Monday, August 3, 2009

Germans hoarding old-style light bulbs

From Der Spiegel:
The staggered phase out of energy-wasting light bulbs begins on Sept. 1 in Germany. The unpopularity of the energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs that will replace them is leading consumers and retailers to start hoarding the traditional bulbs.

As the Sept. 1 deadline for the implementation of the first phase of the EU's ban on incandescent light bulbs approaches, shoppers, retailers and even museums are hoarding the precious wares -- and helping the manufacturers make a bundle.

The EU ban, adopted in March, calls for the gradual replacement of traditional light bulbs with supposedly more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). The first to go, on Sept. 1, will be 100-watt bulbs. Bulbs of other wattages will then gradually fall under the ban, which is expected to cover all such bulbs by Sept. 1, 2012 (see graphic below).

Hardware stores and home-improvement chains in Germany are seeing massive increases in the sales of the traditional bulbs. Obi reports a 27 percent growth in sales over the same period a year ago. Hornbach has seen its frosted-glass light bulb sales increase by 40-112 percent. When it comes to 100-watt bulbs, Max Bahr has seen an 80 percent jump in sales, while the figure has been 150 percent for its competitor Praktiker.

"It's unbelievable what is happening," says Werner Wiesner, the head of Megaman, a manufacturer of energy-saving bulbs. Wiesner recounts a story of how one of his field representatives recently saw a man in a hardware store with a shopping cart full of light bulbs of all types worth more than €200 ($285). "That's enough for the next 20 years." ...

Article here. As many of you are aware, our "enlightened" leaders have also mandated the end of the venerable incandescent lightbulb, with the mercury-filled compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) to be our luminous and official climate-saving savior. First in the dustbin of darkness will be the evil 100 watters, scheduled to become lux non grata in 2012, progressing to the end of 40 watters by 2014.

I predict that a similar hoarding phenomenon will occur here in the U.S. in 2011, when American consumers realize that they won't be able to get incandescents anymore. "What, you mean I have to buy bulbs that cost 20 times as much, give off crappy fluorescent light, and will expose my kids to mercury if they break?" Yes, my lumen challenged friend, and they probably don't last as long as they say they do, either:
... For example, manufacturers of CFL bulbs justify their higher prices by claiming that they last much longer than traditional bulbs. But a recent test by the environmentally-oriented consumer-protection magazine ├ľko Test found that 16 of the 32 bulb types tested gave up the ghost after 6,000 hours of use -- or much earlier than their manufacturers had promised.

So expect a similar run on traditional bulbs as we get closer to fluorescent nirvana. Better stock up now before they become collector's items! :)

Correction: The scheduled demise of 100 watters is January 2012, not 2010 as I originally wrote. I have corrected the reference above.


Anonymous said...

Way ahead of you my friend.

I think lots of "preparedness" minded people are doing it.

Incidentally, I recently discovered that Walmart carries an off-brand of off-sizes for dirt cheap.

Their bulbs were in strange wattages like 43 Watts, 67 Watts, 79 Watts, etc....but at 77 cents for a pack of four, pretty hard to beat the price.

David said...


Thanks for the Walmart tip, I'll look for them the next time I'm there.

Panta Rei said...


Hardly surprising about the German (and other European) hoarding...

Europeans and Americans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)
Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned... they were bought less anyway.

All lights have advantages....
The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

100 W+ equivalent brightness is a particular issue - difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS - yet such incandescent bulbs are first in line for banning in both USA and the EU

Since when does Europe or North America need to save on electricity?
There is no energy shortage.
Note that if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would make people buy more efficient products anyway - no need to legislate for it.

Energy security?
There are usually plenty of local energy sources,
Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation, 1/2 world uranium exports are from Canada and Australia.

Consumers - not politicians - pay for the energy used.
Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money - but why force them to do it?

Most cars have emissions.
But does your light bulb give out any gases?
Power stations might not either:
In Sweden and France, as in Washington state, and in hydropower-rich British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in many European countries and North American states.
Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.

Also, the savings amounts can be questioned for many reasons:
For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see onwards

More about the strange EU and industrial politics behind the ban

Even if a reduction in use was needed, then taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense since government can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
People can still buy what they want, unlike with bans.
However taxation on electrical appliances is hardly needed either, and is in principle wrong for similar reasons to bans.

David said...

Panta Rei,

Agreed, and well said. And thanks for the links to the Ceolas articles.


Panta Rei said...

Thanks David,
you are also right about "energy saving" lights (CFLs) lifespan,
from USA Lawrence Livermore Lab (University of California) testing too, and Energy Star testing brightness decrease with use

Note that CFL manufacturers don't guarantee advertised lifespans, beyond Energy Star requiring a 2 year warranty...

Panta Rei said...

RE Sailorcurt
"Their bulbs were in strange wattages like 43 Watts, 67 Watts, 79 Watts"

Are you sure that wasnt
29, 43, 53, 72 Watts?

Guess what, they are the limits in the 2012 USA bans
Energy Bill 2009 and 2007 legislation
Sorry for messy copy below,doesn't align, but you get the drift...

there are otherwise several links on

Rated Lumen Ranges // Maximum Rated Wattage // Minimum Rated Lifetime // Effective Date
1490–2600 72 1,000 hrs 1/1/2012
1050–1489 53 1,000 hrs 1/1/2013
750–1049 43 1,000 hrs 1/1/2014
310–749 29 1,000 hrs 1/1/2014