Retrofitting your home with LED Lighting
By Neil Pownall
If you’re building or renovating and installing new light fittings, you will no doubt have noticed that almost all new light fittings these days implement LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes).
If you’re not building or renovating however, there’s no need to tear out your much loved existing light fittings and replace them with LED ones. You can take advantage of the considerable energy savings offered by LED lighting by retrofitting your home with LED light bulbs instead. That is, replace the individual light bulbs, not the light fittings themselves.
What are LEDs?
LEDs, unlike the incandescent light bulbs that lit our homes for around a century, produce light via a chemical reaction. Incandescent lamps produce light by passing an electrical current through a wire (tungsten) filament until it heats to high heat and glows almost white. This is the reason incandescent bulbs produce the warm glow to which we have become accustomed and perhaps, even expect in our living areas after dark.
A major advantage of LED lighting is that it takes less energy to create the chemical reaction to produce light, than it does to heat tungsten to the degree where it produces the same amount of light. Hence, there is a considerable energy saving made by using LED lighting. We’ll come back to this later.
LED Light Bulb Types
LED light bulbs come in all the familiar shapes you’d expect to find in incandescent bulbs and then some. Candle lamps for your prized crystal chandelier, spot lights for your kitchen, large globe shaped bulbs for the feature light over your dining table and even outdoor par 38 style lamps.
In addition to being able to find a style of bulb to match your light fitting, you’ll be pleased to know that suitably bright LED bulbs are available in a great many sizes including very small. Almost certainly there will a bulb that fits within even the smallest or narrowest of light fittings.
It is important to note however, that although LED light bulbs produce very little heat, they are somewhat heat sensitive. This means that most, if not all LED bulbs, are unsuitable for use within fully enclosed light fittings. Without some ventilation, the small amount of heat produced will be trapped and may cause the bulb to fail.
As with incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs come with different base options. Some of the most common are:-
- E27 - standard screw-in fitting
- B22 - standard bayonet fitting
- E14 - small screw-in fitting
- GU10 - two broad pins with flattened ends
- MR16 - two narrow pins
The image below may help you identify the base fittings you need.
Put simply, colour temperature is the degree of warmth (yellow-redness) of the light emitted from the bulb. The colour of an incandescent bulb is usually warm white and most LED bulbs do a good job of reproducing light in this spectrum. Since LEDs don’t produce light from heating a filament, they come in a wide range of other colours. For the home - warm white, pure white (similar in colour to cool white fluorescent tubes), and natural white (somewhere between warm and pure white) are the commonly found colour temperatures.
Which to use is largely a matter of preference. Some thirty years ago, when I commenced work in the lighting industry, cool white was considered useful only in commercial premises or certain work areas of the home (i.e. garages, workshops and laundry rooms). These days cooler colours such as pure white and natural white can be seen throughout the home.
Personally, I prefer warm white in living areas such as living rooms and bedrooms. It is said that exposure to cooler colour temperatures, (which are closer to that of daylight), is not conducive to sleep and relaxation in the evening. I think cooler colours work best in areas mainly used in daytime and especially well, where there is a mix of natural and artificial light in the room.
As touched upon earlier in this article, LED light bulbs are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. They are also considerably more efficient that CFL (compact fluorescent lamps).
On average LED bulbs are 5-8 times more efficient than incandescent ones. Also, LED bulbs have a life expectancy many times that of incandescents. Often 10-15 years or even as long as 20 years.
Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see sense in making the switch to LED bulbs. For an average home, you could expect to save hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars on energy bills during the lifetime of the bulbs.
We know that LED bulbs will give more light for the amount of energy they use but, how do we go about selecting the degree of brightness we need to replace an incandescent bulb.
Traditionally, incandescent light bulbs have differentiated in brightness by a rating in watts (energy consumption) rather than a measure of brightness. The total light output of a bulb however, is measured in Lumens, not watts.
Confusingly, LED light bulbs are also sold by watt rating. This rating is even less useful for LED light bulbs than it is for incandescent ones since LED bulbs of different types, and from different manufacturers, vary in efficiency. Lumen rating is not always easy to find on the packaging.
So, how can you choose a sufficiently bright LED bulb for your purpose? I recommend that you use a comparison chart, such as the one below, to get a ‘ballpark’ watt rating for a suitable replacement for an incandescent, halogen, or compact fluorescent lamp. Then, if you plan to replace many bulbs in your house, I suggest you consider purchasing a number of different brands/types of bulb and trying them. Many retailers, (including Gadget Geeks), will allow you to return any bulbs that were unsuitable. Alternatively, you could reassign any LED bulbs that weren’t bright enough or, were too bright, to different rooms than those for which they were intended.
Smart LED Light Bulbs
In addition to the energy savings and considerably improved life expectancy, there is a further advantage to LED bulbs. They can be ‘intelligent’. We’ve talked about colour temperature and brightness, but it is possible to purchase LED light bulbs where these factors can be adjusted via IR (InfraRed), Bluetooth or WiFi remote control units or even your smartphone. Beyond adjusting colour and brightness, many intelligent LED bulbs support numerous other features including timer functions and interaction with music. For now, these features go beyond the scope of this article so we’ll revisit this at a future time when cover home automation in more depth.
We hope you find this article helpful, however, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding LED light bulbs.