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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

The big switch: Ban on energy-guzzling light bulbs kicks in – What to know

The new light bulb ban means it will be illegal for stores to sell bulbs other than those that are energy-efficient.

The government has pulled the plug on incandescent and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs for household use with new regulations which came into effect on Thursday, 23 May.

The compulsory lighting efficiency standards were gazetted by Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel a year ago in response to the need for South African households to reduce energy consumption.

Incandescent bulbs can be up to 10x more power-hungry, and fluorescents twice more consumptive than LEDs, according to My Broadband.

What sparked ban on CFL light bulbs?

Despite the fact that households already started switching to the more energy efficient LED (light emitting diode) light bulbs a few years ago, many still opted to use the “old-fashioned” types which remained on the retail market.

As from this week, however, it will be illegal for stores to sell light bulbs other than those that are energy-efficient.

Saving energy and money

The good news is that this switch will enable consumers to save a substantial amount of money in the long run.

News24 reported that households could save more than R4 000 in 10 years by swapping bulbs.

Ban on light bulbs: Only LED lamps for household use

While the regulations don’t name specific lamp types, they set a minimum luminous efficiency of 90 lumens per watt (lm/W) for regular electric lamps, which incandescents and CFLs don’t meet. This leaves only LED lamps for household use.

Lumens per watt refers to the energy efficiency of lighting, which is how much visible light is provided for a given amount of electricity.

Why are LED lamps better?

LEDs use some 85% less electricity, and emit little heat in opposition to incandescents that release 90% of their energy as heat, and fluorescents 80% as heat. This reduces the amount of fuel being burnt to generate power to the national grid.

It is also more cost-effective for a household as LEDs can last up to three to five times longer than an incandescent. 

The new rules will also help reduce harmful waste in the country. While incandescents have no notable risks associated with their disposal.

In contrast, CFLs contain mercury which requires special disposal so they don’t end up in landfills.

A Eurolux document on the regulation change explained that noncompliant lights with an existing sales permit can still be sold until 31 December 2024, but no new permits will be issued.

Two-phased rollout

The second phase of the new regulations will come into play in March 2026, ramping up the minimum luminous efficiency to 105lm/W.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced in his Budget Speech in February that tax hikes will be applied to incandescent lamps to encourage the uptake of LED lamps.

National Treasury proposed increasing 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,” it said.