LED lighting is rapidly becoming the most popular kind of lighting found in homes and businesses in the UK today. The reason is very simple – these bulbs use 90% less energy compared to halogen or incandescent bulbs and they can last as long as 15-20 years, meaning huge energy savings and no more swapping bulbs out when they blow!
The reason why LEDs are so much more energy efficient is that they produce light in a very different way to the older style bulbs. Older bulbs normally have tungsten filaments that get extremely hot when electricity is passed through them – this makes them they glow, producing light. About 90% of the electricity used in a traditional bulb is converted into heat, while just 10% is actually given off as light.
LED bulbs produce light as a result of the movement of electrons in a semi conductor material. This is quite techy, but essentially when they produce light they don’t get anywhere near as hot and so this 90:10 ratio swaps around – LED bulbs convert electricity into approximately 90% light and just 10% wasted heat.
This obviously means huge energy savings – as a rule of thumb when choosing a LED bulb, divide the wattage of the old bulb by 10 to get a similar level of performance. For example a 50w halogen spotlight in the kitchen should be replaced with a 5w LED spotlight – hence the 90% energy savings.
Why do LED bulbs last longer?
The reason that LED bulbs last longer is basically that there is no filament. The filament in more traditional bulbs goes from being cold to extremely hot in a split second. Every time it is turned on and electricity travels through it, a small amount of tungsten burns off the filament so over time it gets thinner and weaker. Eventually when the filament gets too thin, it simply snaps and the light bulb blows.
LEDs are known as solid-state lighting – there is no filament that gets hot. They simply emit light when the electrons move through the semi conductor material, hence they last far longer.
LED bulbs last longer and use 90% less energy – what’s the catch?
The main thing is the price; LED bulbs are considerably more expensive than traditional incandescent (old bulbs with filaments), halogen spotlights and even the old CFL energy saving bulbs. The energy savings that result from making the change will cover this cost in just a year or so, but it is a bigger upfront investment.
The other thing is that there is huge variation in the quality of LED bulbs. In fact, making sure you source the correct bulbs is really important – it is not simply a case of going down to B&Q and picking up the first you see.
Another thing that needs to be considered is the type of light the bulb produces – the colour, the quality and so forth. If you are looking to match your warm white halogen bulbs, you need to go for a colour temperature of approximately 2800k, but again click on the link below and you can learn more about colour temperature, lumens and the colour rendering index to make sure you know what you are looking for.
LED light fittings
Since LED lighting has become the standard in recent years, LED bulbs are available in all the traditional fittings you might expect, so GU10, MR16, Bayonet and Edison screw to name but a few. This means that making the change to LED lighting really should cause no issues – all the bulbs will fit in the traditional fittings (provided you match like for like obviously!).
12v versus 24v bulbs
One thing that you do need to be mindful of is when 12v bulbs have been used. This is one of the great mysteries of modern times – the 12v bulb. If you have spotlights in your home, there is a 50:50 chance that the electrician that installed them would have put in 12v spotlights. Basically they require separate transformers in the circuits to take the mains 240v down to the 12v that the bulb requires.
Aside from the transformers, the issue comes when you try to put LED bulbs into these fittings. They go in all right, but then when you switch on the light they tend to flicker. This is because the transformers require a minimum load to operate properly. That means that if each bulb has its own transformer, the chances are you will need to replace the transformer with an LED driver if you install a 12v bulb e.g. an MR16 Spotlight. If there is one central transformer in the circuit you might get away with it, because the cumulative load might be enough to get the transformer/driver to work – but it is not guaranteed.
To be honest, in our opinion if you want to make the switch to LED lighting then we would always recommend changing the fittings so they can accommodate 240v bulbs. You can buy a 240v fitting + LED bulb for approximately £10 so this would always be what we would suggest instead of trying to find an LED driver that works with your existing fittings and your new 12v LED lights.
Final thoughts on LED lighting
Here at TheGreenAge we really strongly recommend people make the move to LED lighting. They use 90% less energy than traditional lighting and they last up to 20 times longer, so it really does seem a bit of a no-brainer to us.
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