Britain's got an energy saving bulb mountain

Put your hand up if you’ve had one of those cards from your postman, telling you that he had a package that wouldn’t fit through your letterbox and has bunged it off to the local delivery office.

Now put your other hand up if you’ve subsequently made the trek to the aforementioned delivery office only to find that the package in question is a free energy-saving lightbulb, sent to you as a special treat by your energy supplier. Hmm, a few hands in the air we see (we don’t really – that would be impossible… or would it?)


It’s a deeply frustrating event and one that is responsible for two in every five cases of self-elbow-chewing in the UK (or so we imagine). You should try not to focus on the time and energy expended in getting to the delivery office and back though – you’ve just got a free lightbulb.

Unfortunately though, it seems that most of us don’t actually use the sodding things, and research by the Energy Saving Trust suggests that 60 percent of the 224 million energy-saving bulbs dispatched over the past two years haven’t been used yet.

The deluge of unwanted bulbs was at its worst at the end of last year – new Ofgem rules state that from January 1st, bulbs can only be sent out to householders who have requested them.

But it seems that the bombardment of bulbs is nothing more than an exploitation of the regulations as energy companies try to get away with the cheapest and easiest methods of being seen to be saving energy.

Although they’ve sent out 224 million energy saving bulbs, government target figures for the period stood at just 110 million. Meanwhile, targets for domestic cavity wall insulation installations were 2.9 million homes – according to Ofgem, less than one million homes have been done to date.

Energy suppliers – screwing their customers in increasingly imaginative array of ways. It’s almost admirable if it didn’t suck so hard.


  • dasher
    The reason they are energy saving is cos they dont shine off ANY DAMN LIGHT!!!
  • ltbl
    The real problem is they send you useless low wattage bulbs that replace things like 40w and 60w bulbs - who uses them?
  • Anon
    Energy saving light bulb supposedly last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. I wasn't exactly burning through normal bulbs; now it's an even slower rate.... Once all the normal bulbs have all been replaced the manufacturers of bulbs would need to CUT bulb production by 90% to stop this stupid excess of damn bulbs everywhere. They would be better of making sure all new lights WORK with ESL's - have some light fitting bought in the last few years that still don't work properly with ESL bulbs.
  • ElBuc
    The colour temperature of all these 'energy saving bulbs' is so grim I cannot possibly consider them. The equivalent wattage is never right - they are always much dimmer. Does anyone know if ones exist that really are do give out a glow that is as pleasant as tungsten? I don't mind paying a little extra!
  • Gunn
    I like free stuff and I've replaced all the bulbs in the house, I don't mind them being a bit dimmer, I usually have the lights dimmed anyway (though you cant seem to dim all energy saver bulbs)
  • Laurz
    I'm proud to say that my house contains no energy saving lightbulbs at all. Why should I live with lighting that takes so long to warm up that by the time its up to full brightness i've left the room and which is too dim even after reaching its full brightness anyway as well as having an horrible yellow tinge (i cant spell that sorry) to it while the government arses around lighting up london like a christmas tree every night? Oh look, houses of parliament, best light them up all night, london eye? get it lit up. big ben? looks a bit dull to me, light the bastard up. Lauras house? Feck her she can live in darkness and the cunt had better turn her TV off at the plug as well or the earth will implode as a result of global warming.
  • milky
    FFS, you use them where they are applicable, Not where it's life or death trip onto elephant traps if the area is not lit to your requirments in a millisecond. Try them as a lamp light in the corner then when it comes up to speed turn off your main power-hungry 100watter. Try the energy security bulb inna pir securrity lamp for £20 @ tesco's instead of a powerhungry 150-500 watter halogen. Try fiting philips energy saver halogens for a significant slide up the scal;e of efficient light output.. we use em in the kitchen @ 20 watts consumption over the old 60 watt bulbs (of which there were 6) Use em in your conservatory, utility room etc ..we've knocked it down from 600 watts in the conservatory to 120 watts same output, or fit a bleeding expensive LED floodlight. bring down your electricity consumption for your pocket if nowt else. Get an owl energy monitor & then become an electricity Nazi like me, (does you wonders with or without the uniform) Alot of the more modern eco bulbs warm up period is now pretty damn fast for useable light, in the bathroom at night it 's just enough time to adjust your eyes to take aim at the porcelain, can't blame poor light on my poor shot.
  • milky
    ..another problem in peoples houses is not necessarily the light output but rather the fact that they don't design the room around the light or have a singular pendant in the centre of a large room witha whacking great lampshade obscuring half of the light spread. Move or add a pendant light (for example), ...easier than you think to sort it & maintain low energy.
  • Bobbyman
    Laurz: You are a fool, clearly.
  • Nathanial
    Am i the only one who find them too bright then? in my main lounge i have two habitat light cubes in which i use two 12 watt nightlights, the celing light is never used as its a 60w equiv energy bulb. the bedroom is the same, 1 12w nightlight, which i find is a nice comfortable light. The kitchen and bathroom on the other hand are riddled with nice power hungry 50w halogens :)
  • David
    This is a non-issue. Since there is no bulb recycling bin as yet I just throw them all in the normal rubbish when they arrive (doesn't everyone?) I am considerate enough to recycle the cardboard box they arrive in.
  • Mark P.
    The bastards just don't fit in my sockets. Note: that is not a euphemism. At least, it isn't now.
  • Bob
    I went on an ebay spree in the autumn and have a kitchen drawer full of 150W bad boys. And when they run out I'll just buy direct from China. Energy Saving bulbs are pathetic.
  • Maude
    Energy saving lightbulbs make me want to send shit in the post to my MP. How they can be "better for the environment" alludes me. The amount of the the earth's resources expended in producing something with a PCB, starter, various other electrical components, gases, plastics, MERCURY - in ADDITION to the glass and metal used on the incandescent bulbs - far outweigh the benefits from supposed extended lifetimes. What a crock of shite. If the governments of this world want to do something useful, how about stop restricting what fucking wattage bulbs I'm allowed to buy anymore, and sort out renewable energy sources instead! It's so ridiculous that we have infinite energy in the waves and wind but haven't harnessed it yet. I have stocked up on 100w globes for my decorative light fixtures (who wants to have those ugly pieces of CFL crap on display?) which will last me into the foreseeable future and will also be looking to source an alternative supplier of them from abroad when these run out.
  • Mark
    What most people on here are not realising is that not all energy saving light bulbs are made equal. Some are dim and take an age to even get to that level of brightness (usually the dome ones) and some are excellent - bright and on instantly (usually the spiral type). Try different types from different manufacturers until you find ones that work for you. 90% of the bulbs in my house are energy efficient ones. Saved me a fortune in replacement bulbs and leccy over the years.
  • JenEm
    We did try the energy-saving lightbulbs, we installed them throughout the house, we gave them a chance, and then we got fed-up with the garage forecourt look, and replaced them with the kill-the-planet, guilt-laden, lightbulbs.
  • Mark
    What exactly is the 'garage forecourt look'? Do the people who refuse to use efficient light bulbs not work in offices under florescent lights? It's the same type of light.
  • Nobby
    You can get good energy saving light bulbs, with quick "on" times and decent brightness. Unfortunately they cost about a tenner a piece.Yes, you may save money in the long run. But it is a large up front cost to refit every bulb in yoru house. The government / energy companies really messed up by giving out free bulbs that are rubbish. Although, I think maybe the energy comapnies wanted to put people off low energy bulbs, hence forcing free ones on everyone to see how bad they are, knowing people would assume that all energy saving bulbs are the same. They should have given every household one decent one rather than a load of cheap crap ones.
  • Mark C.
    I got sick of these bulbs today after putting up with them since I moved into this flat back in July. Rather than repost, here's a link my comments on this...
  • Mark C.
    PS. If anyone has need for a pedantic technology critic or zealous physics writer... I'd be more than interested! Mark [at]
  • Alejandro N.
    Want 2 thank you 4 your informative post!
  • Lucid E.
    I use my ESLs and I'm happy with them. They do the job. They do save energy and (more importantly to most people) they do save money! It's not just the leccy bills, I've saved loads on the actual cost of the bulbs since they last so much longer. Admittedly I'm a goth at heart but they certainly do the job for me plus the whole energy saving issue springs little gems like Laura's comments on this page! (I wonder how much energy it took to charge the blackberry that sent this comment and that powered the antennae and satellites that carried the signal as well as the internet servers it travelled through to arrive at this site?)
  • deltasone p.
    I really liked reading your message. You have convinced me to subscribe to your blog, but where can I find the RSS feed?
  • Biscuitbum
    I too have an unused supply of the sodding things after a wasted trip to my local sorting office. I still had to buy some myself, as the wattage of those supplied was too low. They really are p. poor as they look pug ugly and are way too dim. I recently had a house near the suffolk coast re-furbed and I chose es globes throughout.
  • angryone
    I have every desire to be eco-friendly - but trying to choose new fittings which will accommodate the energy bulbs I am happy to use is a nightmare. It's all right comparing output - that's not the issue; it's the shape / size equivalent for an item you purchase - and the fear that your new light / lamp will end up in landfill sooner than expected because the energy bulbs being promoted - and one day the only ones available - WILL NOT fit!!! I can find no website to help in the selection - so you geeks, get to it!!!

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