LEDs have made great strides in the last couple of years and are now well worth considering for low energy lighting. The information below aims to summarise options, set out the likely savings and make people aware of the choice available in the Lewes area.
It is also worth checking out Jill Goulder’s excellent information sheet on LEDs that can be accessed on here...
Where are LEDs appropriate?
LEDs are an ideal replacement for recessed downlighters and spotlights, where they can cut energy use and emissions tremendously.
There are also LED ‘lightbulbs’, but they tend to be very expensive, although prices are falling. By contrast, compact fluorescents (CFLs) are cheaper, have comparable energy use and have improved greatly, making them still the best replacement for old fashioned bulbs. Nevertheless, this may well change with time, as mass production reduces prices.
What are the benefits?
Savings – A 4-5W LED will replace a 35 or 50 W Halogen bulb – cutting energy by around 90%! According to Which magazine, average use is about 1000 hours per year, which means that each LED will save £4-5 p.a. In high use areas, such as kitchen/breakfast rooms, savings are even greater. Taking my 2 bed house as an example, there are 17 downlighters and replacing bulbs with LEDs is saving over 500 kWh each year, reducing my total household energy emissions by about 5% and saving £70-80, for a cost of only £ 175 (£85 lamps, £90 conversion work). LEDs can last 25 years, paying for themselves 10 times over!
Cheap emissions reduction – because they save so much carbon rich electricity, the CO2 reduction is very significant. LEDs are one of the ‘biggest bangs for your buck’ in energy conservation.
Low Maintenance – Halogen bulbs overheat and blow remarkably quickly. If transformers are used, they are also prone to short lifetimes and need replacement. I personally dislike changing downlighter bulbs, which refuse to come apart and try to pop out of the ceiling, accompanied by a shower of debris. LEDs are virtually there for life – fit and forget.
LEDs reach full illumination instantly, unlike the slight delay often seen with CFLs.
Can existing fittings take LEDs?
Recessed halogen downlighters come in two main fittings:
GU10 is now the norm and is supplied at mains voltage. This is the fitting that all commonly available LEDs have (see fig.1). If you have GU10, you can just go out and buy LEDs without any need for modification and swap like for like.
Fig.1 Typical GU10 lamp
GU5.3 Was the norm for many older LV downlighters and has two small pin connectors (see fig.2).
Fig.2 Typical GU5.3 lamp
If you have GU5.3 you have two options. Firstly, it is possible to find LV GU5.3 compatible LEDs on the internet, but choice is limited. Also my electrician informs me they have half the lifespan of normal mains fed GU10s.
Alternatively, the existing fitting can be converted to GU10 relatively easily. For safety’s sake, it is probably best to ask an electrician, but it isn’t expensive.
o The transformer(s) need to be removed.
o The terminal inside the fitting needs to be replaced with a GU 10 socket.
To give an idea of cost, my electrician converted nine fittings for me and charged about £10 each. Each fitting took about five minutes to do (see fig. 3). Luckily, I had five others not needing conversion and a ceiling light with three existing GU10 spots.
Fig.3 Downlighter converted to GU10
SILVERED REFLECTORS – also known as R50 or R63 (i.e. 50mm or 63mm diameter), PAR16 or PAR20, or ES/E27 (i.e. Edison screw, 27mm thread) – see fig. 4
Fig.4: An R63 Silvered reflector (also known as PAR20 and ES/E27)
If you have older screw in spotlights in a ceiling mounted light fitting, it is pretty simple just to replace the fitting for a new one that takes GU10 LEDs (see fig.5).
Alternatively, there are LED lamps available on the internet with ES/E27 screw threads, at around the same price as normal GU10s, i.e. about £9/10. These are also a good replacement for the now quite old, screw threaded silvered spotlights in recessed ceiling downlighters.
When buying, make sure that you get the correct combination of both lamp diameter, e.g. R63 and also screw thread, e.g. ES/E27.
Fig.5 Typical LED ceiling fitting
What do I need to take into account when choosing bulbs?
Spot vs wide angle
Most downlighters and spotlights have a narrow angle beam of about 30/400 to produce a pool of light where you need it, illuminating a work surface or a picture.
Some are wide angle and give a broad spread of light, similar to a 40W bulb. This tends to produce flat, fairly dim lighting and goes against the idea of spotlighting. For that reason I personally don’t like wide angle bulbs, but that is only my opinion and the choice is yours.
Not all shops stock both, so be careful when buying.
