Energy Local The Guide - Part 5: Upgrading Your Lighting

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Upgrading your lights to LEDs

Powering the lights in your house makes up about 20% of your electricity bill, potentially costing you over £100 a year.  Upgrading to LED lighting, can cut your lighting costs by over 80% (when switching from the most inefficient bulbs), with likely savings of several hundred pounds over the lifetime of your new bulbs.
Good LED bulbs also provide high-quality light and last a lot longer than other types of bulbs so you don’t have to worry about replacing them for up to 20 years.  

Which bulbs should I change?
You could switch all the bulbs in your house but if you want to start smaller then your first priority should be the lights you use the most – like the kitchen, living room and hallways.

Savings will add up quicker than when you upgrade bulbs you only use a few hours a week – like in the garage.

What are the different options?
Things have come a long way since energy-efficient lighting meant a flickering dull light.  

You can buy ‘eco’ halogen light bulbs, but these will only reduce energy use by around 25% (when switching from the most inefficient bulbs), and you shouldn’t expect them to work for longer than a filament light bulb. There are also Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) which also use a lot less energy than filament bulbs but don’t last any longer and can have poor light quality.

We recommend that that you upgrade to LED (Light Emitting Diode) lightbulbs. Although they are still a little more expensive than some of the other options, you’ll more than make your money back in the electricity saved over time. Not only do LEDs offer much bigger energy savings, but they will also last a lot longer before they need to be replaced. Saving you money because you don’t have to replace them very often and avoiding the hassle of changing them.

A good quality LED light bulb should last for at least 25,000 hours, compared with an incandescent filament bulb which lasts about 1,000 hours.  With an average use of 6 hours a day, that should mean that LED’s work for more than 10 years. Most bulbs come with guarantees so if they stop working before a certain time you can get a refund or replacement.

Getting the right LED bulb
Supermarkets and DIY stores are starting to stock a wide range of LED bulbs. There are also many websites now specialising in selling LED’s, and these usually offer the best range and choice of bulbs.

When you go shopping for LED’s there are a few different things to consider to make sure you get the right bulb.

There are different types of fittings for different bulbs, some screw in while others click into place. The easiest thing to do is bring your old bulb to the shop so you can match it up to the one you are buying. If you’re ordering online then see here (in English only) for a picture guide to the type of fitting you’ll need.

It’s also worth checking the size of your new bulb as it may be fatter or longer than before and it needs to fit into your lampshade.  

We’re used to choosing our bulbs based on the number of Watts (W) they use, for example, a 60W bulb for your kitchen or a 20W bulb for a bedside lamp.  

LED bulbs have very low wattages, which is a good thing because it means they are using much, much less electricity, but it means you can’t compare them against your old bulbs for how bright they will be.

The new way of describing brightness is by Lumens. You can use this to compare brightness levels between different types of bulbs with different wattages. And to make it easier all good LED bulbs will tell you on the package what the Wattage of the old-style bulbs they are designed to replace is.   

For example, the bulb in your kitchen right now might be a 75W incandescent producing 900 lumens. You could replace that with a LED light also producing 900 lumens that will only use 10-13W. So you get the same brightness level for fewer Watts, with less electricity being used.

The colour of the light that bulbs generate makes a big difference. If you think of a candle, it creates a warm yellow light, while other lights have a colder blue effect – think hospital corridors! This is often described as the “colour temperature” and most LEDs will be described as either “warm white” or “cool white”. There is also a scale called Kelvins which describes the colour temperature of the light – lower numbers are warmer – higher numbers are colder. For example…

  • You could buy cool white spotlights with a colour temperature of 4000 Kelvins. They create a clear white light with a hint of blue, which might be suitable in your bathroom and kitchen.
  • You could buy warm white lightbulbs with a colour temperature of 2700 Kelvins. They create a warm yellow light that looks good in your bedrooms and living room.

Don’t worry – lots of LEDs will have this information on the package with a colour chart to help you.

Beam angle
LED lights are designed to project light over a certain area, so if you need a bulb for the main fitting in your living room make sure that you get one with a large beam that spreads the light out (anything around 330 degrees).

If you’re buying spotlights for your kitchen then you won’t need such a big beam angle but it’s worth checking which angle would give you the illumination you like on the kitchen counter. It depends on how your lights are arranged but 40-70 degrees is a good guideline.  

Colour quality and uniformity
LED bulbs also come with a colour rendering index (CRI) which affects how colours will look under the light. Generally sticking to well-known brands means you won’t have to worry about this one but if you’re worried then check that the bulb has a CRI of 85 or more (out of 100). If a manufacturer can’t quote a CRI or it’s less than 80, they are probably cutting corners!

Dimming compatibility
Lots of LED bulbs work with dimmers but you’ll need to match up the bulb with the type of dimmer you have. We recommend that you get advice from the shop or website you’re buying from to get the right combination. In some cases, your dimmer switch can cancel out the energy savings that the LED should give you, so it’s worth taking the time to get this right.  

Try one out first!
There are lots of different bulbs out there and a lot of information to take on board. We recommend starting by trying a couple of different bulbs in a few rooms of your house to check you’ve got the right brightness, light colour, fitting etc.

Keep your receipts and the packaging then if you’re not happy, or you get a “bad bulb” or you’ve got the wrong fitting, you should be able to send them back for a refund or replacement.

As with anything you buy, sticking to well-known brands and shops will help. Lots of the websites selling LED’s have “no quibble” returns policies and there plenty of online reviews that you can learn from. 

LED’s are a brilliant technology and many people have already switched all the bulbs in their house and are saving significant amounts of money. Lots of famous landmarks and buildings have also “seen the light”, including Tower Bridge 


Energy Local The Guide - Part 1: How it works

Energy Local The Guide - Part 2: Your share of the solar electricity generated

Energy Local The Guide - Part 2: Your share of the hydro electricity generated

Energy Local The Guide - Part 3: Project Timescales

Energy Local The Guide - Part 4: Tips for your washing machine and tumble dryer

Energy Local The Guide - Part 6: Electricity price

Energy Local The Guide - Part 7: Club Co-operative

Energy Local The Guide - Energy Efficiency