LED lighting is looking good
When it comes to lighting there is still a lot of confusion as to whether to buy LED or fluorescents. Fluorescents, while affordable and great at saving us money on energy bills, can be toxic to our health, due to ultraviolet rays, the mercury content and their penchant for shattering into a million little pieces if dropped.
To a homeowner shopping for a home, the look of energy saving bulbs is just as important, and up until recently, the look was, by most discerning accounts, not good.
LEDs have plenty of advantages – they use much less energy even than CFLs - being anywhere from 30 up to 60% more efficient; they last a whole lot longer, up to 50,000 hours [as opposed to 10,000 hours], ten years of more of average use; they are far less fragile, being a solid lighting system – no delicate filaments or glass to shatter when the cat sends the lamp flying.
With regard to the cat disaster – we’ve found that the CFLs that we switched over to several years ago almost never have the life span they advertise. If the cat doesn’t knock over the lamp, scattering shards of glass and fragments of mercury under the feet of kids and animals alike, then the all too frequent power surges or power outages put paid to several light bulbs each time – CFLs just don’t like extremes of temperature or being switched off and on too much. LEDs apparently are much more resilient.
The main disadvantage of LED lighting, now that the light quality is every bit as good, and often better than, CFLs, is price. LEDs still cost considerably more than CFLs. Even though LEDs work out to be the cheapest option long term, once you work out their life span and energy savings, it is still quite an initial expense to equip a whole house with LEDs. So the answer is to do your research before you buy.
While prices are coming down, it doesn’t work just to buy the cheapest brand from a supermarket shelf. As with any new technology there are cheaper, lower quality versions that don’t live up to the LED promise, and which are sure to disappoint. You need to inform yourself about the quality brands of LEDs first of all. In South Africa, some of the reliable brands available are CREE, Edison, Bridgelux and Epistar.
Work out your requirements – do you need overhead dangling light bulbs, or spotlights, reading lamps or tube lighting. You will need to read the labels attentively to get an idea of light output, whether it is omni-directional or focused light, warm or cool temperature.
Next compare prices among the better quality brands. You will probably find they vary a lot, so find a specialist supplier that stocks the top brands at a reasonable price. Bargain basement is not a good idea when you are shopping for a product that you hope will last you 10 years or more.
And while replacing every light bulb in the house with LEDs is probably beyond the budget of the average householder, there’s no reason why you can’t commit to buying ,say, one or two LED light bulbs per month and gradually introducing a more sustainable lighting system in your home. That’s our plan at least!