News is that the European Commission has delayed the banning of the halogen version of the incandescent lamp until 2018. This may come as a surprise to consumers who were not even aware that this ban was on the cards but at least by having this delay it will mean that there is more time for technology to improve further and there should be a wider range of cost effective LED lamps on the market by then.
So I thought it would be interesting to take a look at where we have come since our comfort zone of the incandescent lamp was rocked.
*Author’s Note to purists: ‘Lamp’ or ‘Bulb’, does it matter as long as we understand?
The Classic Incandescent Light Bulb
What a blow when our trusty light source was banned. With good colour rendition, clear yet warm light tones it even had the added benefit of warming our houses in the winter. But no – that’s why it was banned! Inefficient light vs wattage and they were blamed for helping to warm our planet.
For some reason they are still available if one looks hard enough although it is nigh impossible to get your hands on a good ole fashioned 100 watt incandescent much to chagrin of many people over the age of fifty.
First of all the only alternative seemed to be the initial replacement.
The Compact Fluorescent Lamp
Whoever said they loved these lamps? Cold colour temperature, ages to warm up and bad colour rendition made these most people’s bete noire. They were even rumoured to be bad for skin conditions and eyesight; yet it seemed we had little choice but to comply and just get on with it.
In truth the compact fluorescent has improved over the years but how many of us are ‘making do’ with the ones we bought a few years ago. After all, isn’t that the point – their longevity?
Then, blissfully, another product came onto the market.
Halogen Globe Light Bulb
This basically looks like the incandescent bulb but if you look closely it actually harbours a very small halogen lamp inside. Slightly more energy efficient than the its predecessor but not nearly as efficient as the compact fluorescent, at least it gives an excellent light in terms of clarity and colour rendition. It is also dimmable which is a huge benefit.
Originally, when the National Trust changed all their bulbs over to energy efficient lighting, they used compact fluorescents in luminaires where the light source was hidden and these halogen versions where the light source was exposed, such as in chandeliers using candle lamps.
These are the lamps to be banned in September 2018
LED Light Bulb
Rather space-age in appearance there is always the doubt about direction of the light and at no time do you actually want to see this light source, especially the vibrant yellow one! Definitely not cheap and many versions are not dimmable but the quality of light is improving although we are not quite up to the equivalent of the old fashioned 100 watt incandescent.
A good online resource website for purchasing these lamps is: https://www.ledhut.co.uk/led-filament-range.html
Latest LED Light Bulb
Very clear and sparkly these are the best replacement versions of the incandescent that I have seen. These were on display at the LuxLive exhibition in November and although the higher output lamps are still not dimmable we are so nearly ‘there’ in terms of a general lighting source for our homes.
Another excellent feature of some of the dimmable versions is a ‘dim’to’warm’ facility which actually changes the light to warmer tones as the lamp dims. Perfect for winter evenings.
And soon to come…
The Graphene Light Bulb
A new method being perfected by the University of Manchester forming a light bulb made of graphene coated LEDs which will be even more energy efficient and long lasting. It is anticipated that these will be on the open market in a matter of months at competitive rates.
And a few other fun lamps on the market:
The Squirrel Cage Lamp
This seems to have by-passed the regulations being of an industrial nature although very ‘on trend’, especially in bars and restaurants. Not energy efficient in the original version but can now be replaced with similar filament style LED versions such as:
Eco Filament lamp available from www.urbancottageindustries.com
These are basically twisted fluorescent lamps in weird and wonderful shapes. Energy efficient, warm white with average colour rendition but not dimmable. These are by Plumen www.plumen.com
All in all it has been quite a journey and this is a small illustration of how nothing stands still in the lighting industry which is what makes it such an exciting field.
Ever since the incandescent lamp was technically banned in 2009 and strict building regulations have been enforced the lighting industry has been tripping over its heels to produce the most energy efficient and cost effective lighting with each manufacturer fighting to get their foot in the door…
This intense need for viable replacements of a light source that we have been happy with for over 100 years has meant that the market is now flooded with a vast array of LEDs, so much so that the average consumer can be completely flummoxed by the choice.
Most electricians now are accustomed to fitting dedicated LEDs and most are more than happy to pull out the latest ‘answer to all your problems’ in the form of their favourite LED downlight. However, before blithely committing to a house full of your electrician’s recommended downlights it’s important to assess exactly what you are getting so you can make an informed choice.
LED’s come in a range of colour temperatures and it is important to verify the Kelvins in order to assess the warmth. Many manufacturers will produce LED’s at approximately 4000°K as standard and will refer to an LED fitting as ‘Warm White’ when it is 3000°K (more like tungsten halogen). This version of Warm White is fine for accent lighting, e.g. small uplighters, washing down onto steps and even in contemporary kitchens and bathrooms where a crisper cooler light can work well; however, for downlights in areas such as living rooms and bedrooms going for temperatures around 2700°K is much warmer and more akin to the light you will get from the old fashioned incandescent lamp. While some contemporary properties could get away with the standard ‘Warm White’ throughout the house I would recommend that when incorporating LEDs in a classical property the warmer white is chosen otherwise the effect can be harsh and not in keeping with the interior.
This is a process that the manufacturer goes through when categorising the colour temperatures of the LEDs. The diodes can vary slightly in their colour temperature, especially from batch to batch, with the best quality LEDs varying to a lesser extent. Reputable manufacturers will follow a stringent process of ‘binning’ – in other words grouping all the LEDs together so that the consumer can be sure that all their light fittings will match in terms light colour temperature. This is why it is important to buy from a quality manufacturer as the slightest variation at the time of installation will only increase over the years – as will your frustration!
Colour Rendering Index
The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) indicates how the colours of an object are reproduced when illuminated by a light source. The sun gives a CRI of 100 and naturally our eyes are adapted to this so in order to perceive a true colour, the closer we get to this figure the better the quality of colour. Details on standard LED’s will often omit this important piece of information but generally over 80 CRI is good. When lighting artwork however, a CRI of over 90 is going to give the best effect and we will normally specify 95+ CRI for this purpose.
How many people have put in LED’s throughout their homes only to realise that they can’t dim them! From any lighting designer’s point of view the one most vital element you need to create the right ambience is dimming. Don’t believe that LED’s won’t dim – they will if you get the right product. However, you need to check that the dimming facility on the driver (transformer) will ‘speak’ to the dimmer that you select. It’s not complicated; it just needs to be verified at the time of specifying.
Are LE’s the answer to our prayers? This remains to be seen. Not enough time has passed yet with the products in the genuine market place to establish whether they are all they are promised to be. It is one thing to test a product in laboratory and yet another to incorporate it into a living environment with all the foibles of modern living. How can you be sure that what you are purchasing is up to the job? Do your research and go for reputable manufacturers, just as you would if you were purchasing a car or another major piece of technology. These lights should be with you for a good number of years and it is best to avoid the frustration and expense of replacing them before they have reached their perceived life span.
If you don’t want to go to the expense of high quality dedicated LED fittings there are some excellent retro fit LED lamps now available and combining these with appropriate fittings can be an effective solution. Again, go for products from good quality manufacturers – check colour, dimming, life and CRI if appropriate and remember the adage “buy cheap, pay twice”!