News, Residential

Consumer NZ makes case for ban on incandescent lamps

Consumer NZ says it's time to switch off the incandescents and shift to LED

Consumer NZ is calling for the Government to phase out incandescent lamps, saying there is no reason Kiwis should still be using them.

The consumer body believes that New Zealand should follow the lead of Australia, the European Union and a host of other countries, and phase out incandescent bulbs. When the Labour Government mooted it in 2007, it was dubbed “light bulb socialism” by some and proved unpopular with many consumers. At the time, some early CFL lamps were unreliable and struggled to match the brightness and light quality of incandescents. LEDs were not widespread and prohibitively expensive.

“Now affordable LEDs are widely available, without consumers having to make compromises on brightness and colour quality,” argues Consumer NZ’s technical writer George Block. “In addition, LEDs don’t have the health risks associated with mercury-containing CFLs.”

When mid-range LED bulbs are compared to standard incandescents, the potential savings are compelling. An LED with the same brightness as a 60 watt incandescent costs about $22 and has an expected lifespan of 15,000 hours. The equivalent 60 watt incandescent bulb costs 50 cents but lasts for only 1000 hours. If the light is on for three hours each day the incandescent will use $17 worth of electricity in a year, compared to $2.70 for the LED. That’s a saving of more than $14 each year for a single bulb. The LED will have paid for itself in a little over a year. It will then keep going for another 12 years, while the incandescent will need to be replaced every year.

“The upfront cost of LEDs can be a shock if you’re replacing multiple bulbs at once,” says Block. “The good news, though, is ever-increasing demand and reduced production costs means the price of domestic LEDs continues to fall. For example, in our 2013 test the average price of a general service LED bulb was $35, but this had fallen to $22 when we conducted our latest lighting survey in March this year, with a 75W-equivalent LED available for $10.”

Block argues that the phase-out should start with the most inefficient incandescents, with exceptions for specialist lamps, and must be accompanied with a public education campaign. Also, it’s essential that vulnerable consumers, such as pensioners and Community Services Card holders, are offered concessions to buy energy-efficient lights.