Have LED lights come of age?

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An LED with a UK fitting – you can get them….

I have blogged previously about the effect that ‘good old’ tungsten bulbs (as favoured by Daily Mail readers) can have on energy consumption and energy efficiency ratings – in a word HUGE. The usual argument against is that the alternatives cost too much and give a ‘nasty’ light. As far as compact fluorescents (CFL’s) go that is far from the truth now – they start and warm up quickly and you can even get dimmable ones now. Yes they cost more but the payback on them now is probably in the region of 6 months – and then you are into savings for the remainder of their lives (which is normally years).

However for the CFL haters there has been an alternative for a while – the LED bulb – but they are expensive which has proved highly popular with the flat earth brigade (i.e. Daily Mail readers).

With prices up to £25 per bulb, the received wisdom that LED lighting is too expensive seems deserved. But rising electricity prices and falling LED costs mean that for homes with a large number of halogen or tungsten bulbs, the new generation of low-energy lighting finally makes financial sense.

Concerns over the ‘weak or cold quality’ of LED light have abated. Despite usually costing more than six times as much as halogens, the payback for LEDs now comes in 15 months or less – and for homeowners changing dozens of halogen bulbs, the savings can be in the hundreds of pounds every year afterwards.

So to a degree it is a matter of re-educating our buying habits. Lighting has always been about the fitting rather than the bulb, the days of the cheap low efficiency bulb are thankfully coming to and end. If consumers are prepared to pay the up-front higher cost they will quickly calculate that they will see a return on their investment within the first couple of years – and will go on making financial savings for many more years. Users will also not have the hassle of continuously replacing burnt-out halogen lamps – LED bulbs come with advertised lifetimes of 10,000 hours and up, compared to the typical 1,000-hour lifetime of hot-running halogen bulbs.

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are semiconductors that make old-fashioned lightbulbs (incandescents) and even “energy savers” (compact fluorescents) look incredibly inefficient. A typical 35W halogen replacement LED will use as little as 4W, considerably less than the 10W or so a CFL would use to produce the same level of light. They also have the advantage of being “instant-on” and do not suffer from warming up slowly like some CFL replacements for halogens.

Using the Energy Saving Trust’s typical use figure for a bulb in a kitchen or living room at an average of 2.7 hours a day – and assuming 40 bulbs in a house  – running costs would be reduced to £23 annually compared to £287 for sticking with traditional bulbs.

I haven’t swapped to LED’s in my home yet – because I still have a large number of CFL’s that are still working fine, but before next winter I think the change will occur. It is now well worthwhile – give it some thought next time you have to buy a bulb!

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