LED lighting: should I make the change?
Posted by Gabby Mallett on 15 February 2016 at 2:30 pm
Firstly ask yourself what bulbs you use at home. It really is worth looking at your current lighting needs and then seeing whether you can replace your existing bulbs with LED alternatives (and when I say ‘whether you can’ I mean ‘I know you can’ – my friend has even replaced his fridge bulb with an LED one now).
The most important lesson for me has been light 'temperature'. This is measured in Kelvin (you'll find it on the packet of any light bulb). Many people like a warm white, much like the old-fashioned tungsten bulbs. This is about 2700 Kelvin (K). It's interesting that people from colder climates tend to favour a warmer light, while people from hotter climates tend to prefer something more white or blue. Also we tend to prefer warmer colours in living rooms and bedrooms and the whiter ones in bathrooms and kitchens. Now I understand the colour I like, I generally get the right bulb each time.
One of the reasons I switched to LED is that I have photovoltaic panels on my roof, which contribute to the electricity demand of my house during the day. However, after I bought a real-time energy meter I quickly learned that I was using a lot of electricity at night - when my panels don't help (I have an owl energy meter, but you could choose any of the options on the market). With a bit of investigation (and some switching off of fridges, radio alarm clocks etc) I realised my lighting was drawing quite a lot of electricity and that’s even with the many compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs I already had. Even if you don't have PV, lighting uses a lot of power. The good news is that it really is one of the easiest things to change.
So if you are replacing old halogens with LEDs you can make huge savings. It is actually worth taking out all your existing bulbs and swapping them, even if they are still working (and the energy saving here would by far outweigh the embedded carbon costs). If you already have CFLs then the economics work out a bit different and the energy saving won’t be anything like as much. In my kitchen I originally swapped 24 old bulbs for CFLs (more than five years ago), now as they come to the end of their lives I am slowly replacing them with LEDs. The main thing I notice is how quickly they come on and what a great light they give. It also gives me the opportunity to test out different bulbs, so I have a variety of colours now.
I know that many people tried LED lighting when it first came out and weren’t happy and were ‘put off forever’. Some people even mix these up, remembering those old CFLs (like in my kitchen) which took ages to get up to full strength, but things really are different now. If you don’t believe me then just try one bulb and give it a go. You really will be amazed. In fact, because they come on so quickly and give such great light, you may decide to replace all the CFLs anyway. My old bulbs were all 60w, my CFLs were 11w and the new LEDs are just 4w, so for 24 bulbs that does result in quite a saving.
There are still some challenges on packaging that don't make it easy to choose right bulb for its purpose, but there's a growing lobby for no-nonsense labelling, so hopefully things will change. And it is always worth asking someone in the shop for help or advice on which is the right bulb. I used to take the old bulb with me to make sure that I got a like for like replacement.
Remember you can take old bulbs to the local dump where they can go to be recycled, so don’t just chuck them in the bin.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t be put off – you should be able to find a bulb suitable for whatever you need, including dimmable ones (and ones for fridges!)
- Do make sure that you get the colour you want – over 2700 kelvin will be a whiter light, under 2700 will get warmer
- Don’t think that the heat from old bulbs warms the house and is therefore useful in some way. You don’t need that heat in the summer and anyway this would be a really expensive way to heat your home (remember heat rises, so really you would be mainly heating the ceiling)
- Do get the right wattage. You want something equivalent to 100w in main room lights, something equivalent to 60w in lamps and maybe as low as 25w equivalent in areas where you want softer lighting
- Don’t buy cheap bulbs thinking it is a great saving. Paying for a good quality LED bulb will ensure that it lasts for years
Also see on SuperHomes:
More information about low energy lighting on YouGen
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