‘My LED bulbs save £400 a year’
Britain’s exit from the EU will mean the end of Brussels’ attempts to make UK households install energyefficient light bulbs. But one couple’s experiences show why such bulbs are still worth bothering with – even if older types are still available.
Pete and Linda Powell said they had saved £400 a year after they switched almost all the bulbs in their house to LEDs.
The retired couple, from Skipton in Yorkshire, switched their bulbs from low-energy halogen bulbs three years ago.
The bulbs, which were mostly bought over the internet, cost an average of £5 each and the couple spent a total of £500 to buy and install them. The swap has saved them £100 each quarter, meaning that they have saved around £700 in total so far.
Their five-bedroom house now costs just £700 a year to heat and light – less than half the average annual bill for gas and electricity of £1,344.
Mr Powell, 70, said: “We’re pensioners now, so any money we can save is very important. We were astounded at how much we were saving thanks to the bulbs.
“They look no different to what was taken out – they’re perhaps a little whiter than before, but there’s not a huge difference.”
The bulbs are considerably more efficient than old-style incandescent bulbs. This is because they work completely differently.
Incandescent bulbs lose a lot of energy as heat because they work by passing a current through a filament, which then gets hot and produces light. This makes them highly inefficient. LEDs, by contrast, do not emit as much heat and use a lot less energy.
What to look out for
LED bulbs used to have a bad reputation because of a perception that they emitted either dim light or light that was too bright and harsh.
But a much wider variety of bulbs is now available, including options for softer, more yellow light as well as the bluer light that many associate with LEDs.
Look at the “correlated colour temperature”, which is measured in kelvins. The lower this figure, the warmer the light emitted by the lamp. Around 2,700 kelvins is roughly the level emitted by incandescent bulbs, while 6,000 kelvins is a level of brightness similar to daylight.
However, as LEDs have become more popular and new manufacturers have entered the market, many bulbs are now less well-made, less reliable and likely to fail more quickly.
Manufacturers claim that bulbs should last up to 25,000 or even 50,000 hours, but some studies have found that cheaper bulbs fail much more quickly.
A study by Which?, the consumer group, found that almost a third of bulbs that were claimed to last more than 15,000 hours failed before 10,000.
Get your money’s worth by sticking to well-known brands, such as Philips or Osram, said Ian Fursland of the Lamp Company, a lighting provider.
“There’s this huge trend and excitement for LEDs. But it means that sometimes the quality is horrific. There are LEDs out there that last less time than a halogen bulb,” he said.
“I’m desperate to get people to realise that when they’re buying LEDs, they want to look beyond the price – because of efficiency, but also because of safety.
“Poor-quality light bulbs can cause fires. If you put a poor-quality LED in an enclosed light fitting, it can get hot and cause a fire hazard.”
How to buy the right bulbs
LED bulbs have much lower wattages than halogen or incandescent bulbs. While people are familiar with the standard 40W, 60W, 75W and 100W bulb ratings, they may be less comfortable with judging the wattage of an LED bulb.
The standard method is to divide the wattage of a traditional bulb by 10 to get an LED bulb that produces the same amount of light. This rule of thumb is roughly correct, although there are slight variations.
However, the wattage isn’t
Pete Powell’s heat and light bill is now half the annual average
actually the important measure for working out the brightness of the bulb. Instead it’s better to look at the “lumens” measure. This represents the actual amount of light emitted by a bulb. LED bulbs can generate a much higher number of lumens for a given wattage.
For example, a 40W incandescent bulb produces 380-460 lumens, while a 5W LED candelabra bulb generates 400 lumens. Tables showing a more detailed comparison can be found in the online version of this story at telegraph.co.uk/ bills-and-utilities.
You can get LED bulbs for screw, bayonet and pin fittings. These bulbs look the same as a standard halogen or classic bulb.
Candelabra and round bulbs are available online for between £5 and £10, depending on wattage.
But there are also low-wattage alternatives to traditional bulbs such as LED “tape” – a string of tiny bulbs on a strip of plastic – which the Powells use under their kitchen cabinets.
This means that what was previously a 40W fitting now uses just 2W. We found this tape online at a price of £14 for five metres.
The Powells’ hefty savings are partly down to their large house and lighting arrangements. Experts say the largest energy expenditure in most households is on the fridge and freezer. But considerable savings can still be made through more efficient lighting.
The Powells replaced about 50 bulbs and have numerous chandelier-type fittings, each with a handful of bulbs.
But calculations by the Energy Saving Trust found that the average household would spend £100 replacing all their bulbs and could save £35 a year. Previous calculations by Telegraph Money found that a typical retired
‘There’s this trend for LEDs. But it means that sometimes the quality is horrific’