Lighting Industry, News, Residential

Osram halts ‘eco’ label for halogens

Blink and it's gone: Once the rest of these sell, you won't see this sort of 'eco' labelling again on Osram's halogen lamps. Will other companies such as Philips follow suit?

Osram, the world’s second largest lighting company, will stop labeling halogen lamps as ‘eco’, a designation that critics have assailed for wrongly implying that halogen bulbs are an energy-saving option.

In fact, since the phase-out of incandescents, halogens are the least energy-efficient bulbs you can buy.

‘Yes, we will stop calling it “eco”,’ an Osram spokesman confirmed to Lux in an email. It will now label the bulbs as ‘Halogen Classic’. The decision applies to all countries where Osram sells halogens.

Consumer and environmental groups have blamed lighting vendors for confusing the public into thinking that halogen bulbs save a lot of energy.

Halogens are a form of incandescent bulb enhanced with a halogen gas that slightly reduces their energy consumption compared to conventional incandescents. But they consume far more energy than do LED (light-emittng diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs. The halogen gas also makes them last longer than traditional incandescents (although, again, nowhere near as long as CFLs’ and LEDs’ purported lifetimes), and improves their light quality.

The Osram spokesman stopped short of saying that the ‘eco’ term has been misleading.

‘From our point of view, the term “eco” is not crucial for our customers,’ he said. ‘Halogen lamps are being bought because of the price and quality of light. The change will be implemented in the course of an already planned packaging change, as soon as possible.’

He added that halogen lamps do have certain ecological benefits over LEDs and CFL, including that they do not contain hazardous mercury, as CFLs do. 

‘Halogen lamps… can unlike LED and CFLi be disposed [of] in household waste,’ he said.

The move was reported this week by German language public service TV website Das Erste, which wrote, ‘An enquiry to Osram elicits a surprising answer. By “eco”, the company says it intended to refer to the fact that halogen doesn’t contain any mercury [unlike CFL].’

The decision comes as the European Commission decides whether to grant halogen lamps a stay of execution. The EC, like governments around the world, has been phasing out incandescent bulbs. It has currently scheduled September 2016 as the end of the road for halogens.

Stalwarts of the conventional lighting industry are pushing to delay the ban until 2020. Many voices from the LED lighting industry want the ban to take hold as originally planned.

LEDs cut energy consumption by over 80 per cent compared to conventional incandescents, while halogens reduce the energy requirements by between five and 25 per cent, a comparatively small amount.

One environmental group, European Environmental Bureau and its Coolproducts affiliate, says that it has been pushing for legal action to halt the marketing of halogens as ‘eco.’

Osram’s move comes just a few weeks after new CEO Olaf Berlien took the helm, joining from outside the lighting industry. Berlien was CEO of  construction company M + W and prior to that was an executive at steelmaker Thyssenkrupp.

The Osram spokesman said that the company regularly reviews packaging. What’s not clear is whether Berlien ordered the elimination of ‘eco’ to coincide with other already planned packaging  alterations.

Either way, the move marks a momentous beginning for the Berlien era, which began with an uptick in operating profits that the company recently reported for the last full quarter under previous CEO Wolfgang Dehen. 

It might also put pressure on other vendors, such as lighting industry leader Philips, to make similar packaging changes.

Photo is from Mark Halper

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