Louisa Pearson: ‘Brits aren’t giving up their filaments without a fight’

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YOU look terrible. Another week, another onslaught of compliments from Him Indoors. “It’s that pendant light,” I explain, “it’s casting shadows on my face.” Of course it is.

If only I had a Hollywood lighting crew to hand, I’d look like a movie star. Don’t talk to me about light bulbs. I waste money on them every time I leave the house. I have a cardboard box full of screw-in bulbs, but the plug-in type I need seem to have dug a tunnel and escaped in search of a better-lit owner.

Two trips to the local shop have taken place to find an appropriate bulb for the lounge. The first one I came back with was an energy-saving ‘40W equivalent’ affair. Forty watts sounded a lot to me but its dim, sickly glow made the front room look like an opium den. Back to the shop I went for a 60W effort, only to switch it on and find myself dazzled by the blue-white glare. Now I was trying to relax in an interrogation room. I kept expecting a bad cop and a good cop to burst in at any moment.

Are all your bulbs energy-saving ones or do you have a secret hatch under the floor that hides a stockpile of the old incandescent ones? If it’s the latter I imagine the neighbours have been known to hear you muttering darkly about flickering cold light and mercury poisoning. Not everyone is a fan of the compact fluorescent bulb, but as EU directives kick in like one of those metal clamps they put round people’s heads prior to brain surgery, the reign of the incandescent bulb is fast reaching an end.

To be honest, I thought they had already been banned. When I saw tall stacks of dusty traditional bulbs in the local shop I thought I’d stumbled into a black market operation. It turns out that, last September, an EU ban on the manufacturing and importing of 60W clear incandescent bulbs came into force. Pearl bulbs and those over 100W had already been ostracised, and this September 40W and 25W ones will be phased out too. But Brits aren’t giving up their filaments without a fight: 2009 market research figures from Mintel put the share of incandescent bulbs at 56 per cent and compact fluorescent lamps at 23 per cent.

People love the fact that traditional bulbs also give off heat, but I have no such sentiment. I once leaned over a table lamp without a shade (I was a student at the time) and burned my neck on the bulb. When I went to my part-time job in the bingo hall later, every third cackling, chain-smoking granny remarked on my love bite. You wouldn’t suffer that sort of injury from a low-energy bulb.

The Energy Saving Trust tells us that if you replace a traditional bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb of the same brightness you will typically save around £3 per year, or £55 over the life of the bulb. For all their energy-saving qualities, these bulbs do contain mercury, so you can’t just chuck them in the bin – instead you must recycle them at a local council dump (now known as a ‘community recycling centre’) or look out for collection bins in some shops.

I finally found the right bulb for my lounge, and can recommend you look for one that says ‘soft tone’ on the packet. As well as saving energy, it will make you look more like a member of the Walton family and less like a prison inmate.