Purchasing guide: Which low-energy light bulb should you choose for your company?

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Decarbonisation, which involves decreasing energy consumption, is a major issue for companies. By choosing to equip their offices and warehouses with low-energy light bulbs, they are moving towards carbon neutrality while reducing their expenses. With the various technologies available and evolving legislation, we help you take stock to determine which low-energy light bulb to choose for your company.

What is a low-energy light bulb?

Also called “energy saving light bulbs”, low-energy light bulbs are a type of light bulb which requires less electricity to operate than traditional light bulbs. There are two main technologies: Fluorescent light bulbs and LEDs.  A fluorescent light bulb consumes 75% less electricity compared to a traditional bulb. For an LED bulb, this figure is 80% less.

Since they enable companies to make energy savings, low-energy light bulbs are eco-responsible products that should be favoured to reduce costs in warehouses and offices. Reducing energy consumption also helps companies decrease their energy bills, particularly in the current context of inflation. Regardless of the low-energy bulb chosen, it has a longer lifespan than a traditional bulb. Replacing this type of consumable is therefore less frequent. Lastly, low-energy bulbs have a major safety advantage as they emit very little heat.

Low-energy light bulbs contribute to making workplaces more sustainable by meeting several sustainable development criteria. Opting for low-energy light bulbs allows companies to:

  • Reduce their energy consumption;
  • Decrease their waste production thanks to the increased lifespan of the bulbs;
  • Ensure employee well-being by controlling risks linked to bulbs that emit heat.

The different types of light bulbs

To determine which low-energy light bulb to choose for your company, it is essential to know the four main categories of light bulbs available.

Incandescent light bulbs

The incandescent bulb is the traditional type of light bulb. Its lifespan is just 1,000 hours and it produces a lot of heat. Incandescent bulbs are fragile and energy-guzzling, but inexpensive to purchase.

Halogen light bulbs

The halogen bulb is an enhanced version of the incandescent bulb. It offers 30% energy savings compared to the latter, while producing more light at an equal wattage. Halogen bulbs remain highly energy-consuming and have a short lifespan (on average 2,000 hours).

CFL light bulbs

The compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) often consists of fluorescent tubes folded over themselves or in a spiral, which takes up less space. The lifespan of this type of bulb is around 8,000 hours, almost 10 times more than an incandescent bulb. This type of low-energy bulb also produces less heat.

LED light bulbs

The LED bulb is highly energy efficient. Its lifespan can reach 50,000 hours and it withstands the frequent “on/off” cycles better than incandescent bulbs. In addition, it emits almost no heat.

These bulbs are more expensive to purchase. However, their price is offset by an average operating cost 4 times that is lower than a traditional bulb when comparing the purchase cost to its lifespan. Lastly, LED bulbs are recyclable.

Which low-energy light bulb should you choose to comply with European regulations?

Since 2009, the European Union has been gradually removing the least sustainable bulbs from the market. Committed to reducing carbon emissions, the EU aims to standardise the use of light bulbs in homes and companies alike to retain only the most efficient models.

It began by restricting, then banning incandescent and halogen bulbs from being sold, according to their wattage. In 2015, mercury vapour and sodium lamps were banned. This measure concerns the energy consumption of this product as well as the impact of the manufacturing of the lamp on the environment as well as the management of waste. Furthermore, mercury represents a major risk for the planet and living beings.

In 2023, two new European measures concerning light bulbs have come into force. Since February, fluorescent tubes and CFL bulbs with a lifespan of less than 20,000 hours have been prohibited. Since August, all other types of fluorescent and CFL bulbs must be withdrawn from sale. The ban actually concerns the production of these low-voltage bulbs, retailers can still continue to sell their stock.

How to choose your low-energy light bulbs?

Given the advantages they offer in terms of energy performance and sustainability, low-energy bulbs (LED or CFL) fit into companies’ sustainable procurement policies. To determine which low-energy light bulb to choose, certain criteria must be taken into account.

The basic elements for choosing your low-energy light bulbs are:

  • The shape of the bulb;
  • Its size;
  • The type of base (screw, bayonet or pin);
  • The voltage in volts.

Mandatory since March 2021, in accordance with European directives, the Energy Label indicates the efficiency of electrical appliances. It applies to light bulbs as well as cars or refrigerators. There are 7 energy classes, from A to G. Category A designates the products that consume the least electricity. At the opposite end, the letter G is assigned to the most energy-guzzling products. A QR code on the Energy Label provides access to a database with more information about the product.

The power of bulbs was traditionally expressed in watts, which gave indications about the light intensity. However, the correlation between the number of watts and brightness is no longer the same with LED bulbs. Consumers then have to rely on lumens to know the intensity of the luminous flux. This is because LED bulbs consume fewer watts for an equal light output than older models.

For information, here is a summary of the equivalences between watts and lumens:

Type of bulb 300-500 lm 500-700 lm 1,000-1,250 lm 1 250-2 000 lm
Incandescent bulb 40 W 60 W 120 W 150-250 W
Halogen bulb 35 W 50 W 100 W 125 W
CFL bulb 8 W 11 W 20 W 20-33 W
LED bulb 3-5 W 5-7 W 10-13 W 13-20 W


Colour temperature, which is expressed in Kelvin degrees, depends on the room where the bulb is installed. The higher the temperature in Kelvin, the colder the emitted light.

From 1,800 to 2,700 °K, the light is described as a very warm white. The lighting has a relaxing effect, suitable for spaces like break rooms or restaurants.

Warm white corresponds to bulbs at 3,000 °K. The atmosphere remains cosy while allowing people to see clearly, so this can be suitable for spaces where customers are welcomed, such as reception areas or meeting rooms.

In spaces that require good visibility, like offices or workshops, the preferred option is cool white (4,000 °K).

Lastly, above 6,500 °K, the light is described as daylight, meaning visibility is as good indoors as outdoors when the sun is at its peak. This temperature is suitable for work requiring great precision. It is found in laboratories and industrial environments.

A bulb can be paired with equipment to prevent overconsumption. This may be a dimmer switch. The bulb is then described as “dimmable”, meaning adjustable. The light flow can thus be adapted to the users’ needs. This information can be identified thanks to the presence of an icon. The one on the left indicates a bulb suitable for use with a dimmer, the one on the right shows that the bulb is not.

Some bulbs are specifically designed for hazardous environments. These are referred to as ATEX (EXplosive ATmospheres) certified bulbs.

What are the lowest-energy light bulbs?

As mentioned above, LED and CFL bulbs are the most energy efficient. They also have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs. A CFL bulb lasts between 6,000 and 10,000 hours, while an LED bulb lasts from 15,000 to 100,000 hours. So which low-energy light bulb should you choose to save energy and achieve energy sobriety in your company?

Generally, CFL bulbs tend to be cheaper to purchase than LEDs. However, given their superior lifespan, LEDs are cost-effective over time. When considering bulb lifespan, you also need to think about what happens to them once they stop working. Again, the LED light bulb has the advantage here. It is recyclable while the CFL remains difficult to recycle, especially because of the gases it contains. Finally, CFLs take time to light up while LEDs light up instantly.

LED bulb technology is constantly evolving. The latest generation, called “retrofit”, consumes less energy than classic LED bulbs for the same amount of light. A LED filament light bulb can be used as decorative lights and do not require a lampshade. Decorative bulbs come in various shapes and can even mimic candle flames, like the flickering flame effect bulbs. The advantages of LED bulbs, combined with the environmental impact of non-recyclable CFLs, led the European Union to favour LEDs.

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Lauren Warwick