Residential Lighting

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European Commission - DG JRC, Directorate C - Energy, Transport and Climate
Technology and Standards

Research shows huge potential energy savings through light-bulbs and household goods

Studies conducted by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission show a huge potential for saving energy through better energy efficiency. Fewer than three out of ten bulbs in European households are low energy consumption Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). Compared to their conventional counterparts CFLs reduce electricity consumption and energy costs for the consumer by 60%. While lasting six to twelve times longer, they offer the same or even increased light quality. Every electricity unit saved corresponds to about 3 units of primary energy use avoided. Work by the JRC also shows that turning of appliances left on standby can save up to €84 per household per year.

Greener and cheaper lighting

Although most citizens know that lighting is a substantial part of their electricity bill – between 8% and 23% in the EU-15 – they are not aware that conventional bulbs are highly inefficient. While electricity consumption by appliances is declining as a result of new policies, the share of lighting is predicted to increase. Outdated conventional lamps could be rapidly and cost-effectively replaced with CFLs. In total, there is a savings potential of at least 11.5 billion kWh per year in the EU-25. More ambitious initiatives could even raise this to as much as 16.7 billion kWh – this equals the total annual electricity consumption of about 4 million European households (including appliances and heating). Neither of these two estimates take into account emerging residential lighting technologies such as LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). Due to the fast turnover of lamps, these energy savings could be realised within 4 to 5 years.

The retail price is still the most important barrier to changing consumer behaviour, even given the much lower cost of CFLs today – as well as their short pay back periods. At present, cheap and high quality CFLs are only available in selected stores. In addition, many consumers who have tried earlier generations of CFLs were dissatisfied with discrepancies between claimed and actual life time, as well as their shape, size and colour temperature. Many of these barriers were created by older and bulkier CFLs which produced a very cold light and had a long light output stabilisation time. Nowadays, CFLs come in different light temperatures, in much smaller size and reach full output light very quickly. Nonetheless, the customer perception created by previous generations of CFLs is difficult to overcome.

Information and demand side management campaigns resulted in a significant market transformation in some Member States, as the examples of Germany and more recently the UK show. In the EU-15, the average CFL penetration rate ranges from Germany's 6.5 per household to only one in Finland. In the ten new Member States CFL diffusion is substantially lower than in the EU-15, the Czech Republic being an exception.

Energy consumption of household equipment wastes 10% of household electricity consumption

Modern equipment, such as multimedia, personal computers, printers, scanners and permanently connected modems and cellular phone chargers already amount to as much as 20% of household electricity consumption. About half of this figure is due to stand-by losses, when the equipment is connected to the grid but not in use. Electronic equipment wastes up to 10% of household consumption. This standby consumption may result in up to 100 W continuously for each of Europe’s 100 Mio household units, or one hundred billion kWh per year. It would require 10 large power stations of 1 GW each to deliver this electricity, and as it is, European citizens are paying €15 billion yearly for this large consumption.

With advanced design solutions and technologies, standby consumption can be reduced to near zero, at minimal additional price increase. The Commission has set up a stakeholder forum to promote reduction of stand-by losses in external power supplies, digital TV decoders and satellite receivers and broadband communication equipment. Through the active participation and collaboration of manufacturers, chip providers, OEMs, and Member States’ researchers and experts, leading manufacturers have adopted voluntary standards to reduce standby consumption:

  • for battery chargers this will result in a reduction of about 5 W per household, saving 10 billion kWh of electricity per year by 2010 across the EU
  • even more important will be the reduction of future consumption of Digital TV set-top boxes. This action is promoted by the European Commission and will result in at least 20 billion kWh savings by the year 2010. Other devices such as DVD players, hi-fi systems, printers, computers and other electronic equipment, will follow.
  • To produce 100 W of just stand-by consumption needs in mid-Europe, a 1 kW photovoltaic roof-top system would be required.

Digital TV decoders (Satellite/Terrestrial/Cable) on the market consume 28 W continuously.

This results in 245 kWh per year or about 37 Euro per year per model (this is also equivalent to the consumption of a 200 liter refrigerator in class A+). A recently introduced model by a manufacturer following the voluntary standards to reduce consumption uses only 5 W while on standby. In a normal household this will result in savings of 200 kWh or 30 Euro per household per year.

If 100 Million households were to have such low-consumption decoders (and this will soon be reality with the phase out of the analogue TV broadcast), this will save 20 Billion kWh.

A few examples of wasted external power supply:

  • Chargers: There are still models of chargers on the market for kitchen appliances, cordless telephones, answering machines, and mobile telephones that use 2 W continuously. This results in 17 kWh per year or almost 3 Euro per year per model. Recently introduced models by manufacturers that follow the voluntary standards to reduce consumption, use only 0.2 W while in standby. In a normal household use this will result in 1.8 kWh or costs of only 0.3 Euro, a savings of more than 2 Euro per external power supply per household per year. Assuming an average of 6 external power supplies in 100 Million European households, if all the external power supplies followed the voluntary standard this would result in another 10 Billion kWh.
  • Broadband Equipment: Some recent measurements of broadband equipment (modem + WLAN router) have identified a worse situation consumption of permanent consumption of 20 W even when not in use, this corresponds to 175 kWh per year or around 5% of the average household consumption. This represents a cost of 26 Euro per year per household. The best performing equipment (modem WLAN router) consumes 4 W, only when it is in use. This corresponds to 35 kWh per year, i.e. a saving of 80%. If 100 million households adopted the best solution, an additional 14 billion kWh would be saved.


Type of Equipment Standby consumption Annual Energy Consumption Annual Electricity cost (€)
Old TV Set 6W 43.6 kWh† 5.60
New TV Set* 2W 14.6 kWh 1.90
DVD 2W 17.5 kWh 2.30
Old VCR 8W 70 kWh 9.10
New VCR* 3W 26 kWh 3.4
Old Hi-fi system 3W 26 kWh 3.40
New Hi-fi system 1W 8.7 kWh 1.14
ADSL Modem 2-10W 73 kWh† 9.50
Set top boxes 5-20W 146 kWh† 19
PC 1-5W 36.5 kWh† 4.7
Printer 2-10W 87.6 kWh 11.40
External Power Supply 0.2-2W 17.5 kWh 2.30
Microwave Oven 2W 17.5 kWh 2.30
Total possible savings 81W 646.8 kWh 84

*standby power reduction due to voluntary commitment by the European Trade Association EICTA
†20 hours per day on standby

For more information:

LED Quality Charter

LED Quality Charter Background Report

Reference:  MEMO/06/386
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