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Thinking about making the switch to LED bulbs? Find out more about LED technology and how LED lights compare to energy-saving light bulbs, halogens and old-style incandescent bulbs.
What is LED?
What are LED light bulbs? LED lights have been hailed as the future of home lighting, as they use very little energy, claim to last a very long time and, unlike regular energy-saving bulbs, they are instantly bright when switched on. Early LEDs were limited by high prices and relatively low light output, but the technology has developed rapidly in recent years, and you can now get bright, efficient LED bulbs that replace 100W old-style bulbs and look just like a traditional bulb. What's more, prices are getting lower all the time. While the brightest bulbs can still set you back around £20, most cost less than £10, and the energy savings they will provide in your home make them well worth considering. LED bulbs differ from traditional incandescent bulbs in the way they produce light. While old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs passed electricity through a thin wire filament, LEDs produce light through the use of a semi-conductor that emits light energy when an electrical current is passed through it. This way of producing light is also different from regular energy-saving bulbs, which pass energy through mercury vapour to create UV light. This is then absorbed by a phosphor coating inside the lamp, causing it to glow.
The Downside of LED
What are the downsides of LED light bulbs? The LED market is currently a self-regulated market, so a CE mark on the bulb does not necessarily mean that it has been through all of the required quality checks. The quality of LED bulbs can therefore vary. Some people don't like the quality of light given out by LED light bulbs, as some can produce a cooler bluish light. The best LEDs will be indistinguishable from your old incandescent bulbs and be able to produce a nice warm light. We've heard some cases where a small number of LED light bulbs can interfere with DAB radio signals. To be able to dim LED lights you may need to upgrade to a dimmer that recognises low electrical loads. The packaging should say whether LEDs are dimmable, but check with the manufacturer if you are unsure. LEDs can't match halogen or incandescent light bulbs for colour rendering. The CRI or Colour Rendering Index, which is a measure of how well a light source accurately reveals various colours. Halogen and traditional incandescent get in the high 90s on this measure. While we have found some LEDs that achieve over 90, most are in the low 80s. Consistency of colour and light output - it's trickier to get a consistent look in your home with LEDs, especially if you mix LED brands and types, as the colour temperature and CRI can vary more than with traditional light bulbs.
The cost saving provided by LED lighting is due to two factors:
1. LEDs require much less electricity to power than both traditional incandescent and halogen light bulbs, and energy efficient light bulbs (CFLs).
2. They last much longer than their incandescent, halogen and CFL equivalents.
For example, a 60W halogen light bulb would be replaced with a 9W LED. That’s a reduction of 85% in electricity consumption. The LED bulb will also last for over 20,000 hours, as opposed to 2,000 hours for the halogen – ten times longer!
What about CFL bulbs? Using the same example, a 60W halogen equivalent would be an 11W CFL bulb, so the reduction in electricity consumption from CFL to LED would be 18%. A good quality CFL should last for around 8,000 hours, which is still less than half of the LED equivalent.
Calculate the cost savings of LED light bulbs
The information you need to work this out is:
1. The wattage of your current light bulbs and spotlights.
2. The average length of time each light bulb is in use for per day.
3. Your current electricity rate per kilowatt hour (kWh, kW-h or kW h). The UK average at the time of writing is 14.71 pence p/kWh if paying by direct debit.
4. The cost of replacing each bulb with an LED equivalent.
Current Cost per Month = (Current wattage / 1,000) x usage in hours p/day x cost p/kWh x 30 days
New Cost per Month = (New wattage / 1,000) x usage in hours p/day x cost p/kWh x 30 days
Monthly Saving = Current cost per month – new cost per month
Payback Period (Months) = Total cost of replacement bulbs / monthly saving
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