John Bullock Lighting Design
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Talking about LED light bulbs

08-01-2015

I'm glad to see that the new generation of energy-saving light bulbs are finally available on the high street. My local hardware shop in Sherborne has begun to stock LED light bulbs that replace the old incandescent lamps (and they generally out-perform the energy-saving CFL lamps as well!).
Mind you, while its generally good news, there are a few provisos that its worth my while to talk to you about. Why? because LEDs come with a difference, and that difference is that we can't be certain that one LED performs in the same way as another; there is no standardisation on LED production and its all a bit wild and woolly.
Still - best to go into this with eyes wide open and armed with a few questions for your local stockist.

Firstly, be aware that light bulbs are now rated differently; rather than the lamp wattage you'll find the light output (measured in lumens, often indicated 'lm'). The thing to remember is that the old 60W incandescent light bulb provided 600lm of light; the 40W light bulb provided 400lm, and so on - that's good as a yardstick, I think.

Then, be aware of the light colour. Most of us have seen some of the earlier LED lamps (usually the type that fit into downlights) that give off a harsh, cold light. There's no need for that now. The new LED bulbs will generally offer you a warm white light - but, again, beware. The light from the old 60W bulb was measured at 2700K (degrees Kelvin) and we all know what that looked like. You'll find LED bulbs also at 2700K, but more often at 3000K. That's a slightly cooler white but one that I find acceptable, and I think that it will become the 'colour of home lighting' in years to come. There - you heard it hear first.

Oh - and I don't like manufacturers that only marktheir products as 'warm white'. I don't trust them; I prefer numbers.

Also, and this may seem a bit weird, be careful of where the light actually goes. We're used to light bulbs that illuminate all around themselves, so we've been happy to put light bulbs into table-lamps. While the bulb was 'looking up' at the ceiling, it still lit the surface below. But when you look at an LED light bulb, you'll see that almost half of the bulb (on the side nearest to the lamp cap) is a metal body. That's there to dissipate the heat from the electronics inside the body, so we can't get rid of it.
But it means that some LED bulbs are not good at lighting all the way round - and sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't. Some of the newer lamps have compensated for that by making a kind of 'muffin-top' to the bulb so that it hangs over the edge of the metal base, so allowing some light to go backwards / downwards - and I've found that those bulbs work quite well.

Finally: the cost. Yes, the LED light bulb is much more expensive than the lamps that we've been used to, but what you're really doing is paying forward for the cost-savings to come. Your electricity costs for lighting will immediately fall - sometimes by up to 80% - and that's a good thing. And eventually, the initial cost will be overtaken by the energy cost savings and everyone will be happy.
Be conscious that LEDs make sense (and from a cost point of view ONLY make sense) because they last for many many hours. Though I would recommend that you note the date on the bulb body when you first fit it . . . and hold onto the receipt!

 

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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Sherborne
Dorset
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