From 1 September 2012 it became illegal for retailers to sell old-style incandescent tungsten filament lightbulbs of any description. This was the final phase of EU legislation that began three years ago with the larger-sized bulbs, and ended with the chop for the last two remaining categories, 40W and 25W bulbs. It is estimated that forcing consumers to switch to energy-efficient lighting will save 39 terawatt hours of electricity annually by 2020 across the EU - equivalent to the annual output of five power stations. The UK government estimates an 'average annual benefit' to the UK economy of £108 million in energy savings, plus of course the environmental benefit of reduced carbon emissions. However, the trend toward more and more lights in homes, and particularly the widespread use of halogen bulbs, may mean that these savings are not achieved.
Recent advances overcome consumer resistance
Consumer resistance to the new low-energy bulbs has been voiced, with concerns that they are expensive, are slow to warm up, don't produce a bright enough light, look ugly, won't work with dimmer switches, etc. Recent advances in lighting technology have overcome many of these, so that there should be a low-energy substitute available for any old filament bulb that goes bang. Of course, some types are still relatively expensive compared to the older ones, but they do last much longer, and should mean that you recoup the extra initial cost. According to the Energy Saving Trust, replacing a traditional lightbulb with a low-energy compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb will typically save around £3 per year, which over the 10-15-year life of the bulb amounts to £30-45.
So, look out the best and brightest in modern energy-efficient lightbulbs. Remember that halogen bulbs are generally only slightly more efficient than their old tungsten filament counterparts, and they are more expensive. For more information see the pages on low-energy lightbulbs, starting with About low-energy light bulbs: an introduction.