Low Energy Light Bulbs

First of all, if the ban on traditional 40 watt, 60 watt and 100 watt incandescent filament light bulbs has left your household missing the warmth and comfortable light output given by the traditional filament lamp, then there still exists an alternative, which you can read all about on our 100w filament lightbulb page. However if you have come here in search of advice on buying low energy light bulbs, then read on, as we unravel the mystery behind the difference in quality and light outputs and give tips on avoiding dis-appointment when making the decision on which type to buy.

Energy Saving Lamps and the technology behind them have evolved greatly over the years, however some people still don’t like the slow warm up times, initial low  light output levels when they are first switched on and the cold light which is emitted from some cheaper makes of low energy lamps. There exists a big difference in both quality and light output levels in relation to low energy light bulbs and so choosing the correct low energy light bulb for your application is vital.

First of all, the majority of low energy light bulbs are not directly suitable for use in light fittings which are controlled by dimmer switches, touch controlled lights, remote controlled switches or dusk to dawn sensors. They may also not be suitable for use with the wall mounted time delay switches fitted in corridors and other communal areas. You can buy special low energy light bulbs which are compatible with dimmer switches and time switches however these tend to be extremely expensive, often costing as much as ten times the cost of a standard low energy lightbulb and because of the on/off and dimmable nature of the application, often the life of the actual lamp is less than a standard version.

Therefore it is much more practical to choose the correct type of low energy lamp, and choose the correct wattage for the application in the first place, so that no dimmer switch or specialised lamp is required.

Despite the advancements in lighting technology, low energy lamps still continue to fall short of giving the same light output of the filament lamps which they were intended to directly replace, and so any claim from the manufacturer that their 16 watt low energy light bulb can directly replace and give exactly the same light output as an original 100w filament lamp should be taken with a large pinch of salt. In reality, the lamp will probably give around the same light output as a 40w to 60w filament lamp……once it has warmed up for a minute or so.

It is also worth remembering that the light output given by low energy lamps will fade and decrease over time as the lamp ages, and so the light output from a brand new low energy compact fluorescent lamp will far exceed the output from the same wattaged lamp which is nine or twelve months old.

Despite claims from the manufacturer that their lamps may last five or six years in normal service, you will probably find yourself replacing them much sooner, as their usable light output will be seriously reduced well before the lamp reaches those given ages and so don’t always believe the hype or the clever marketing on the packaging.

Bearing in mind the poor comparison in light output compared to filament lamps, and also the slow reduction in output as the lamp ages, it is advisable to always fit the next wattage upwards in the range when purchasing any new low energy light bulb. So if the manufacturers’ packaging containing the lamp states that a 14 watt low energy lamp is suitable to replace a 60w filament lightbulb, I would suggest that you purchase a 16 watt or 20 watt version instead, in order to ensure that the light output remains bright enough throughout the lifetime of the lamp.

Not all lamps are the same!. The quality and light output of different low energy lamps varies considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer, and many people complain that the light output from some compact fluorescent lamps is too cold or too white for domestic applications, such as for use in table lamps, and bedroom pendant fittings. It is well worth considering that not all low energy bulbs are made to the same standards, and neither is their construction, light output and long term reliability. Although you don’t have to spend a fortune buying compact fluorescent lamps, you do get what you pay for, and choosing a cheap lamp over a slightly more expensive branded version, may leave you feeling disappointed with either the light output or the actual warmth of the light emitted, and so may prove to be false economy in the long run.

Unfortunately, many cheap unbranded lamps available in packs in supermarkets, markets, wholesalers and hardware outlets prove to give a disappointing light output, or a cold white colour temperature which reminds you more of an office or football pitch. Whilst these lamps are perfectly suitable for most domestic applications in workshops, outside lights, hallways, bathrooms and kitchens, they are rarely warm enough to give a comfortable warm ambient light required for living areas or bedrooms, and for these applications I recommend using only branded low energy light bulbs manufactured by Philips, Osram or GE.

