Proposed halogen ban latest signal of flawed government strategy on energy efficient lighting

– Simon Leggett, Managing Director OCG Lighting
“Government has a fundamental role to play in accelerating the widespread adoption of energy-efficient lighting solutions. But the latest proposal to ban low voltage halogens indicates a misguided policy direction that fails to take into account overall efficiency or the needs of the end user. What is required is a radical rethink in our approach to lighting solutions.

This is not the first time that government has missed the mark on lighting legislation. After all, it was government legislation that led to the widespread adoption of compact fluorescents that were not only a major step backwards in terms of performance but also a poor move that encouraged products containing large quantities of mercury to be released into uncontrolled and domestic environments.

It seems that government is focused on tackling the most powerful light sources rather than those that have viable or available alternatives. A 150W incandescent bulb is much more complicated to replace than a 40W bulb for example but government chose to phase out the higher power product. With halogens, the GU10 equivalent may have been more a more sensible target, as these are prone to failure and can be easily switched out, the MR16 which is the target of this legislation is more complicated to retrofit.

There are two alternatives to the 12 V, 50 W, halogen MR16; compact fluorescents (CFLs) and LEDs. CFLs operate at between 12-14 W but as well as the issues around mercury release, also require the replacement of existing fittings due to their greater overall size. In contrast, LEDs can be directly retrofit into a halogen fitting and operate at a low 7W. LEDs also offer a considerable extended lifetime of up to 30,000 hours operation, compared to around 9,000 hours for CFLs or 2,500 for halogens.

The fact is, however, that LEDs are more expensive as an initial purchase. It would be a mistake to try to produce LED lamps that are at a similar price point to halogens because the two technologies represent fundamentally different approaches to lighting. Price matching LED lamps would only result in poor quality light output and premature failure, which in turn would mean low-levels of customer satisfaction and acceptance. Education is needed around these differences to avoid simple point-of-purchase price based decisions.

Yes, top end LEDs can now replace halogens, but are replaceable lamps really the way forward? Proper communication and education is needed around the overall value of product lifetime and reliability and this requires a fundamental shift in thinking. It’s time to stop moving from one bulb to another in a drive to be more sustainable. We need to stand back and fundamentally re-think the way we light our buildings.

Of course there are costs involved with this but the pay off is dramatically more efficient, maintenance-free and long life solutions that give us better lighting. Government has a role to play in helping us move away from the concept of lighting as throwaway, cheap consumables to long-term solutions. But the poor choice to ban single scape-goat products coupled with a lack of wider education on lighting is not the way to achieve this." 

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