WHY CHOOSE LED LIGHTING?
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, although they have been around for a long time, the technology has seen huge advances over the last few years, with LEDs now brighter, more efficient and cheaper than ever before. There is now an extensive range of ‘retro fit’ LED bulbs, as well as dedicated LED lighting products available, which means that an upgrade to LED lighting can often be as easy as changing a light bulb.
LEDs offer many benefits over their more traditional counterparts, but their main selling points for most lays with their superior light output and energy saving credentials. A 5 watt LED is usually akin to an 50-watt halogen lamp in terms of light output, and will last significantly longer too. As well as being better for the environment, this can also translate into big savings on your electricity and lighting maintenance bills. As The example in the table below shows, a switch to LED can effectively pay for itself in a surprisingly short amount of time.
But Aren’t Energy Saving Lamps All A Bit Rubbish?
The previous incarnation of energy saving bulbs came in the form of CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Lamps, and they WERE rubbish! Whilst they did consume less power than their incandescent or halogen counterparts, they presented several more significant drawbacks. CFLs often start off dim and off colour during their warmup period which can last several minutes. They also loose up to 40% of their light output with age and can eventually develop flickering. This means that they are inconvenient at best, and completely unsuited for shorter term usage areas such as bathrooms and hallways. Fluorescent lights also contain a number of toxic components, most notably mercury, which is extremely bad for the environment and worse if the gas from a broken tube is inhaled.
What’s So Good About LED Then?
Besides from their obvious environmental and financial credentials, LEDs have a number of other notable benefits over their predecessors, including:
A wider more uniformed and even spread of light which is able to larger areas, filling dark corners, from fewer light sources, and without noticeably brighter spots or rings in their center.
The image below shows the same entrance hall before and after LED replacements. It uses the same number of lights in the exact same positions but completely transforms the space.
LEDs are dimmable – Unlike most CFLs, the majority of LEDs can be dimmed.
Instant start – This means 100% brightness as soon as you hit the switch with no flickering or warm up period.
Long life – 30,000+ hours in most cases, the majority of products covered by 3 to 5 year warrantees.
Consistent performance in all temperatures – Unlike CFLs, performance doesn’t suffer in the cold and unlike incandescent or halogens; they won’t blow or weaken when cold.
Sturdy construction – Solid state design and rigid construction mean that they are difficult to physically break or smash.
LEDs produce minimal heat, which makes them particularly suited for display purposes.
LEDs produce no UV light, which bleaches many surfaces and fabrics over time. It’s better for your health and it’s also claimed they’ll attract less insects as a result too.
LEDs come in every colour imaginable, with several ‘temperature’ variants for traditional usages. Meaning you can easily customize your lighting to suit the space and its usage.
The image below shows the same bathroom in both traditional ‘warm’ and modern ‘cool’ whites.
When is the best time to upgrade?
In short, the sooner you switch, the sooner you’ll start to save money and reap the benefits and the savings increase with every lamp you change. There’s no logic in this case of “waiting for the old bulbs to blow first”, as they’re only costing you more money to run them up until their inevitable next failure.As a general rule of thumb the more you use an area, the more beneficial it’ll be when you switch. My LED calculator (available on request) will help you work out which areas of your property could save you the most, as well as how long it’ll likely take to recuperate your investment. Even including installation fees, it will likely surprise you just how quickly this can be achieved.
Be Careful what you buy
LED technology has been extremely fast moving over the last few years, and not all LEDs or light fittings are created equally. Which is why I regularly test out large selections of products across all price ranges, in order to determine if the claims made on paper add up in real life. I then make my own recommendations based on quality, price, efficiency and light output.The majority of the products I supply offer extensive 3-5 year warranties, meaning that if for any reason a lamp does fail, it can be replaced free of charge by the manufacturer. This effectively guarantees that the product will last long enough to deliver a return on any investment made installing it. Dimming is another consideration you will need to bear in mind, not all LEDs are designed to be dimmable, so if you want this option available then its best to check first. I Also highly recommend the use of LED specific dimmers in order to get the best performance and efficiency out of your new LEDs. This can usually be upgraded cheaply without the need to change your existing faceplates.
Using LEDs for down lights
Recessed lighting or down lights are one of the most common types of lighting found in the modern home, they’re often used in high numbers and fitted with high wattage halogen bulbs which often makes them the ideal candidate for an LED upgrade. Whether you’re installing from new, or looking to upgrade your existing down lights, then there are 2 main routes to consider.
"Retro fit" LEDs
LEDs which are retrospectively fitted utilize a standard down light fitting with a removable LED bulb. These bubs house all of the electronics needed to run the LEDs within the standard form factor of a traditional bulb. This means that an upgrade can sometimes be as easy as installing a new light bulb. You can choose from a large range of different bulbs which offer varying styles, power outputs and colours to suit your needs.
If you already have halogen down lights and are thinking of upgrading your existing light fittings there are couple of points you’ll need to consider. First you’ll need to determine your current fitment type. The 2 most common being the ‘GU10’ and ‘MR16’ variants. (pictured below).
GU10 lamps are supplied by a mains voltage and are suitable for a straight forward LED bulb swap.
MR16 lamps run at a lower voltage, supplied (most commonly) by individual 12v transformers which are hidden in the ceiling above. These transformers along with the bulbs themselves are a frequently failing component with a limited life span meaning maintaining this setup, particularly as it ages can become inconvenient and costly.
Although direct LED replacements for MR16 bulbs are still available, they seldom work without additional modifications and sacrifice many of the LEDs benefits, so are not recommended in most situations. Traditional transformers usually have a minimum load of around 20 Watts, and therefore aren’t designed to handle the extremely low loads of an LED bulb. Some bulbs are able to ‘trick’ the existing transformer into working with it, but dimming performance is often compromised, along with efficiency. LED specific transformers are available but are rarely a cost-effective solution. Both options leave you with unreliable transformers still hidden in the ceiling, the removal of which is often one of the main reasons people consider switching to a maintenance free LED upgrade in the first place.
"All in one" LEDs
Due to the form factor limitations of retrofit bulbs, heat dissipation limits their overall performance and efficiency. The best LED option therefore is ‘All in one’ LEDs, which as the name suggests come as a complete lighting unit combining LED chips, running gear and its fitting itself into a single unit. There are no bulbs or transformers to replace, and the custom built construction means that they can be made brighter, wider spreading, more efficient and longer lasting than any retro fit combination. Their wide range of sizes, and styles, with extended warranties help to secure all in one units as the far superior choice for any application.
Pictured below is the "E8" light fitting. this is my go to fitting of choice for most applications. they're quick to install in in most instances can be used as direct slot in replacements to replace your existing light fittings.
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