Warning on eco bulbs

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The Government's safety agency has warned the Fire Service about the potential hazard of energy-saving lightbulbs, a memorandum to firefighters reveals.

The memo, of which The Dominion Post has a copy, warns that compact fluorescent lamps, or eco bulbs, are reported to be melting, blowing up and blackening surrounding electrical equipment.

The concerns have been passed on to the Fire Service by Energy Safety, two months after Energy Minister David Parker announced plans to phase out traditional bulbs in favour of eco bulbs.

Many instances of bulbs failing went unreported to the Fire Service or Energy Safety, the memo said. People often chose just to replace a defective bulb.

Fire Service national fire investigation manager Peter Wilding confirmed he put a message out to staff "to be aware of the issue and pay particular attention to these faults".

There were reports that eco bulbs had burnt out and scorched fittings, causing smoke stains, and in a few cases they had caught fire.


"If it does get to a state of flaming or scalding, if in any doubt, call the Fire Service. We do not know if there is a manufacturing fault, a user fault or a dud batch, but we want to give the public assurance we are trying to be responsible."

A spokeswoman for Mr Parker said Energy Safety had received no reports, however, of eco bulbs causing serious problems.

Mr Parker announced in June plans to phase out traditional incandescent bulbs from late next year because they waste electricity. It is estimated that by changing lights Kiwis could save almost $500 million of the $660 million spent each year on lighting electricity.

Energy Safety senior technical adviser Bill Lowe confirmed the agency had received reports of eco bulbs ceasing to work, not lasting as along as expected, blackening, scorching, smoking and their glass breaking. But no structural fires had been reported.

The agency had received 13 complaints about eco bulbs in the past fortnight. Communications with the Fire Service had been increased in an attempt to confirm what problems existed.


The Dominion Post