South Africa’s big light bulb ban kicks in today

Today marks 12 months since trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel published South Africa’s new light bulb regulations.

The new specifications, which aim to enhance safety, performance, and energy efficiency, effectively ban incandescent and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs 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 from today, which incandescents and CFLs don’t meet.

A MyBroadband analysis revealed that typical incandescent bulbs sold through South African retailers achieve luminous efficiency figures between 4lm/W and 12lm/W, while CFL bulbs managed 47lm/W to 70lm/W.

This leaves only LED lamps for household use.

Savvy Saver managing director Grant Pattison said the move is a good and “obvious step” that will ultimately result in household savings.

“I think this is an uncontroversial set of regulations that was published,” said Pattison.

He said that any households that transition from incandescent and CFL bulbs to LED will immediately experience savings.

“If you’re installing a PV system and a UPS in your house, it will also reduce the size requirements of the system you have to put in,” Pattison said.

He also said the removal of incandescent and CFL bulbs from store shelves will reduce shoppers’ confusion when shopping for light bulbs because there will be “essentially one version of everything”.

Grant Pattison, Savvy Savers managing director and former Edcon and Massmart CEO

“If you go down the aisles of DIY retailers or lighting retailers, the light bulb aisle is huge. You’ve got the option of incandescents, all with the same fittings that you find in the CFL sections,” said Pattison.

“And then you’ve got an enormous range of options in LEDs. So that category has grown in facings, stock holdings, and in complexity.”

“Maybe six or nine months out, you’ll walk in a store and there’ll just be LEDs,” he added.

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

“LEDs, they’re really quite simple. They’re like little chips. There are so many devices with small chips around that it won’t make any big difference,” said Pattison.

The second phase of the new regulations will kick in in March 2026, increasing the minimum luminous efficiency to 105lm/W.

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

It 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.

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South Africa’s big light bulb ban kicks in today