Phasing out low voltage halogens will force retailers to pay more for efficient replacements, but the long term benefits could be dazzling

Ah, the humble 12V MR16 lamp. For years these little low voltage halogens have played a key role in the world of retail lighting, and if you run an older store and have not yet invested in more energy efficient systems, chances are that you’ve got a few of them shining down on you right now.

However, all that is about to change. With the phase out of all remaining traditional bulbs set to reach completion this September, the European Commission is already lining up its next target the 12V MR16.

Banning the production of this lamp under the same Ecodesign Directive will, it hopes, really kick start take up of more energy-efficient products and systems.

However, cost fears, combined with a lack of understanding surrounding energy efficient lighting, has led to this news being somewhat darkly received by retailers, and even some in the lighting industry.

“The intention to encourage widespread adoption of energy efficient lighting is absolutely right,” says Simon Leggett, managing director of LED specialists OCG Lighting. “But the impact on businesses and households has to be taken into account. Pressure must be matched by support and proper communication around the benefits of investing in long-life, maintenance-free lighting.”

Leggett’s call for greater education of the options open to retailers, and the long term benefits is well founded - because as you’ll soon see, when it comes to energy efficient lighting, there is no black and white answer. But let’s try and shed some light on it for you.

It’s true that once phased out, replacing 12V MR16 lamps with more efficient varieties will cost you more, although precisely how much more depends on what you opt for.

Top of the energy saving pile are LED lamps, which can cost up to £25 (almost 10 times more than MR16s) but can be retrofitted into existing halogen fittings, unlike compact fluorescents (CFL) which are cheaper than LEDs, but will require an electrician to fit them.

New higher grade halogen reflector lamps, which shouldn’t cost too much more than the MR16s, are also being developed.

But while the prospect of shelling out extra cash in the current economic climate is one that fills the average convenience store retailer with varying shades of dread, it’s also vital to keep in mind the fact that the initial outlay for energy efficient lights is soon compensated by their vastly reduced consumption.

Retailers who have already made the switch to LED and other more efficient systems have told C-Store that they expect to see a return on their investment in just over two years, after which time they’ll pocket the savings which can equate to thousands of pounds a year.

And then there’s the fact that once installed, the newer efficient varieties benefit from increased reliability and a dramatically longer lifetime, helping you wave goodbye to maintenance costs.

LEDs will operate for over 30,000 hours compared to 2,500 hours for standard halogens.

When communicated properly to shoppers, the use of more sustainable technologies can also earn you extra brownie points. Just ask Martin Lester, chairman of the Lodsworth Larder store in West Sussex which uses a mixture of LED and CFL lights - as well as many other sustainable technologies.

“Being sustainable is becoming increasingly important to shoppers and, in my experience, it helps to make the store even more attractive to people. They cost more initially, but with paybacks of around two and a half years, switching to an energy-efficient system is a medium, not a long-term investment, and I would encourage everyone to do it.”■