Bright sparks hoarding light bulbs in Finland

Thrifty Finns are stocking up on cheap filament light bulbs before the EU brings in a blanket ban in 2012. Despite sales remaining buoyant in Finland, next month will see an end to deliveries of the old-fashioned 75-watt bulbs to the country’s stores, prompting many residents to binge buy before shelves empty.

“Demand for 75-watt filament bulbs has been at least twice as high as normal,” said Juha Setala, marketing director from bulb manufacturers Airam. According to Osram and GE Lighting, however, sales are still down on this time last year.

The traditional filament lamps are now frowned upon for their inefficiency, as approximately 95 percent of their energy is emitted as heat rather than light. Their environmentally friendly counterparts, fluorescent CFL or LED bulbs, are much more expensive to buy initially, but save money in the long run by reducing electricity bills.

Finland’s hoarding habits are expected to gain pace as the most popular 60-watt variety begins to be phased out next year. The brighter 100-watt bulbs already went west in September 2009.

“There isn’t really a whole lot of sense in people stocking up on them. The entire idea of the changeover is to save energy. If people hoard the old lamps now, they won’t be saving anything,” said Osram’s Sales Director Marko Martikainen in a report by Helsingin Sanomat.

According to GE Lighting, the stocking-up phenomenon is not exclusive to Finland, as households all over Europe are frantically buying up bulbs. One reason given for the craze, despite the much higher prices of the energy-saving alternatives, is that the new fluorescent lights tend to be less effective when used outside in cold weather.

The CFL lamps also take longer to warm up to their full brightness; although this problem has been improved somewhat since the product was first introduced. Faster-starting LED lamps are also currently being developed to help lessen the issue further.

“LEDs are developing all the time. If one were to buy incandescent bulbs to use for the next ten years, in the meantime, better and cheaper LEDs would have come onto the market. Time has passed by the old incandescent lamps,” said Juha Setala.