Can you use dimmer switches with low energy light bulbs?

Yes, but be careful to check the packaging.

Most low energy compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are not suitable for dimming. However you can get some that are. One of the biggest manufacturers of dimmable CFLs is Megaman.

LEDs can also be dimmed but, again, you have to check.

Isn't it wasteful to throw away existing light bulb stocks?

No-one will be forced to change their light bulbs, or their fittings.

Retailers will be able to sell on existing stocks.

The EU measure, under the Eco-design for Energy-using Products Framework Directive restricts the manufacture and import into the EU of 100W and frosted incandescent lamps from 1 September, with a phase out of lamps of lower wattage by 2012.

Are low energy light bulbs safe and how do I dispose of them?

EU health experts concluded that there is not enough evidence to suggest that modern lamps can aggravate epilepsy or migraines, but Defra and DoH have worked closely with groups representing those with specific sight and light-sensitive skin conditions to minimise any adverse effects from the use of CFLs.

The evidence shows that the amount of mercury in lamps is less than the mercury that would be otherwise released into the atmosphere by coal-fire power generation to produce the energy used by an incandescent lamp.

The mercury cannot escape from an intact lamp and, even if the lamp should be broken, the very small amount of mercury contained in a single, modern CFL is most unlikely to cause any harm.  Safe disposal of a smashed bulb is on defra's website at

All local Councils provide recycling facilities for CFLs and some retailers will take them back.

Will low energy light bulbs really save me money and do they really last longer?

CFL low energy bulbs save 80% energy compared to an old fashioned bulb. According to the Energy Saving Trust this can be £3-6 per lamp off your energy bills.

CFLs should last longer than incandescent lamps, though towards the end of life they fade over time rather than blow. Under EU legislation there will be a minimum guaranteed lifetime.

Don't low energy light bulbs take ages to warm up and give off dull light?

Many lamps come on instantly and no lamp should come on later than a second or two after flicking the switch. The light now is flicker free as although CFL bulbs used to operate at mains frequency (50Hz) they are now designed to operate at 1000 times that frequency. The light is bright and clear. A test conducted by the Energy Saving Trust suggests that the majority of people cannot tell the difference between the light of a new CFL and an incandescent bulb.

The Greening Fulflood Campaign in Winchester set up two light boxes, one with traditional and one with low carbon lighting, for people to stand in and see if they could tell which was which. About half guessed right - but lots of those guessed by feeling which bulb was the one that got hot!

Is there a low energy light bulb for every type of fitting?

Yes.  Lamps are now much smaller than previous CFL ones, and come in very similar sizes and shapes to incandescent lamps. They come in all bayonet and screw fittings now. Where fittings are really small, halogen ‘look-alike’ lamps are available, although these do not offer the same energy savings. Dimmable versions are also available.

Aren’t low energy light bulbs expensive?

Energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) have come down in price and will continue to do so. Some new CFLs are available at similar prices to old fashioned bulbs (50p in some shops).  Energy efficient lamps save money, up to £3-6 per lamp per year according to the Energy Saving Trust, and so the pay back can be seen in months. They also last longer so you don’t need to buy them as often. Halogen ‘look-alike’ bulbs are now available to fit in standard sockets, though these lamps do not last as long as CFLs and only offer a 25 – 40 per cent of savings compared to traditional bulbs.

Are people justified in grumbling about low energy light bulbs?

No they aren't. Energy efficient bulbs now come in every size, shape and design, with dimmable versions and bayonet and screw fittings.  The technology in low energy bulbs has improved greatly and now the variety and choice is there for every household or business.