The end of incandescent light bulbs

In September 2012 the last incandescent light bulbs were sold in the UK. A EU directive aimed at reducing the energy use of domestic lighting resulted in a phased restriction of the sale of incandescent bulbs. The energy saved will make a considerable difference to the carbon footprint of the average household.

Lights going out all over Europe

Incandescent light bulbs have been replaced by long-lasting low-energy bulbs. In many cases consumers were alarmed at the relatively high cost of these low-energy bulbs, although the savings in energy bills make them cost-effective in the long run.

The most common replacements for incandescent bulbs are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen lights and LED lights. Some critics have suggested that these provide less efficient illumination than incandescent light bulbs.

Manufacturers offer the counter-argument that new technologies are improving all the time. LED downlighters are now as efficient as halogen lamps, for example, while using much less energy.

As more households replace their burnt-out incandescent bulbs, the volume of production of CFLs should see the costs come down.

Although it is sometimes still possible to find incandescent bulbs available in some shops or markets, it is illegal to sell them for domestic use.

As yet, the end of incandescent bulbs has not resulted in a noticeable decrease in UK domestic energy usage. Partly this can be explained by a trend for more lighting in the house than in the past. The popularity of downlighters though means that increased uptake of low-input LED lamps will soon make a significant difference to energy usage.

Last bulb in the shop

Some retailers have attempted to get round the ban on incandescent light bulbs by selling bulbs marked for "rough use" in factories and shops. Although these work like any normal light bulb, they are not prohibited. Retailers could still be prosecuted if it could be shown that they are aware that the customer is intending to use the bulbs domestically.

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