Everything you need to know about the Europe-wide Halogen bulb ban

Earlier this month, the European Union (EU) voted to ban the sale of Halogen lightbulbs across the bloc. With the ban set to come into force 1 September, edie rounds up the key ramifications of the phase-out.

The Halogen ban was agreed by the EU last week, after the bloc first announced plans to consult on a phase-out in 2009. With studies repeatedly concluding that LED alternatives use just one-fifth of the energy needed to power their Halogen counterparts, the decision was taken in a bid to reduce the bloc’s carbon emissions and reduce energy costs for bill payers.

The EU estimates that the phase-out will prevent more than 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year – an amount equal to the emissions generated through Portugal’s annual electricity usage. With buildings accounting for around 40% of Europe’s energy consumption and lighting accounting for 15% of this proportion, the potential energy and carbon savings are tangible.

From a cost perspective, lighting manufacturer Philips estimates that the average household could save up to £112 each year from switching to more energy-efficient lighting. The calculation comes after research from the Energy Saving Trust found that a typical Halogen bulb uses £11 worth of electricity annually, compared to £2 for an LED equivalent. The data additionally reveals that the average lifespan of a Halogen bulb is two years, while an LED will typically last for 15 to 20 years before failing.

Here, edie answers some of the FAQs about the ban, and what comes next for the business community.

What exactly will the ban entail?

Retailers will not simply stop selling Halogen bulbs on September 1. They will still be able to sell their stock, but will not be able to re-order more once they run out. The ban will operate in all EU countries and include the majority of Halogen bulb products, with the exception of certain bulbs for ovens as well as capsule, linear and low-voltage reflector bulbs.

It has not yet been decided whether the ban will continue to apply in the UK after Brexit.

Why were Halogen bulbs so popular to begin with, given their short lifespans and energy inefficient nature?

The answer is twofold. Firstly, the bulbs typically cost as little as £1 each, making them an accessible option to domestic and business consumers who do not have a large budget for immediate expenditure on lighting. Moreover, Halogen technology has been around for 60 years and quickly became the most popular lighting option in the EU after the bloc began phasing-out incandescent bulbs in 2009.

What does the green economy make of the Halogen ban?

The ban has largely been welcomed by energy managers, green campaign groups and sustainability leaders. The UK Green Building Council’s senior policy advisor Richard Twinn dubbed the move a “win-win for consumers and the environment”, adding that it was a “relatively simple way to help reduce the 20% of UK carbon emissions from homes”.

However, Twinn added that more investment in insulation would be needed to realise the full cost and carbon saving potential of energy-saving measures in the built environment sector.

Similarly, Schneider Electric’s zone president for the UK and Ireland, Mike Hughes, said the removal of Halogen bulbs would prevent consumers from investing in a “false economy” for lighting.

“Whilst it may seem heavy-handed to ban a product, over the last few years we have seen that the introductions of energy ratings on appliances, charges for plastic bags and potential taxes on plastic cups have resonated with consumers, been widely accepted and helped change attitudes and behaviour,” Hughes said.

“However, it is an unfortunate reality that the majority of people vastly underestimate the challenge ahead when it comes to energy consumption. Our research found that 74% people in the UK believe they are already doing enough when it comes to the environment – so recognising that people are unlikely to change behaviours on their own places a greater emphasis on the evolution of technology to help increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption. Both businesses and government should be doing everything they can to encourage the adoption of more efficient products and practices.”

Elsewhere, Greenpeace has called for the UK Government to enshrine the ban into national law post-Brexit. The NGO’s chief scientist Doug Parr said that shifting away from “wasteful” Halogens would “drive up environmental standards” while stimulating the market for greener alternatives.

What are the alternatives to Halogen?

The most popular alternative – and the one which the EU is encouraging – is LED bulbs. Typically, commercial and industrial LED luminaires have an efficiency between 100-140 lumens per watt (lm/W), making them around 75% more energy-efficient than their Halogen counterparts.

LED lighting typically carries a greater upfront cost than Halogen variants, but the EU believes that the long lifespans, low maintenance nature and energy-saving capabilities of LEDs mean that they pay back their cost within 12 months.

Big-name companies to have switched to LEDs ahead of the Halogen ban include Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, with the technology being seen as a key catalyst in achieving the respective companies’ sustainability goals.

edie recently published a comprehensive summary detailing everything there is to know about deploying LED lighting for your business. You can read the guide, which covers the business benefits of the technology and information on the LED installation process, by clicking here.

Another option is compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which typically use around 60-80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and have a lifespan of around 10 years – five times that of Halogen bulbs.

CFLs are currently seen as a good compromise between the purchase price and energy saving. They tend to be around three times cheaper than LEDs, with high street prices starting at around £2 per bulb. However, they take longer to light up when switched on than LEDs, and some CFLs cannot be used with dimmer switches – or for outdoor lighting installations.

Consumers are unlikely to face issues when fitting an LED or CFL bulb into a light socket that has been previously fitted with a Halogen bulb.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie