How to read the new information displayed on light bulb packaging

How to read the new information
displayed on light bulb packaging
from September 2010 onwards
New types of light bulbs – new packaging: What is best for me?
The European Union is gradually phasing out old-style
incandescent light bulbs and switching to greener lighting.
There are now several types of light bulbs available offering
different characteristics: LED bulbs, compact fluorescent
lamps (CFLs) and improved incandescent bulbs. One
characteristic of these new types of light bulbs is that they
are very energy-efficient. CFLs, for example, use between
65% and 80% less energy than conventional incandescent
bulbs. Improved incandescent bulbs work with halogen
technology and use 20% to 45% less energy for the
same light output, compared to the best conventional
incandescent bulbs. Light bulb packaging now carries
better product information to help you choose the best
solution according to your needs. Manufacturers have
created several icons to help you obtain all the information
you need, although these icons may differ according to
manufacturer, and may be replaced by textual information.
This factsheet is designed to help you better understand the
basic information provided. The answers to the questions
below will help you identify more easily the information you
need from the light bulb packaging.
Compact fluorescent
lamp (CFL)
How much light do I need?
Measuring light performance in terms of watts (W) can be misleading as different
types of bulbs nowadays require different wattage levels to produce the same light
output(1). For this reason, it is easier to measure the performance of bulb in terms
of light quantity: lumens (lm). For example, 1300-1400 lm is the equivalent of an old
100 W incandescent bulb. Bulb packaging will indicate the light output by way of an
icon which indicates the number of lumens produced by the bulb. If the quantity of
light is particularly important for you and you often need to adjust it using a dimmer,
you have to verify if the bulb you are about to buy can be dimmed. A dimming(2)
icon printed on every bulb package will indicate if the bulb is dimmable or not. You
should always check this icon for CFLs and LEDs, as many of them will not work when
operated on standard dimmers.
Incandescent bulb wattage (W) to
lumens (lm) equivalent
100 W
1300-1400 lm
75 W
920-970 lm
60 W
700-750 lm
40 W
410-430 lm
25 W
220-230 lm
Examples from various manufacturers
1 - light output
Am I buying a light bulb to use at work or at home?
Selecting the appropriate light for the places you spend most of your time is very
important. Nobody wants to be stressed at home or feel sleepy at work because of the
wrong choice of lighting! For this reason you have to look at the light colour(3) icon
on the light bulb packaging before buying a bulb. Measured in Kelvin (K), the colour of
the light (in other words, the colour “temperature”) can vary from cold to warm. A low
Kelvin value (e.g. 2700 K) projects a warmer light which is more relaxing and therefore
more suitable for home use (e.g. in the living room). The higher the Kelvin value of a
bulb (e.g. more than 4000 K) the colder the light produced. Cold lighting is usually
preferred in the workplace.
Improved incandescent
2 - dimming
3 - light colour
Will I use the light bulb in places where I spend a lot of time
every day?
It is crucial to identify and buy the most efficient and longer lasting bulbs for use in
places where you spend several hours per day, so that you can reduce total electricity
consumption and the need for maintenance. The lifetime(4) icon on bulb packaging
can help you with this as it shows the number of hours a bulb will operate before
failure. Longer bulb life means less trouble buying and changing light bulbs. Moreover,
on all light bulb packaging there is an EU energy label(5) indicating different classes
(A to G) that help you identify the most efficient bulbs. For the same light output, a
compact fluorescent lamp (class A) will need only the third of the electricity used by
an improved incandescent bulb (class C). You can save a lot of money by opting for the
most efficient bulbs.
4 - lifetime
5 - EU energy label
Am I going to use the light bulb indoors or outdoors?
The ambient temperature of the place where the light bulbs will be used is an
important factor to keep in mind when making your purchase. Improved incandescent
bulbs, for example, are more resistant to extreme temperatures compared to CFLs or
LEDs. Therefore you always have to check whether an operating temperature(6) icon
is shown when you buy bulbs that will be used outdoors and exposed to changing
temperatures. The bulb should be able to operate at the temperatures likely to occur
at the outdoor location where it is installed.
6 - operating temperature
How often will I use the light bulb?
Most CFLs are very energy-efficient but permit a lower minimum number of on/
off switches before failure(7). Therefore, standard CFLs (with 3000–6000 on/off
switches) should not be installed in locations where frequent switching - an average of
more than three times a day - is likely, e.g. in toilets or corridors with motion sensors.
But there are, however, also CFLs designed to withstand frequent switching. For this
reason, before buying any light bulbs, you have to identify the relevant icon indicating
the number of on/off switches before failure. Moreover, since some of the new bulb
types take a bit longer to warm up and to reach their full light output (e.g. standard
CFLs) it is very important to identify the warm-up times(8) icon that will indicate how
soon a bulb reaches maximum light output.
What to do when a CFL breaks or fails
You should be aware of the fact that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury – less
than 5 mg, which is several times less than the amount of mercury contained in other
products people use at home, such us older thermometers and batteries. In the
unlikely event of a broken CFL, you should air the room before cleaning the lamp with
a wet cloth. Skin contact with debris should be avoided and vacuum cleaners should
not be used to clean up. Buying CFLs with an outer non-breakable enclosure is a way
of dealing with mercury leaks in the event of accidental light bulb breakage. The light
bulb packaging displays a reference to a website where the manufacturer explains in
more detail how to tackle a broken CFL.
Like many other electrical products, new light bulbs should not be discarded with
normal household waste but should be returned to the dedicated collection points.
For more detailed information in your own language, visit the website, which includes an interactive guide for choosing light bulbs.
Published by: European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy, B-1049 Brussels • September 2010
7 - number of switches before failure
8 - warm-up times