New Light Bulb Rules Make Citizens Hoard Old Bulbs


An EU-wide ban on incandescent (traditional) light bulbs is causing consumers to hoard the soon-to-be unlawful products. Manufacturers are enjoying massive sales as a result. Spiegel has more:

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.


Apparently, one reason for hoarding the old bulbs is that the aesthetics associated with the light they emit far outweigh CFLs, which have an “artificial” quality. As a result, art museums are buying them by the thousands, hoping to keep them in operation for years. The EU law prohibits producing and selling the bulbs, but not possessing them–so people are trying to compile long-term supplies.

I thought Cash for Clunkers was a regulatory headache, but it pales in comparison to the light bulb law. The EU could at least have chosen to profit off its restrictions by, as one article source suggests, “slapp(ing) a €5 surcharge on every incandescent bulb, (which would) make people think a bit more before buying them.” Besides, who is going to regulate light bulbs? Interpol? An armed energy task force? This is too big-brotherish.

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  • Not surprised re hoarding…

    Germans and other Europeans Europeans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (European Commission and lighting 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 valves had to be banned… they were bought less anyway.

    All lights have their 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 !

    Since when does Europe need to save on electricity?
    There is no energy shortage, there are plenty of local energy sources, Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation.
    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?

    OK: Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    In France and Sweden practically all electricity is emission-free, while a lot of it is in Austria, Finland and other states. Why should households there 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 actual savings amounts can be questioned for many reasons:
    For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see onwards

    Even if a reduction in use was needed, then taxation to reduce consumption (like that 5 euro duty you mention) 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 in principle still wrong for similar reasons to bans (for example, emission-free households are hit too).

  • mark barrientos

    it’s an outrage and a insult by governments tying to control people by saying whats right and wrong. is it illegal to use my 200 watt tube amp or are they going to take my antique light bulb collection away from me? if we keep listening to the government we will likely end up burning ourselves.

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  • RJ

    I made the mistake of believing that the new light bulbs were the way to go.

    Unfortunately most of them failed in a few months. (Don’t install them in a bathroom, they can’t deal with the moisture.)

    Anyway, I am proposing that this legislation be repealed.

    How can that be done, you ask.

    Mail your failed light bulbs to your representative..

    See: Why Is Congress Requiring Poison Light Bulbs?