Bright idea

‘My LED bulbs save £400 a year’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE - How have you cut your en­ergy bill? Get in touch: olivia.rudgard@ tele­graph.co.uk

House­hold bills

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’

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