Under European Union law, all incandescent bulbs will cease being sold by 2016 and be replaced by energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (cfl). The building regulationsThese are the legal regulations which govern how a house is constructed. (not to be confused with Planning Permission which is about whether you are allowed to build the house at all or what it might look like) see Building Regulations) already require a percentage of new light fittings to be low energy only. This will save an enormous amount of energy and pollution. Handled correctly, low energy lighting can be superior to incandescent lighting in a number of ways. However there are several issues, real and perceived, around low energy lights which need addressing. Some of these are to do with general acceptance, others with technical issues.
- Lower levels of light output is sometimes a criticism with low energy bulbs. This typically comes from silly people who have tried to replace an incandescent 100W lamp with an 11W cflcompact fluorescent light. It needs to be at least 20W, maybe up to 30.
- Colour rendering has been something of a problem with cfls although that problem has now been fairly well fixed. Some of the worst makes used to give a strange slightly sickly colour of light with a tinge of green but these are getting fewer. Cfls may never give the full frequency lighting spectrum[for the purposes of part C of the Approved Documents] - The composition of a particular sound in terms of separate frequency bands. that incandescent lighting does but it may give healthier lighting if the results coming from research into 17,000ºK fluorescent lighting by Philips is anything to go by.
- run up speed is being rapidly improved
- dimming is now possible with some cfls
- problems with bulbs breaking loose from their bayonet plugs within the light fitting have ceased with cfls. This was linked to the heat problem which often caused the plastic sockets to go brittle.
Conventional fluorescent lighting is particularly good when high frequency gear is used.
LEDslight emitting diodes are rapidly becoming more energy efficient than cfls. See energy comparisons. LEDs also last longer and there is the possibility of colour balancing by the mixing of different coloured LEDs into a single lamp.
Appliances are rated according to the EU energy rating system. However there are other factors to take into consideration.
Are the appliances intrinsically efficient? For instance induction hobs and microwave ovens are more efficient than conventional ones because there is little residual heat after use. This can also be an issue around cooling as well as energy usage. A superinsulated house will have to contend with removing excess heat from ovens. If this goes out through a MVHRMechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery system then it will reappear again in other rooms.
Dishwashers can be considerably more efficient than poor hand washing (both in water and probably energy consumption) although the studies so far don’t seem to have taken into account the embodied energythe total amount of energy it takes to make a material (or a building). See more on embodied energy of the machines themselves
In theory the mains voltage has been harmonised across Europe at 230 volts. What happened in practise was a bit of a fudge. Instead of the UK voltage being changed to 230V it was allowed to be 230 V +10% -6%. This effectively allowed it to stay at 240V. and it can therefore rise to 256V. Manufacturers of electrical equipment work to 230V to best cover the European market and so when equipment is fed the much higher voltage of up to 256V it is not working to its optimum efficiency. Enter the Voltage optimiser which is a gadget fitted near the electric meter to regulate the incoming voltage down to 230. There are claims that this could save up to 10% of your electricity costs.