Taking The Plunge Into LED Lighting

Since old fashioned incandescent light bulbs have recently been banned by governments around the world, most home owners have had to consider low energy alternatives to replace defunct light bulbs. And the favourite choice now is LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs, which are currently leading the field in terms of energy savings, product life and ease of use.

But how many of us understand the ways in which LED bulbs are different to incandescent models, and how to ensure that when we upgrade our lighting we actually make the right choices?

Let’s start with some basic facts about LED bulbs.

Basically, they offer a number of significant advantages to the obsolete incandescent types:

  1. Major power savings. LEDs use approximately five times less energy as incandescent bulbs. As an example, you can replace an old 40W reading light bulb with an 8W LED. And since LEDs offer a more focused light, the energy savings could be up to 90%, and you can therefore have a lower-wattage bulb.
  2. ‘Cleaner’ Product. LEDs are non-toxic, and in particular contain no mercury.
  3. Less Heat. Much less heat is produced by LED bulbs, in comparison with incandescent lights. That is especially important in Southern climates where air-conditioning is used.
  4. Longer Life.  LED bulbs do not need to be replaced very often – they can last up to twenty years in regular use.
  5. Better Investment. They do cost more to buy, but when you consider their longer life and energy savings, they are a great investment.

 So, when the time comes to replace old light bulbs, LEDs are the obvious choice, but how do we go about making the right selection for our home? There are so many styles, sizes, shapes and special formats on the market now, how do you know which is the right one?

Here are some tips to help you make the right decision…..

  • Consider how much brightness you need

Back in the bad old days, we all got used to measuring a light bulb’s brightness simply by its wattage. A 60 Watt bulb gave us an average light output for most domestic situations. However, wattage actually measures the amount of electrical energy a light bulb uses – a lot of which is given out as heat. Clearly, an LED will use fewer watts to generate the same amount of light.

To make sure that you get an LED with sufficient light output, you will need to get used to measuring brightness in lumens. An old fashioned 60-watt incandescent bulb generates about 800 lumens, so to get an equivalent, you need to look for an LED rated at 800 lumens of light output. A lot of LED packaging will tell you what wattage of incandescent bulb the lamp would be equivalent to.

  • What about quality of light?

Depending on where you are planning to use the LED bulbs, the quality of light may well be an important factor. Light quality is generally measured by CRI or Colour Rendering Index. This number indicates how accurately the bulb illuminates colours on a scale from 1 to 100. If you plan to use the lamp frequently – say in a living room - or it is going to be used in a prominent location like an entrance hall, CRI is a very important metric to consider. However, if it’s going to go into an airing cupboard or toilet, CRI isn’t as crucial. CRI ratings in excess of 85 and above are indications of very good colour rendering.

  • Are “warm” or “cool” light colours important?

There is a wide variety of LED bulbs available now, offering a range of light “colour temperatures” in Degrees Kelvin, or simply “K”. How do you know what colour temperature works for you? Colour temperatures with high K ratings, 6,000 or more, are classified as 'cool' colours, while those with lower K ratings, 3,500 or less, are classified as 'warm.' You will find most retailers referring to their products as cool white and warm white LED Bulbs.

Warm white bears a close resemblance to the light produced by halogens and incandescent bulbs. It is soft, easy on the eyes and promotes a comfortable and domestic aesthetic. As a rule of thumb, warm white bulbs should be used in 'habitat' spaces, such as living rooms, hallways and bedrooms, and as general illumination. In contrast, cool white is a very bright, sharp white light; less suitable for domestic spaces where the brightness of the light can be too harsh and even create a clinical effect.

  • What shape or type of LED Bulb Do You Need?

LEDs now come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and will be suitable for replacing just about any kind of incandescent light bulb. You will now find LED globe light bulbs, chandelier light bulbs, and reflector light bulbs – along with lots of newly manufactured shades, lamps and fixings that have them built-in.

The traditional “light bulb” shapes are designed to give an all-round source of light, for instance in a table lamp or ceiling fitting, and are known as “omni-directional”. Reflector types are designed to give light off in one direction, so they’re best for overhead lighting, spotlights, and display lighting.

  • How about replacing incandescent bulbs in dimming systems?

Unfortunately, many old incandescent dimmers aren’t fully compatible with LED lighting, so you need to be careful when considering dimming. Many of the newer types of LED light bulb do have dimming capabilities - a great option if you want to save even more energy and control the room’s ambient environment. But you may need to invest in an LED-specific dimmer. If you’re looking for a dimmable LED, carefully check the specification on the bulb’s packaging and make sure you control it with a compatible dimmer.

  • Some don’t like it hot!

LED based light bulbs work best when they are kept cool. If you use an LED outdoors in winter or inside a refrigerator, it will actually last longer. However, excessive heat can cause problems, particularly as LEDs exposed to extreme heat may degrade more quickly over time. So, if you plan to use them in an area that can get hot (like in overhead recessed spotlights) it would be better to invest in high-temperature specification types which use an advanced cooling system – like the types produced by Megaman.

  • And finally, how can you actually get the ball rolling to take advantage of LED technology in your home?

Right at the beginning it takes a little research effort - initially you need to go round your home and make a note of all the bulbs you are currently using – including wattage (60W, 100W etc.), type of fixture (screw, bayonet etc.), bulb type (reflector, standard, golf ball, etc.) size and colour (warm, cool, etc.). Also approximately how much usage each bulb gets.

Next you need to figure out the type of LED bulb which can be used to replace each incandescent type in terms of lumens, shape, size and fixture. Check out dimming requirements carefully, then make a comprehensive list and check prices on the Internet or through lighting retail outlets.

All that’s needed then is to make the investment, change the bulbs, and start making real savings on your electricity bill!