Lighting – clearing the fog

The UK Government is bringing forward legislation to ban the sale of :
(a) common halogen light bulbs from September 2021 and
(b) high energy fluorescent tubes and all halogen bulbs from 2023.

We are going to have to get used to using LEDs. It is clear through our interface with customers that a good deal of confusion still exists around lighting. This is a summary of what you need to know. 

Types of light bulbs

(i) Traditional incandescent. Incandescent bulbs use lots of energy as the element heats up. They are no longer widely available and have been replaced by LEDs. They gave a familiar yellowish light. Most can be simply replaced by LEDs.

(ii) CFL (compact fluorescent tube). CFLs were an intermediate replacement for incandescent bulbs. CFLs lost light output and were slow to reach full illumination as they aged. They were issued free by energy companies a few years back at government behest to get energy consumption down. CFLs, also no longer widely available, often looked like a twisted tube and give gave a whitish strip tube type light. Most can be simply replaced by LEDs.

(iii) Halogen. Similar to traditional incandescent but with the heated element in a gas, they burn hotter than an incandescent. Halogens use (a little) less energy than incandescents. Lots of ‘down lights’ used this technology which created overheating issues. There are two types of halogen down lights, low voltage, identifiable by two small straight pins and and ‘mains’ (240V ac) with stubby lugs. The low voltage ones have ‘transformers’ hidden in the ceiling. Both types have been superceded by LEDs which are more efficient, don’t get anything like as hot and last far longer. Low voltage halogens are generally not replaceable by LEDs – the best bet is remove the downlighter and it’s transformer and fit a 240v mains fitting and an LED bulb. Mains halogens can be replaced by LEDs.

(iv) LED (light emitting diode). Now the ‘go to’ bulb type, widely available and cheap to run. LEDs use semiconductors which emit light when a current is passed through them.  Today they are available in many different configurations with an average bulb life of typically 20 years. The only downside is dimming. It’s got better but bulbs and dimmers need to work together, which can be hit and miss. LEDs require dimmers designed for LEDs.

The typical office strip tubes have been replaced by LED lookalikes.

The colour of light

Traditional incandescent bulbs were warm white, to the left of the spectrum shown above. LEDs offer the opportunity to fit a range of ‘white’ colours ranging from warm to bright. For the elderly with deteriorating eye sight higher wattage LEDs with a brighter 5000 to 6000 degree kelvin light can help greatly.

Wattage and lumens

We used to associate light output with the wattage of the bulb. A 60 watt bulb gave a perceived and associated amount of light output, which we got used to. Wattage is actually the measurement of the power taken by the bulb. LEDs, being far more energy efficient, use a lot less power (watts) to give the same light output. So get used to looking at Lumens which describe this. A comparison guide is shown below.

Watts & Lumens by bulb technology

If there’s something you are unsure about do ask the 50plus office for advice.