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LED lights


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One of the greatest wasters of energy in the home is lighting.  The old incandescent lightbulbs would put out more energy in heat than they did in light.  Several downlights are required to light up a room where a couple of normal bulbs will do a similar job.  These lights often require 40-50 Watt transformers just to produce a tiny amount of light (and also a lot of heat).  We’ve seen a big change in this area.  Downlights and their transformers are being replaced by more efficient options.  Most incandescents have been banished and replaced by more efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) lightbulbs.  These have often been replaced free of charge to the householder thanks to government schemes (mostly based around carbon credits).

However the CFL’s have their downfalls:

  1. They take quite a while to warm up, so if you’re in need of a quick light source to read a note or to pluck a hair out of your ear (not that I’d need that!), they are not much good.
  2. They have a nasty end of life problem, as the tubes contain mercury vapour.  There are debates on the risk of this mercury and is highly unlikely to do you any harm if you’re careful.  Beware though that if one is broken you do need to tread carefully - aerate your room for 30 minutes before entering, use disposable gloves, try not to use a vacuum cleaner, avoid touching the glass and wash your hands very, very well (these are not instructions – just a sample to highlight that care must be taken).  So I’d prefer another option if it was available.
  3. They are not the most efficient option on the market.

LED’s are the new alternative gaining quite a bit of traction in the marketplace and they are becoming more readily available as drop-in globes (I don’t know why they call them drop-in though – who ever drops them in??).  They are much improved from the model I tried about 15 years ago which produced the most awful white light.  We tried it in our toilet and when we turned it on it looked like the alien landing scene from Independence Day.  Even in our toilet the light was too much to handle.

We are all familiar with LED technology.  LED stands for light emitting diode.  It’s used in electrical switches and is becoming more common in digital displays and TVs.  An LED lamp is basically made up of an adapter (bayonet, screw, etc), a transformer circuit (which converts the power to DC) and a number of LEDs.  I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but I’m no techy and I’m sure that’s enough information for most of you.  The point is that although they all look different, most of what you can see from the outside is mostly ‘packaging’ to make the electronics looks like a normal lamp.

LED’s remove all of the problems of CFLs.  They produce instant light, are safer to dispose of and are about 30-50% more efficient than CFLs.  They also last much longer (about 3-4 times as long, often about 30,000 hours).  Just like the CFLs they have the plain white and the warm white options.  I’ve read that some are able to be dimmed, but I’ve never tested this out – we don’t have a dimmer – we just use lamps with 2 watt globes for dim light.

When purchasing LED’s you must do a bit more than simply looking at the wattage.  The LED lamps are often marked with their lumen output to allow comparison with other types of lamps (the lumens is the amount of visible light produced).  LED’s do vary in lumens per watt so check this out.

You also have to consider the application with buying an LED.  LED’s typically emit light in a more directional manner, so you get a more narrow beam of light.  The light will spread quite well if in a translucent light-fitting but if you don’t have a lightfitting or your lightfitting is clear, you may just get a narrow beam of light from a typical LED.  The direction of the light depends on the configuration of the LEDs.  

I’ve used a few of the corn shaped LED’s.  You can see by the image why the term ‘corn’ is used.  These smart devices emit light in many directions and are very useful where there is no lampshade.  They are generally between 5 watts and 7 watts. 

I have many 2 Watt and 2.5 Watt LEDs and these are great for lamps used to create mood lighting as they emit just a small amount of light upwards.

All LEDs are made in China (as far as I know) so although you can buy from an Australian company, you won’t get an Australian made product – you may get a better quality solution though.  Phillips are a major manufacturer of LED globes but there are cheaper options.  They are readily available on ebay, though the quality varies considerably.  I’ve found a couple that produce good quality globes.  I’m a fan of the eco-fire 2Watt ones that I purchased from an Australian ebay store recently called Ecofire.  They are a candle style globe.  The ‘retro’ packaging is brilliant (and may have other uses) and the globe itself is the only LED I’ve seen that actually is nice to look at.  They were $12 each, cheaper than the Phillips but the best quality I’ve seen on ebay and well worth the price.



electricity, LED, lighting, lights, save energy