After the light bulb, it hits the next luminaire

When the production of incandescent lamps was banned in the EU six years ago, the outcry was huge. Meanwhile the excitement has subsided. Now the next ban is pending.

The grace period is over: From September 1st onwards, hardly any halogen lights will be produced.

EActually, this light should have gone out two years ago. At that time, however, there was still a grace period for the halogen lamp. Now is really the end. From September 1st, most halogen lights in the EU will no longer be allowed to be produced – the last stage of the EU lamp regulation will come into force. Will the public outcry be as loud as it was six years ago when the incandescent lamp disappeared from the EU market?

As in 2012, behind the current phasing out of the halogen lamp is the so-called ecodesign directive of the EU. It defines requirements for the energy efficiency of products. Gradually those products that consume a lot of electricity – i.e. are bad for the environment – should be removed from the market. With the incandescent lamp, only about 5 percent of the energy absorbed was converted into light – a tragedy for everyone in the energy balance. According to the EU Commission in 2015, the consumption of a halogen lamp is still five times higher than that of an LED.

Since the amendment in 2009, the Ecodesign Directive has also dealt with products that affect energy consumption, such as shower heads or windows. The aim is to reduce electricity consumption in private households and help energy-saving devices achieve a breakthrough.

Instead of halogen lamps, there will be mainly energy-saving lamps and LEDs on the shelves from September onwards. According to the EU Commission, this should save as much electricity annually as Portugal consumes in one year.

There are still exceptions

In addition to the incandescent lamp, certain vacuum cleaners, ovens, hobs, extractor hoods and shower heads, among other things, had to believe in it. According to the EU Commission, it will only be withdrawn from the market if there is a reasonable substitute for it.

In September 2016, from the point of view of the EU Commission and the EU states, this did not yet apply to the halogen lamps now affected. After analyzing the lighting market and technical developments, the EU Commission came to the conclusion that September 1, 2016 was too early to expire. Hence the grace period.

And there will still be exceptions: There is still no end in sight for flat spot lamps such as those used in ceiling spotlights, as well as for those halogen lamps in desk lamps or floodlights. Instead, the mostly pear-shaped or candle-shaped luminaires of energy class D with unbundled light are particularly affected. Remaining stocks can still be sold from September, but no new lamps can be produced.

Instead, the future belongs to LED lights. Experts already agreed on this at the end of the incandescent lamp in 2012. At that time, however, LEDs were still significantly more expensive than energy-saving or halogen lamps. Since then, however, prices have fallen sharply – according to the EU Commission by 75 percent from 2010 to 2017.

Brightness and color temperature can be regulated

LEDs are still usually a little more expensive to buy than halogen lamps. The additional costs are recovered pretty quickly, however. According to the EU Commission, it can be so far after a year. The BUND calculates that a halogen lamp including acquisition costs with a daily burn time of three hours over ten years causes costs of around 160 euros. For an LED it is just 28 euros. “Consumers can save a lot of money if they don’t fall for power-guzzling products,” says BUND energy expert Irmela Colaço.

But not only the price of LEDs has changed, but also their quality. “In the last two to three years in particular, the technical possibilities of energy-efficient LED lamps have developed significantly,” says Jürgen Waldorf from the electrical industry association ZVEI. The color rendering has become better and there are different color temperatures. The brightness and color temperature of those lamps that can be remotely controlled via an app from a smartphone, for example, could be changed. “It is an asset for the consumer that he has energy-saving applications today.” However, the customers would have had to get used to the new possibilities first. “That was also a learning curve,” says Waldorf.

BUND expert Colaço sees it similarly: “Many consumers have now got used to it and see that the LED market has developed in such a way that they can find a replacement for their incandescent lamp.”

The market share of LEDs is growing rapidly. In 2014, according to figures from the Society for Consumer Research, it was a good 38 percent, last year it was almost 61 percent. The proportion of classic halogen lamps fell from 16.7 to 12 percent in the same period.

When the incandescent lamp disappeared from the market six years ago, the alternatives were far from being as mature. But the end of the light bulb also drove technical change, as Colaço says.

The EU Commission is currently examining how things could go on in terms of ecodesign. Studies should reveal the savings potential of kettles, hand dryers, high-pressure cleaners and elevators, for example.

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