If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Friday, July 13, 2012

CFLs "All Fail" Study


As mentioned in the last post here, the Savethebulb.org blog has interesting recent research information, with the seemingly low savings from banning simple incandescents, as a UK Dept of Environment (DEFRA) study seems to confirm.
The study even suggested that households with CFLs use more electricity, albeit that it also highlights the need for further study.
Overall, much else is seen as relevant in lowering household energy use, apart from switching light bulbs.

Worthy of note is the other research mentioned on Savethebulb,
into the quality of CFLs on the UK market (and likely applicable in USA and elsewhere too).
This was also covered on the companion blog Send Your Light Bulbs to Washington (a blog being redeveloped via sylbtw.org, with better design options).

Quoting from the original SaveTheBulb blog post, added highlighting:

Much has been said about the quality, or lack thereof, of Compact Fluorescent Energy Saving lamps.
The EcoDesign [EU standard setting office] regulations made some effort to include quality criteria to answer criticisms by user groups. Each European country is supposed to undertake necessary market surveillance to ensure that the products placed on the market meet these quality criteria.
In the UK a new QUANGO , the National Measurement Office, (NMO) was set up to deal with this across all of the EcoDesign regulations. There was some discussion before it was set up as to what it would be doing in respect of the lighting regulations. So far it has undertaken one study on domestic lighting and the results were published here.

It was always acknowledged that there would not be sufficient funding to realistically tackle the vast number of lamps imported and sold each year, however this report really does show that quality standards are not being met and that NMO are taking a softly softly approach with suppliers rather than a strict an punitive approach. During the MTP consultation we were told that these studies on lamps would be annual however I had a conversation with a spokesman for NMO who absolutely refused to say if or when another study on domestic lamps would be taking place.

As things stand and from the meager evidence available I would say that, certainly as far as domestic lighting is concerned EcoDesign regulations are neither delivering the promised energy savings nor the guarantee of reasonable quality of lamps to the domestic market in the EU.

Kevan Shaw July 4, 2012

Looking then at the study by the National Measurement Office as mentioned

All bulb models tested were CFLs, 20 each, of 15 models...

"At the start of the project, fifteen models of lamp were identified according to risk, purchased in a batch of twenty and secured into evidence by the NMO. Once photographed and given individual codes the
lamps were transported to the Lighting Association for accredited testing.

The results of the tests showed excessive failures and high levels of risk within the domestic lighting industry. All fifteen of the lamps showed some area of failure, ranging from information displayed incorrectly on the free access website to an 85% failure on a switching cycle test."

[images here are not from the test report, but base burn is one failure cause]


While the National Measurement Office research, in its conclusions, therefore notes...

The project had successes.... with thousands
of lamps that did not meet current requirements being withdrawn from the marketplace

It does however overall play down the failures...

Further investigation into the areas of potential high risk highlighted by the testing process showed that most of the problems were minor with simple corrections and any other issues were addressed by working with industry towards a suitable and proportionate conclusion. None of the ‘failures’ originally detected were serious enough to justify being progressed to a legal outcome, and as demonstrated in Annex One the businesses within the lighting industry were willing to work with the NMO to ensure their lamps met with the requirements.

The "friendly face" National Measurement Office then becomes somewhat less friendly...

With many stages to the regulations for domestic lighting being implemented over the coming years, clearly there needs to be close market surveillance of the area. The results and signs from this project indicate that industry is managing changes, but that the NMO needs to closely monitor businesses choosing to stockpile their lamps. Whilst this may not be legislatively incorrect, it does not guarantee a fair market and negates the intentions of the Regulation. If stockpiling can be avoided, the NMO can continue its position providing a supporting role to businesses to ensure compliance across the market....

Now, on the one hand, lighting sales businesses should indeed not be stockpiling unsafe or "inferior" fluorescent lighting that does not meet stated specifications.
On the other hand, since new standards are also related to energy usage, it reflects
businesses also being prevented from selling such lighting, that they believe there is a demand for.

While this blog focuses on incandescent ban, there are plenty of other energy usage based bans on other lighting, notably on fluorescent T12 tube lighting, a popular thicker tube type not meeting new standards...but as always with certain advantages, or they would not be popular, and "need" banning.

The NMO report notwithstanding,
there is a certain worrying aspect to "quality" being judged by Government inspectors, rather than by Consumers on free markets that reward quality by increased voluntary purchases...


Anonymous said...

Kevan Shaw said
"During the MTP consultation we were told that these studies on lamps would be annual however I had a conversation with a spokesman for NMO who absolutely refused to say if or when another study on domestic lamps would be taking place."
But NMO say in the report that they are doing another survey now in July 2012?

Lighthouse said...

Thanks for that
As seen the study was actually from November 2011... so maybe something happened in the meantime!

Halogenica said...

Manufacturers have had over 25 years to remedy the multiple issues with CFLs and start meeting promised quality standards. Yet, in every test they still come more or less out lacking in several important areas.

Isn't it time to realize that this product is an Edsel that will never work as hoped and just remove it from the market?

Anonymous said...

So FIRST they ban regular light bulbs THEN they check more carefully on how good the replacements actually are (and find they aren't good enough)
Should be the other way round?!

Lighthouse said...

Halogenica and Anon, yes the ban seemed hasty -- in the EU I believe they originally wanted to wait a few years more, but environmentalist pressure changed the time scale. A compromise was to allow clear incandescents a while longer as they could not "adequately be replaced by the opaque CFLs".

There is an overall lack of efficiency (ironically) in using lighting, Fluorescnt technology does have advantages, but in traditional long tube form, not as light bulbs - again, same applies to LEDs, they are best as sheets, as with TV screens. Both CFL/LED technologies suffer from Brightness issues in the smaller Bulb enclosure technology that is so suited to Incandescents - apart from the fact that all lighting types have different light quality etc advantages for different situations anyway.