A 4W bulb is equivalent to a 35W halogen, but can usually be used to replace a 50W without any noticeable drop in light. If you have 50W bulbs and are worried, try a 4W LED and if unsatisfied go for a 5 or 6W. The golden rule is if in doubt try one first before buying a dozen!
LEDs come as ‘cool’ and ‘warm’. Cool is a very blueish light, unlike other lightbulbs, and has been described as cold and akin to moonlight. Many find it a bit off-putting, although some like its clear white light. The most common choice is ‘warm’, which more closely matches halogens and seems more pleasant to live with.
The packaging is usually pretty clear, with ‘cool’ being described as having a colour temperature of 6000K, whilst ‘warm’ is 2700-3000K.
However, here I have to give a warning about colour, as not all ‘warm’ bulbs are the same (see fig.6). As you will see, all those I found were generally acceptable, but one had a distinctly greenish yellow tone, which I didn’t like. The best also happened to be the cheapest, so price is no indicator of quality.
Fig.6 Comparison of different coloured ‘warms’ in kitchen setting
To try and give some guidance, I bought a selection of various LEDs I could find in the Lewes area and have compared the light from each. If you look at the photos below you will see what I mean. Although photos never represent colour perfectly, these give some idea. It was not possible to show the single wide angle bulb, as it just gave a dim wash of light on the wall which was hard to photograph.
Modo vs Homebase
Tesco vs SETS
B&Q vs Homebase
Anyone who is interested in buying any of these bulbs and wants to see them at first hand is welcome to come and see them at my house in Lewes.
Are they dimmable?
Ordinary LEDs aren’t dimmable, but for about 50% higher price you can buy special dimmable ones and some of the internet sites show little or no price difference. None was included in this review.
Where can I get LEDs and what do they cost?
Standard GU10 LEDs are available in most supermarkets and DIY stores. However, anything vaguely unusual or non standard, such as silvered reflector or small pin halogen replacements seem to be only available via the internet.
Supermarkets and DIY superstores seem to sell cheaper and better LEDs than electrical wholesalers. You can also buy on the internet and the Megaman bulb tested was provided by Ovesco, who bought it from www.LEDbulbs.co.uk.
The table below gives an idea of what I found available locally, but is not intended to be exhaustive. I had to draw the line somewhere at buying samples costing around £10 each! By all means do your own research and if you come up with better buys let me know.
Table 1: Comparison of available LEDs
|Homebase||TCP||4||300||warm||7.49/5.62*||v. neutral white, narrowish beam|
|Tesco||Tesco||4.5||350||warm||8.00||slightly soft yellow|
|B & Q||Diall||5||350||warm||9.99||slightly rosy white, bright|
|S.E.T.S. Hove||LEDLite||4.9||380||warm||10.00||strong yellow/green tone, bright|
|EFT Lewes||Eco Future||3.6||wide0||warm||10.79||yellow/green tone, v.wide beam|
|Wickes, Hove||Phillips||4||350||warm||11.99||not tested, too dear|
||not tested, too dear|
|LEDBulbs.co.uk||Megaman Modo||4.5||380||warm||7.99||yellow, not that bright
* Homebase price 2 for £14.99 (£7.49 ea) or buy 2 get 2 half price (£5.62 ea).
The Homebase offer of 4x4W LEDs for £22.48 (£5.62 ea) was the best buy amongst this limited selection. The light was very neutral white and pleasant, although ideally I would have preferred slightly warmer. Please note though that Homebase change this offer about from time to time (it was 2 for £9.99 before Christmas).
The colour I liked best was B & Q’s £9.99, which was not too bad value considering it was slightly more powerful at 5W. It had a pleasant very slightly rosy tinge and appeared the brightest.
Tesco’s LED was also good value, giving a slightly yellowish but pleasant light. It was competitively priced at £8.00 for a 4.5W lamp.
The Megaman bulb was reasonably priced at £7.99 and had a nice warm yellow tint, but did not seem that bright, despite being 4.5W.
I didn’t buy a Waitrose Osram lamp, as it seemed too dear at £12.99. Similarly, I thought the Wickes lamp was also expensive at £11.99. However, it was made by Philips who claim to have won awards for the most natural looking LED light. If light quality is paramount, it might be worth trying this out and looking for a cheaper vendor on the internet.
The two lights from electrical wholesalers had a strong yellow tint that I would have found hard to live with. They weren’t cheap either.
A word of warning - a lot of shops sell very low wattage LEDs alongside normal ones for tempting prices. Unfortunately, these are only 2W or less and just won’t do the job. 4W should be the minimum for downlighters and spotlights.
Information correct as at February 2013
Our thanks to Neil Williams of the TTL Energy group for all the information above.