – energy saving bulbs produce just as much light as conventional incandescent bulbs.

You can see this by comparing the light output of bulbs, in lumens (instead of wattage).

E.g. a 15W compact fluorescent bulb and a 60W conventional incandescent bulb will both provide around 810 lumens of light.


Q: How long do energy saving bulbs last?

A: Between 6 000 and 15 000 hours (compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs in average domestic use).

Compared to 1 000 hours for conventional incandescent bulbs.

Although the new EU rules impose minimum lifetime requirements, the lifetime of compact fluorescent bulbs may be reduced in certain circumstances (see next question).


Q: Will compact fluorescent bulbs last for less time if switched on/off frequently?

A: Some compact fluorescents, yes

Look at the packaging – this will tell you how many times the bulb can be switched on before failing.

Frequent on/off switching (more than once for every hour of operation) reduces the lifetime of some compact fluorescent bulbs.

But there are some compact fluorescent bulbs designed specially for frequent switching.

And improved incandescent and LED bulbs are aren’t affected by frequent switching.

Q: Is it true that energy saving bulbs can’t be dimmed?

A: Not true. The standard ones can’t, but there are compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs on the market that can be dimmed, and there are dimmers that can dim any energy saving bulb.

Read the packaging carefully for information on dimmability.

Improved incandescent bulbs will also remain available and provide full dimmability in all circumstances.


Q: How should I dispose of a spent or broken compact fluorescent / LED bulb?

How to dispose of energy-saving bulbs


Q: Do compact fluorescent bulbs take longer to switch on and give their full light output?

A: Yes – but the new rules require them to:

  • switch on in no longer than 2 seconds
  • reach 60 % of full light output within 1 minute

The warm-up times will be marked on the packaging.

Improved incandescent bulbs and LED bulbs provide full light instantly.


Q: Is it true that energy saving bulbs don’t always fit in existing light fittings?

A: Some energy saving bulbs might not fit your fittings – but you’ll always be able to find one that does – either an improved incandescent bulb or a dimmable energy saving bulb.


Q: Do energy saving bulbs lose light as they age?

A: Yes – over their long lifetime, energy saving bulbs will gradually emit less light – up to 30% less at the end of their life.

But the new rules impose a minimum requirement for light output at the end of a bulb’s life.


Q: Is it true that energy saving bulbs don’t work in cold temperatures?

A: Yes, in extremely cold temperatures a standard compact fluorescent bulb or LED bulb could lose a substantial part of its light output.

However, both types of bulbs have varieties designed specifically for outdoor use which do not lose performance in the cold (look for this information on the packaging).

Improved incandescent bulbs will also remain available and can operate in any temperature.


Q: Some of the new bulbs contain mercury – will this cause more mercury pollution?

A: Compact fluorescent bulbs contain very small amounts of mercury.

Overall, however, using these bulbs will actually reduce mercury emissions (and indeed carbon dioxide emissions).

This is because they use up to 80% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, much of which is provided by coal-fired power plants. Burning coal to produce electricity releases mercury.

If you want an energy-saving bulb that does not contain mercury, you can use LED bulbs.


Q: Is the heat from incandescent bulbs useful?

A: No – this is not efficient compared to other forms of heating and is considered as energy loss rather than useful energy.

Also, they provide heat in warmer seasons when you don’t need it and may even increase your cooling needs.

And not all rooms that need lighting also need heating.


Q: What do I need to do when a compact fluorescent bulb breaks?

A: How to dispose of energy-saving light bulbs


Q: Can compact fluorescent bulbs make people ill?

A: No – this matter has been examined by the EU's Scientific committee on health risks, which concluded that, in normal use, compact fluorescent bulbs do not make people ill.



Q: Is the phase-out of conventional incandescent bulbs the only thing covered by the rules?

A: No – they also include the following:

  • minimum energy efficiency requirements for all bulbs
  • bulb performance (e.g. lifetime and light output)
  • product information that must be displayed.

This will make it easier for you to select the right bulb for a given purpose.


Q: Is the decision to phase out conventional incandescent bulbs based on scientific evidence?

A: Yes – before the legislation was drafted, different bulb technologies were assessed in an extensive study, to determine their potential environmental benefits and impact on consumers and the light bulb industry.


Q: Were affected stakeholders consulted?

A: Yes – consumer bodies, NGOs and industry associations all had the opportunity to comment both during the preparatory study and on the Commission's early working documents.


Q: Why has the EU taken such a radical decision (banning incandescent bulbs)?

A: Although energy saving bulbs have been clearly labelled since 1998 as the most cost-effective bulbs, their relatively high purchase price has inhibited take-up (even though they are cheaper overall, considering the energy savings during use).

To remedy this, EU governments and the European Parliament asked the Commission to adopt minimum requirements phasing out the least efficient bulbs.



Q: Are there plans to revise the existing bulb energy labelling?

A: Yes – since 1998, bulb packaging has had to display a scale rating the bulbs' energy efficiency from A to G.

We will be re-examining this scale to take into account the phase-out of many inefficient bulbs and the recent appearance of more efficient bulbs.

It will also be extended to cover reflector bulbs and low voltage bulbs (probably in 2010).


Q: How will the EU guarantee energy savings in other sectors?

A: In parallel to the light bulbs measure, the Commission is preparing energy efficiency legislation on more than 20 other product groups such as televisions, heating boilers, water heaters and electric motors.

Legislation is also in place for improving energy efficiency in other sectors.

And the EU is actively encouraging countries beyond Europe to introduce or reinforce measures to mitigate their emissions.