Over the years I have spent many £100’s on low energy lighting for various applications ranging from factory & office applications to the lighting within my own home and that of my parents. During this time I have tried many diffrent types of low energy bulb manufactured by both unbranded Chinese factories and European branded sources and have often felt disappointed with the result.

Whilst the cheap Chinese fluorescent lamps were often perfectly adequate for hallways, bathrooms and outside lights, I found that getting the warmth which matched that given by the original filament lamps was far more difficult and something of trial and error, and the majority of lamps I tried by several manufacturers failed to produce the warmth and ambience which I was looking for for use in table lamps and bedside lamps, whilst still giving enough light to read a newspaper or book.

I quickly found out that the harsh, cold light given by the majority of standard low energy bulbs was why they generally get a poor deal in the press and get many complaints about being too cold or too dim in the domestic environment.

After many years of testing I finally settled on a low energy fluorescent lamp which gave a good balance between light output whilst at the same time. closely matched the warm, comfortable light given by traditional filament lamps. The lamp I found gave ample light for watching tv or reading a book, and was ideal for use in table lamps and pendant fittings in living areas and bedrooms, the light output was very warm and therefore also ideal for use in lamps with cream or pastel shades.

When I put one of these 16W low energy lamps  along with a 60w pearl filament lamp in a matching pair of table lamps at different ends of the room, my parents were unable to tell the difference between the traditional filament bulb and the low energy version, at last my search was over and we’ve been using them ever since.

The low energy lamp which I found was manufactured by Philips and was called Philips Ambiance, unfortunately this product seems to have gone out of production in the UK and has now become hard to source in some areas. However it appears that it has recently been replaced (or perhaps just rebranded) as the “Philips Ecotone” range, and the light is virtually the same and gives identical results.

The Philips Ecotone / Philips Ambience range are manufactured in 8 Watt, 12 Watt, 16 Watt and 20 Watt versions in a traditional GLS light bulb shape which isn’t much larger than a standard filament lamp. You can of course buy this in both BC and ES socket fittings.

Philips also manufacture 5 Watt and 8 Watt versions of these in Golf Ball and Candle lamp style with BC, ES, SES (E14) and SBC cap fittings, making these smaller style lamps ideal for wall lights, small table lamps and chandeliers.

I highly recommend using the Philips Ecotone Lamps for living areas and bedrooms or anywhere a warm traditional filament style of light is required. The 8 Watt and 12 Watt versions are ideal for bedside lamps, or background lighting in TV rooms, whilst the 16W and 20W versions are recommended for wall lights, reading lamps, or large table lamps and floor lamps in living rooms.

The Philips Ecotone lamps are not as cheap as the Chinese unbranded lamps or ‘own brand’ versions sold through supermarkets, however the colour temperature and warmth of the light is far superior in my own personal opinion and more suited for living rooms and bedrooms where cold white lighting given from cheaper fluorescent based lamps may look harsh or clinical.

The Philips Ecotone lamps can be bought in packs and this is largely the cheapest method especially if you intend on replacing several bulbs within the home. Occasionally you can find packs of the previous Philips Ambiance version being sold off cheaply on Ebay by wholesalers who are clearing stock.

As well as low energy fluorescent lamps, there also exists other low energy options. For example, there is a range of low energy halogen lamps, which consist of halogen capsule lamps, fitted inside the conventional glass shape of a GLS Filament bulb as well as Candle shaped and Golf Ball styles. Whilst these Low Energy Halogen lamps may not offer the same energy saving figures and lifetime as compact fluorescent lamps, they do offer a bright, sparkling light which is generally far superior to that given by compact fluorescents when used in open wall lights and ceiling mounted chandeliers.

Energy Saving Halogen lamps offer a functional compromise between compact fluorescent bulbs and the now banned filament lamps in the above applications or where a bright crisp light is required. A 28 watt Halogen lamp will replace a 40w conventional filament lamp, the 42 watt halogen lamp version will replace a 60w filament lamp and a 70 watt halogen lamp will replace a 100w filament lamp.

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