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Home & garden.

28 September 2021

Halogen light bulbs explained

Find out everything you need to know about halogen light bulbs
Tom Morgan
Lightbulbs 10 442918

Halogen light bulbs are comprised of a filament enclosed in halogen gas, meaning they can burn hotter than an incandescent but still use less energy. However, you won't be able to find these bulbs in-store for much longer – the UK government is set to ban the sale of halogen light bulbs before the end of 2021.

Although halogen light bulbs are cheaper to buy than LEDs, the environmental impact of these bulbs can't be ignored. As part of the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change, halogen light bulbs will eventually be replaced entirely by LED bulbs.

Below, we take a closer look at how halogen light bulbs work and explain why the government is phasing them out.

If you're planning on buying some new light bulbs, make sure you consult our expert light bulb reviews so you can bag a couple of Best Buys.

Halogen light bulbs banned in the UK: everything you need to know

Why are halogen light bulbs being banned?

In an effort to 'cut emissions and save consumers on their energy bills', the UK government has announced that halogen light bulbs will be banned from sale from October 2021. Originally, this ban was due to begin in September 2021. Fluorescent light bulbs will follow suit, with plans in place to remove those from shelves from September 2023.

Discussing the changes in further detail, a post on the Gov.uk website notes that a shift to LED bulbs 'will cut 1.26 million tonnes of CO2', the equivalent of removing over half a million cars from UK roads. Additional figures claim that around two thirds of bulbs sold in Britain are LED lights and that, while they produce the same amount of light, these last 'five times longer' than traditional halogen light bulbs.

The government's efforts to phase out halogen light bulbs began in 2018, in line with a European Union directive that progressively banned less efficient light sources.

Can I still buy halogen light bulbs in 2021?

There's a chance you'll find a couple of halogen light bulbs at your local DIY store, but note that retailers will no longer be able to buy new stock once shelves are empty.

To help consumers make the switch, all new light bulbs will be sold with updated energy labels on their boxes. A post on Gov.uk notes that these labels will 'simplify the way energy efficiency is displayed'. A new scale, running from A-G, will replace the old A+, A++ and A+++ ratings. We're told these new labels will 'raise the bar' to the point where very few bulbs will now be classified as A (the most energy-efficient rating).

Should I stop buying halogen light bulbs?

You can still buy halogen light bulbs for the time being if you need to, although stores won't be restocking their supply. If you're currently using halogen light bulbs, consider swapping to an LED when they burn out, rather than replacing them with other halogens between now and the ban. LEDs are better for the environment, as we explain below. 

Halogen light bulbs vs LED light bulbs: what's the difference?

Halogen light bulbs feature a heat-resistant quartz shell filled with inert gas and a halogen, which could be iodine or bromine. This halogen prevents the build-up of soot, ultimately increasing the life of the bulb. Like an incandescent light bulb, the current travels to the tungsten filament inside.

The obvious alternative to a halogen bulb is an LED bulb. Although both can produce the same amount of light, LEDs finish on top in terms of energy use. Although halogen bulbs are cheaper to buy initially, you'll get more hours from an LED bulb – a typical halogen bulb should last you about 2,000 hours (roughly two years), compared with 25,000 hours (25 years) for LEDs and 10,000 (10 years) for CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps).

Halogen light bulbs are able to reach their full brightness the instant you flick the light switch. In other words, you don’t have to wait for them to warm up as you do with some CFL energy-saving bulbs. They can also be dimmed using a conventional dimmer switch.

The CRI (colour rendering index) is a measure of how well a light source accurately reveals various colours. Halogens are near perfect, getting CRI scores in the high 90s. LED and CFL bulbs can't match this, but are still above acceptable levels.

Swapping out halogen bulbs

When replacing a halogen bulb with an LED bulb, in some cases you may notice that the LED starts to flicker. There are a couple of potential causes, but often this is because the current doesn't remain constant.

Is your LED dimmable?

It's worth noting that some LED bulbs can't be dimmed. To make sure you buy a fixture that's compatible with your dimmer, shop for LED lights marked as dimmable on the packaging. Standard dimmer switches may not be fully compatible with LED lights, so consider buying a dimmer switch made specifically for LEDs. Again, checking the packaging or the product description will help here.

Flickering LED lights

If your LEDs are flickering occasionally, this could potentially be due to an inappropriate transformer or fluctuations in the power grid. To get to the source of the problem, you may need to consult a professional – if you're looking for reliable traders in your area, head over to Which? Trusted Traders.

Alternatively, for more tips on dealing with flickering LED lights, consult our expert advice guide on how to fix common LED problems.

Are halogen light bulbs recyclable?

Halogen bulbs need to be disposed of with your normal household waste. Because they contain a series of fine wires (which are difficult to separate out), halogen bulbs aren't recyclable.

When getting rid of a halogen bulb, it's wise to wrap the bulb in case it shatters.