New choices in lighting – An LED buyers guide


There’s been a lot more happening on the LED front since we last looked at lighting options. With most lighting set to switch to LEDs in the next few years, Lance Turner takes a look at what’s available so far.

For many people, lighting is one of the most important aspects of their home. Incorrect lighting can make a room uncomfortable to be in, and getting it right can take a bit of effort.

There’s a vast array of light fittings and lighting systems available, and a number of lighting technologies including the horribly inefficient but very popular incandescent, the halogen (a glorified, slightly more efficient incandescent), the fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and more recently, Light Emitting Diode, or LED.

With almost all lighting technology moving towards LEDs, this guide will primarily focus on LED technology. In 10 to 20 years, most other light sources will have disappeared in favour of the robustness, longevity and energy efficiency of LEDs.

Types of lighting
When considering lights and light fittings, you need to decide what type of lighting you want for each situation.

Lighting generally falls into four categories—general illumination, task lighting, ambient/mood lighting, and outdoor lighting. The degree of intensity will depend on personal preference and the colour of the walls and furnishings. Darker walls generally need more light to achieve the same level of perceived brightness as lighter walls.

General illumination can be of a fairly low level—enough to easily see by, but not so bright that the whole room becomes suitable for reading. However, this is a personal preference and many people like to be able to light the entire room brightly when needed, whereas others may opt for a combination of low level general lighting and small task lights near their chairs for reading.

Mood lighting may also be a concern and needs to be considered at the planning stage. The house may have a feature that would benefit from a well placed spotlight or uplighter, but lights like these are often left on for long periods and can consume a great deal of energy if the wrong lighting is used.

Garden lighting is generally either floodlighting or feature lighting, where particular plants or garden furnishings are lit individually, often by coloured lamps, for effect.

Zero energy options
While this article deals with electric lighting, there are a couple of other options that should be considered. Skylights and light pipe systems can provide more than adequate lighting levels with no use of electricity at all and, if well placed, won’t heat the room unnecessarily.

Another option is fitting reflectors to already installed fittings. Fluorescent fittings can particularly benefit from a reflector. Indeed, fitting a reflector behind a single tri-phosphor tube can result in lighting levels equal to using two cheaper quality tubes with no reflectors. This means that combining a reflector and good quality tube can effectively halve lighting energy consumption.

Energy, power and voltage
Which brings us to one of the most confusing aspects of lighting for many people.

Many lamps, particularly halogen downlights, are sold as ‘low voltage’, with the packaging implying that this equates to low energy consumption. This is rubbish. The important factor is the power rating of the lamp. Fifty watts is 50 watts, regardless of the voltage it is supplied and used at. A 12 volt bulb uses a 240 volt to 12 volt transformer to run it, so this transformer will draw 50 watts to run the bulb, plus a bit of extra that is lost in the transformer as heat.

So, when comparing bulb energy consumption, you must look at the wattage, not the voltage.

Read the full article in ReNew 119.

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