15 May 2008

Varilight Dimmable CF Bulbs

My youngest son, Guy, is just doing his GCSEs. He’s got a geography teacher who “is always batting on” about energy saving lightbulbs, chivvying her class to get their parents to fit them everywhere. It’s the sort of topic that doesn’t really excite teenage boys, as you can imagine. They get a lot of chivvying these days. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t take drugs, don’t mug anyone: energy saving bulbs fit into that sort of category. No wonder they are all playing GTA4.

But last night I showed my sons the Varilight and lo and behold they were impressed. “Now that is cool,” said eldest, Jack. I was impressed that he was impressed. We were all impressed.

You see, the Varilight is a dimmable compact fluorescent, the first that I have seen. By flicking the switch off and on quickly, the bulb comes on full brightness and then after a second or two starts to dim. In fact it goes into a mode where it cycles between full output and around 20% output. If you leave it like this, it carries on changing output indefinitely — this is the feature that the boys found “cool.” When you get to the output you desire, you flick the switch off and on again, and the lamp comes back on at that level and will continue to do so everytime you switch it on again in future, or until you put it back into cycle mode once more. It’s all down to a quick off/on on the switch, a bit like a double click on a mouse. It’s a lightbulb for the wired generation.

What’s more, it’s a really good quality light, much warmer than your typical CF bulb, and it’s only slightly larger than a conventional bulb. I’m sold. Made by Doyle & Tratt in Horsham, Sussex, and available online for around £10, it strikes me that Varilight would make an ideal late-Noughties gift. I imagine in two or three years, dimmable CF bulbs will be two-a-penny, but right now they have cachet.

One word of caution. Varilight make a version of this lamp that is designed to work with dimmer switches, as well as having both formats available in bayonet or screw-fit. You have to read the website quite carefully so as you are sure which one you are buying. The one I have been testing is known as the YCA20S-B22 - Varilight Switch Dimmable energy saving lamp, Compact Fluorescent Lamp, with Bayonet Fitting, whereas the Dimmer Dimmable ones are known as the YCA20D-B22 - Varilight The NEW Varilight Dimmer Dimmable Energy Saving Lamp with Bayonet Fitting. Not exactly user friendly, is it? And the website isn’t the most elegantly designed beast you will ever come across either, so you may end up feeling that you are not quite sure what it is you are buying.

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