Buying a Lightbulb in Australia

Do you remember when buying a lightbulb used to be so simple? In the good old days of buying a lightbulb you really only had three decisions to make.

  • First, do you want frosted glass or clear glass?
  • Second, do you want 40, 60 or 100 Watts?
  • And finally, do you want a bayonet or screw fitting?

That was it, that covered everything. You simply answered those three questions and walked out the store holding one of these.

The incandescent light bulb

Incandescent bulbYes, that incandescent light bulb is mine, I own it. I brought it to this country in 2007 when I moved from the UK. I’ve kept it ever since and yes, it does still work, but I don’t use it. I keep it in a cupboard under the kitchen sink, in a dark corner on the left hand side.

Can’t be too careful, I might get raided by the police or customs; incandescent light bulbs are no longer welcome in Australia. An import restriction was first applied in February 2009 and by November of the same year sales were also restricted.

Alas, the simplicity of buying a lightbulb is no more. Buying a lightbulb here in Australia is a very tricky and complicated process. I’m wondering if it’s as difficult for you where you live as it is for me where I live?

Here is the lightbulb section from a supermarket close to where I live.

Supermarket bulbsHere I could buy LED globes, LED GLS, spiral light bulbs, halogens, pearl, slim, circular lights, spotlights, large screw fitting, small screw fitting, bayonet, dimmable bulbs and non-dimmable bulbs, downlights and each has different lifetime estimates and lumen numbers.

But this is just a small selection.

In my house, for example, I have many different light fittings. I have screw in spotlights outside, I have some screw in bulbs inside, some large and some small. I also have bayonet fittings indoors, and in some of my lampshades I can only fit the short spiral light bulbs, not the tall ones. I also have downlights with two small straight pins as connectors and I also have other bulbs with two connecting larger pins, like nipples; this fitting is affectionately known as GU10.

Oh, I also have some 12 volt light fittings as well as 240 V.

So, when Mrs Bob says “a bulb has gone, can you change it?” my answer isn’t a simple yes as it used to be, it’s now “let me check the electrical lightbulb supply section of the garage to see if the particular part we require is in stock.”

Often as not, as Murphy’s Law states, I don’t have the required bulb and I need to go to the large hardware store about 25 minutes drive away because the section (see image above) in the supermarket is not sufficient.

The hardware store

The hardware store has a better selection, here is one of the isles…

Hardware store bulbs 1We are privileged in this image to witness two confused shoppers, one on his knees, desperately looking for the exact kind of lightbulb they require for their home. I believe these two are working as a team, the second person is on her feet looking at a different section in an attempt to reduce their overall search time…

Hardware store bulbs 2They have plenty of different types of bulbs to search through, don’t they?.

Here are the same two isles from a different angle to give the impression of even more bulbs, as if anybody could think there aren’t enough bulbs already…

Hardware store bulbs 3

Hardware store bulbsHere our confused shoppers can choose from antique filament globes, eco-halogen globes, floodlights, bi-pin lamps, candle shaped lamps, lustre shaped lamps, warm white, cool daylight, 12 V, 240 V, small bayonet, large bayonet, small screw, large screw, and don’t even get me started on the fluoros. That’s fluorescent lights, see An Australian Story By A. Whacka, they are all in a different isle altogether…

Fluorescent lights 1

Fluorescent lightsThe incandescent light bulb; I know you are blamed, in part, for destroying the planet, but I do miss you.

So, what’s it like buying a lightbulb where you live?

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Jen January 6, 2016, 1:45 pm | Link

    Hi Bob,
    Just had to thank you for the laugh. I’m from the US, have lived in many countries (including the UK and Korea), currently living in Portugal, and your lightbulb buying lament cracked me up. Don’t know what that American who simply waltzes into WalMart was talking about–those pix you posted with the divide and conquer team were *funny*. Thanks!

    • BobinOz January 6, 2016, 11:38 pm | Link

      Yes, I think next time those two people want to buy new lightbulb, they may just gather up a larger gang to search the aisle. I think it’s a task the needs at least four people, more if possible.

      As for the guy in the US, I am hugely envious. If watts were really the only consideration, was a simple task it would be.

  • mick October 23, 2015, 4:16 pm | Link

    I think you should try asking for a light globe Bob !

    • BobinOz October 23, 2015, 7:46 pm | Link

      Well, that would just add to the confusion! I’ve been saying bulb all my life, I’m not gonna start saying globe now just because something happened in a marketing meeting somewhere 🙂

  • Virginia G October 7, 2015, 9:27 am | Link

    It’s much the same in the US, though I’ve never heard of a “bayonet” fitting, and although I can imagine what one would look like (or, I suppose, use google, though that would certainly be cheating), I’ve never seen one for sale.

    I was surprised to discover upon moving to a high-rise apartment in Korea that lightbulb-changing is part of the covered maintenance service. I pay less to have the maintenance crew replace the bulb than I would to buy one on my own! I just paid 2000KRW (US$1.75 ish) to have two bulbs changed last week. The second one was motion-activated, and the maintenance guy needed to go get a colleague to help, plus I held a flashlight… Feel free to insert a “How many Koreans does it take to change a lightbulb?” joke here.

    • BobinOz October 7, 2015, 6:06 pm | Link

      I’m not surprised, many countries didn’t bother with the bayonet fitting, and I believe it’s being slowly phased out in most places that do have them in preference for the screw fit bulb.

      Gosh, light bulbs changed by the maintenance department? That really is something. I think it’s a bit of a liberty they had you holding the flashlight though, surely they had a third maintenance worker somewhere in the building who could have helped out?

    • S. August Salm October 29, 2015, 10:24 am | Link

      I live in the US and I don’t find it that hard. Just go to Walmart and get the one that’s the right amount of watts.

      • BobinOz October 29, 2015, 11:18 pm | Link

        Gosh, that sounds pretty simple 🙂

  • Warwick Wakefield October 3, 2015, 6:31 am | Link

    Green fanatics have a lust for control.

    • BobinOz October 5, 2015, 8:03 pm | Link


      In fairness, I think all pollies do.

  • peter taylor October 2, 2015, 4:38 am | Link

    Hi bob,
    You can still buy incandescent light bulbs in the UK,they are classed as
    re enforced or similar name, mind you supermarkets don’t stock em.
    Look up what the old and new lightbulbs are made from and then come back and tell me which one is killing the polar bears

    • BobinOz October 2, 2015, 1:17 pm | Link

      I think I know what you are getting at Peter, don’t the new bulbs have mercury in them or some such poisonous material?

  • djmcbell October 1, 2015, 6:52 pm | Link

    Here in the UK I think traditional lightbulbs have completely gone – they all have to be energy-efficient bulbs.

    Which reminds me, I’ve got a few I need to change…

    • BobinOz October 1, 2015, 9:14 pm | Link

      Yes, I believe they have, I think it was a European Union thing or whatever it’s called these days. Since I wrote this article I’ve had two light bulbs fail in the house, revenge of the bulbs?

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