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Energy efficient lighting – A bright opportunity for wholesalers

John Bowen, sales director of GreenBrook, outlines the timetable for the phase out of conventional incandescent and halogen lighting and discusses the wider possibilities of ‘commodity’ alternatives.

Energy efficient lighting – A bright opportunity for wholesalers

To some, the phase out of the humble incandescent light bulb that has served us so well since almost the dawn of the electrical age is nothing but an inconvenience. To others, it is a long overdue and essential step in reducing carbon emissions and slowing the pace of climate change. To the electrical wholesaler it could be either of the above. But one thing is certain, whatever your personal standpoint it is also a sales opportunity.

Part of the sales pitch to the end-user for energy efficient lighting has always been lower energy bills and this is a proven benefit. However, the challenge for manufacturers creating products for contractors has always been to design commodity products that make energy-efficient lighting a cost-effective choice across the supply chain. In fact, the wholesaler now has a great opportunity to help educate the marketplace about the wide range of choices available and to capture market share by offering the low cost/high efficiency options.

Prepare for phase out
The phase out of traditional incandescent and conventional halogen lamps began in September and will continue until September 2016, when only B class and special cap C-class halogen lights will still be available. As of this September incandescent or conventional halogen lamps of 100 watts or more, with an energy rating greater than C, have ceased to be available and this will be followed by a similar ruling for any 75 watt lamps from September 2010. All 60 watt lamps will have to have a C energy rating or above to remain on the market from September 2011 and no incandescent lamps with an energy rating greater than C will be available in the UK at all from September 2012.

While this is a phase out with a clear timetable over several years, in reality – unless people want to live and work in a gloomy semi-darkness – they already need to start switching to more energy efficient alternatives. The majority of the population has been using CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) for several years and the energy companies have been helping the UK population to make the switch by partnering with retailers to offer cheaper lamps and sending free lamps out to consumers. However, there is still some resistance to the changes because of the slow start-up experienced from some CFLs, a muted light effect and aesthetic considerations. What is needed are energy-efficient fittings that overcome all these objections… to offer a like-for-like alternative to conventional incandescent and halogen lighting at a value for money price.

Getting the look
One of the most effective ways to help ensure that end-users make the change to energy-efficient lighting is the use of energy-saving pendants. Designed to look similar to a traditional pendant fitting for an incandescent lamp with a ceiling rose and flex, energy saving pendants will only accept CFL lamps. This is the ideal solution for applications such as residential homes and sheltered accommodation, where residents might prefer a traditional look but contractors need to ensure that the specification meets the latest building regulations.

Providing the customer with a fitting that looks just like a conventional product but with all the benefits of energy efficiency could be the key to helping with the phase out of traditional lighting in a more contemporary setting too. Wholesalers should look for ranges where there is an energy saving alternative within the main range. The GreenBrook range of fire rated downlights, for example, includes an energy saving aluminium tilt downlight that looks just the same as the other products in the range, but offers energy saving advantages. This allows the wholesaler to offer a product that has the look, feel and functionality of a conventional fitting, but with the benefits of lower energy consumption.

Similarly, for applications where brighter ambient light is required, in an office, for example or a retail environment, a compact fluorescent downlight with polished aluminium reflectors will provide the high light output that the specifier is looking for, whilst offering the energy efficiency that the end user demands. Again, this is a commodity product but that does not mean that it needs to be a cheap and cheerful one-size-fits-all. Wholesalers should look for ranges that combine a low price, high quality solution with varied choice, and should expect the range to include both recessed and non-recessed fittings, a variety of sizes and a choice of bezels.

New tube
Widely reviled as ugly and often supplied with irritating habits such as a delayed start up, flickering and irritating humming, fluorescent luminaries have acquired a bad name amongst end users. The new generation of energy efficient T5 fluorescents, however, offers a higher light output per watt that conventional tubes with a flicker-free quick start and an unobtrusive, slimline design.

This type of light is already a popular choice in domestic and commercial settings, offering an energy-efficient, ambient lighting solution both for mood lighting and as a working light. The key to its sales potential, however, is in its flexibility. The GreenBrook range of T5 fluorescent fittings, for example, can be interlinked by butt and/or lead connections and has a variety of colour renditions. Features such as this are useful for design purposes, particularly in retail or leisure installations. It also enables speedy installation, allowing several units to be quickly and cost effectively connected on a single circuit.

Outside in
One of the biggest tips for wholesalers when selling energy efficient lights is… think laterally. Products designed as exterior fittings can be equally at home in indoor applications, offering the specifier a more cost effective option. For example, standard CFL bulkheads can be used in porches where the end user may wish to have the light switched on for longer periods. GreenBrook offers a range of decorative CFL bulkhead lights that are ideal for bathrooms, utility rooms and hallways as an unobtrusive, neutral option that provides flicker-free, low heat, low energy lighting.
Of course, energy efficiency is equally important for exterior lighting and providing choice for security lighting and general outdoor lights is also essential. Energy efficient CFL brick lights can offer a stylish option for both domestic and commercial applications and can be inserted into walls to form a lit pathway or drive, while xenon-filled halogen floodlights provide a bright, natural white light ideal for security applications.

Future possibilities
The phase out schedule will include a review in 2014, by this time we will all be used to finding alternative options to traditional lighting. In the meantime, however, specifiers will be looking to their wholesalers to help them select products that offer appropriate functionality, aesthetics, quality and value. This requires wholesalers to have a thorough understanding of the marketplace and to have the foresight to consider all the possibilities of commodity-style products, not just the description in the product catalogue.

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