Philips: We're not dropping the 'eco' label from halogen lamps

After lighting giant Osram confirmed this week that it would drop the label 'eco' from its halogen lamp packaging, the question immediately arose: Would industry leader Philips do the same?

Lux has the answer: No!

Critics have accused lighting companies of confusing the public by referring to halogen bulbs as 'eco,' a term that to many people implies 'energy savings' first and foremost. Halogens are a type of incandescent bulb that are only slightly more efficient than conventional incandescents, saving between 5 percent and 25 percent on energy consumption.They are far less efficient than LED (light-emitting diode) or CFL (compact fluorescent) lamps, which generally save over 80 percent.

But an intractable Philips believes that consumers are smart enough to realize that 'eco' doesn't necessarily mean, well, eco. At least not in the ultimate sense of the word.

Lux asked the company if, like industry number two Osram, it would start rewriting its halogen packaging by removing the word 'eco.' A spokeswoman replied:

'Philips offers a range of energy efficient bulbs, each with its own characteristics. The product you are referring to saves a significant amount of energy compared to traditional bulbs, which are still in use. Our packaging contains information so that consumers can make an informed decision when purchasing a Philips light bulb. Especially the Energy Label, which allows consumers to easily compare one product to another and makes very clear what the energy consumption of the bulb is.'

Especially the energy label? Halogens typically score low on any vendors' labeling. They rate as 'D' on a scale in which 'A' is the most efficient (LEDs and CFLs earn A, often with several stars after the letter) . The scales sometimes stop at 'E', meaning that halogens are only one rung off the bottom in energy performance. Often the labels carry on down to 'G'.

Either way, 'D' is a grade that is far from the top, and that to many minds doesn't square with the promotional moniker 'eco.' That helps explain why shoppers often stop and scratch their foreheads at the light bulb section of B&Q or any lamp retailer, where the merchandising often refers to halogens as 'eco.'

Halogens have their attributes. They provide a warm, dimmable light that LEDs and CFLs still can't quite match. And they do provide some ecological advantages. They don't contain hazardous mercury the way CFLs do. And they last longer than conventional incandescents and yes, are sightly more efficient than them. But they greatly underperform LEDs and CFLs in those two aspects.

For Philips to carry on calling them 'eco' and then to present the consumer with a confounding, contradictory 'D' rating seems like a prescription for a consumer turnoff. A bit like selling a hotel suite above the highway as a 'room with a view.'

'D', as in disillusionment!

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Photo is from Leszek Glasner via Shutterstock

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Halogens: To be or not to be?