Big changes for lightbulbs in South Africa – what you should know

 ·24 May 2023

The Department of Trade and Industry and Competition (DTIC) has gazetted new compulsory standards for standard lighting in South Africa, which will effectively ban all lightbulbs except for energy-efficient LEDs.

The proposed specifications were first published for public comment in March 2021, and were initially expected to be gazetted in September 2022.

Through the new gazette, DTIC minister Ebrahim Patel has withdrawn the old compulsory specification for single-capped fluorescent lamps (VC 9091) and incandescent lamps (VC 8043) and replaced them with the new compulsory specification for energy efficiency and functional performance requirements of general services lamps.

The specifications aim to improve the safety, performance and energy efficiency of lightbulbs approved for use in South Africa by phasing out inefficient and environmentally harmful lighting products

The compulsory specification covers the energy efficiency and functional performance for general lighting directional and non-directional lamps of all shapes and finishes; using incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, light emitting diode (LED), and other light source technologies (not including high-intensity discharge lamps).

All bulbs that are capable of operating on a voltage up to 300V of either direct current or alternating current with a frequency of 50Hz that emit light with a total luminous flux of 60 to 3300 lumens are included in the standards.

However, when factoring all the exclusions – including bulbs used in image capture and signalling, among many others – the regulations only relate to standard bulbs used for lighting purposes, referred to as general service lamps (GSL).

Among the various technical aspects of the regulations, the main change is that all GSLs in the country will have to have a minimum luminous efficiency rate of 90 lumens per watt (lm/W) in the first phase of the regulations. This then becomes a minimum of 105 lm/W in the second phase.

Lumens per watt (lm/W) refers to the energy efficiency of lighting, i.e. how much visible light you get for a given amount of electricity.

This poses a significant problem for most lightbulbs in the country, which cannot meet these targets.

According to testing done by MyBroadband, on average, a typical incandescent bulb in South Africa produces around 12 lumens per watt, compared to 55 lumens for energy-saving compact fluorescents (CFL) and 80 for LED bulbs.

With the advent of LED technology in lighting, LEDs are currently the only bulb types that have any hope of reaching the 90lm/W target – incandescents and CFLs don’t come close.

However, even LEDs are still generally lagging on the future target of 105 lm/W, with only a three-year gap available for this to be reached.

The first phase for the new regulations to be implemented is set for 12 months after the final notice is published, lasting a period of two years. The second phase kicks in 36 months after the final notice is published.

What this means for consumers is that, 12 months from now, bulbs that do not meet the new specification of 90lm/W should not be available in South Africa. This will last for two years, after which the even stricter specification of 105lm/W will apply.

The regulations include some “correction factors”, which give leeway (expressed as a percentage) for different functionalities – however, these cannot exceed 25% of the minimum target.

The DTIC said that for purposes of the specification, a new standard will become effective 12 months from the date of publication as a South African National Standard.

New products, or those resubmitted for approval because of a change in design or materials, will, in all cases, be evaluated against the requirements of the latest edition of the standard.

The full regulations can be viewed below:

Read: Government introducing new rules for lightbulbs in South Africa – what you should know

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