These light bulbs are now banned from being sold for household use in South Africa

 ·28 May 2024

The Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition’s ban on the sale of a range of incandescent and compact fluorescent lamp light bulbs kicked in on Friday, 24 May 2024.

A notice by Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel effectively banned sales of regular fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs for general household use.

The new rules aim to enhance light bulbs’ safety, performance, and energy efficiency in South African homes.

The specifications don’t single out specific technologies like fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. However, they set minimum energy-efficiency standards these lamps can’t reach.

The first phase kicked in last week, setting a minimum luminous efficacy of 90 lumens per watt (lm/W) for regular electric lamps.

Simply put, it essentially bans the sale of any type of lamp, except for LED lamps, for household use.

A MyBroadband analysis revealed that typical incandescent bulbs sold through South African retailers are well below the standard.

Incandescent bulbs achieve luminous efficiency figures between 4 lm/W and 12 lm/W, well below the stipulated 90 lm/W.

Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs sold at popular South African retailers achieved a performance of between 47 lm/W and 70 lm/W, which was also below the minimum standard.

Simply put, retailers are expected to phase out the sale of fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs for general household use.

Savvy Saver managing director Grant Pattison welcomed the ban, calling it a good and obvious step.

Pattison previously served as chief executive of Massmart, Edcon, and NRG Energy, which means he is well-positioned to comment on the ban.

The regulations will drive the adoption of LED light bulbs, which will help households save electricity and money.

Another benefit is that it will remove complexity and make it easier for shoppers to compare light bulbs.

Consumers will now have a limited choice of LED bulbs instead of a range of incandescent, compact fluorescent, and LED bulbs.

Apart from saving energy and making households safer, it will also help reduce harmful waste associated with compact fluorescent lamp bulbs, which contain mercury.

Exclusions to the new rules

Despite the fact that the new rules are in force, it will take time for incandescent and compact fluorescent lamp light bulbs to disappear from the shelves.

Eurolux told retailers a sales permit was available to continue stocking low-efficiency lamps until the end of the year.

The rules also have numerous exclusions which allow the lamps to be sold for specific uses, like inside a braai or for warming purposes.

The ban specifically excludes the following lamps:

  • Lights for chemical or biological processes include animal care, horticulture, and UV curing.
  • Lights for image projection.
  • Signalling lights.
  • Studio and theatre lighting.
  • Lighting for scenes or objects with negative effects on certain light sources.
  • Emergency lighting.
  • Lighting for ambient temperatures over 120° C.

This means that the high-energy-consuming bulbs will likely continue to be sold, but only for special purposes, and should not be used for general-purpose lighting.

BusinessTech looked at online retailers’ light bulb ranges, and it was easy to find incandescent and compact fluorescent lamp light bulbs for sale.

Most incandescent bulbs were already described as “rough service globes” and seem to conform to at least some of the exclusion parameters.

The attack on incandescent bulbs did not stop with the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition.

In February 2024, the National Treasury announced tax hikes on incandescent bulbs to encourage the uptake of LED lamps.

National Treasury increased the levy on incandescent bulbs from R15 to R20 per bulb from 1 April 2024.

“This complements the phase-out of inefficient light bulbs and promotes compliance with the new energy efficiency standards published in May 2023 by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition,” Treasury said.

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