September 01, 2008

The ungreening of halogen

Has anyone else noticed that halogen lights have become significantly more power-hungry in recent years? A few years ago, the default halogen bulb was a 20W 12V affair with a transformer to step the voltage down. So if you had, say, four of them in your kitchen or bathroom ceiling, or a three bulb plate, you were consuming 60 or 80 watts, and a table lamp with a single bulb would be drawing 20 watts. Not super economical compared with low energy fluorescent bulbs, but perhaps not unacceptably far off, given the vastly superior quality of the light they produced.

But now the transformers are largely gone, and the commonest halogen bulb is the GU10 which consumes 50W at 240V. But the way the bulbs are used, with plates or tracks having three or four or even six bulbs in them hasn’t changed, meaning that what would previously have been 60W is now 150W, a rather less green figure. We have a long thin kitchen, and so we have a round plate with three bulbs in it at one end, and a long track at the other with four bulbs in it. That’s seven bulbs at 50W each: 350W to light one room. That pricks at my conscience a lot more than the previous 140W would have done.

You can replace the 50W bulbs with 35W ones which have the same fitting, but nobody sells light fittings with the 35W bulbs included in the package; it’s always the 50W ones. So you have to wait until the original bulb fails before you can drop down to a smaller figure, and of course the light you then get seems dingy by comparison. The good news, I guess, is that you can still get low voltage 20W fittings and bulbs; they’re just not to be found in the big home furnishing places like Ikea or B&Q any more. But perhaps it’s worth going to the trouble of seeking them out if, like me, you’re a die hard fan of the quality of halogen light, but would prefer to maintain at least a little bit of green credibility.


- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Jenny Delasalle

    Hey, my kitchen lights are exactly the same configuration! I shall look out for those low watt bulbs when I come to replace them: I hadn’t noticed the creeping difference myself…

    04 Sep 2008, 12:12

  2. John Dale

    Update: it turns out that you can get GU10 halogen bulbs in a wider range of wattages than I’d previously realised; 20W, 25W, 35W and 50W. I’ve gradually been replacing 50W bulbs with 20W bulbs, keeping perhaps one 50W bulb in a fitting and replacing all the others, and I think it actually looks better, as well as saving power.

    04 Nov 2008, 22:50


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