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WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURCHASING LED BULBS
On the whole the change is easy and is just a question of selecting a suitable LED bulb to replace a standard, candle or globe bulb or GU50 down light. As well as understanding the points above there are few pitfalls to watch out for.
Check what you are buying: Some stores have been selling low cost low wattage LEDs which whilst decorative don't provide enough light to replace bulbs used to illuminate rooms or read by. Use the table above as a guide.
Dimming LEDs: Whilst LEDs can be dimmed most LEDs sold are not dimmable. If you require dimmable LEDs you'll need to purchase LEDs designed to be dimmed AND change the dimmer control for one designed to work with LEDs - most dimmers used with standard bulbs won't work with LEDs. We've also found that the LED bulbs and dimmers have to be matched to ensure successful dimming.
Low Voltage Bulbs: Low voltage halogen bulbs (MR16 fittings) often found in down lighters, can only be switched to LED if a wound transformer is in use. If the fitting is powered by an electronic power supply (typically a small box) then the chances are LED bulbs won't work properly. The best bet is to move away from low voltage down lighters to 230-volt bulbs using GU50 fittings, which don't need a power supply.
Bulbs Sizes: Most standard bulbs can be replaced with an LED. Some LEDs including standard, down lighter and candle bulbs can be larger (usually longer) so if available space for example in a flush light fitting is critical then check the LED size before buying or specify a smaller bulb type.
World Of Electricals Bulb Colour Temperature Chart
We are used to the light from our household bulbs being a yellowish colour as shown below. This is typically a 'colour temperature' of around 2700 to 3000 degrees Kelvin (K). LEDs are available in a range of colour temperatures but we generally recommend sticking with a colour temperature of around 3000K. A higher figure of 4000K provides a whitish moonlight type colour. 6000K is more like daylight but can seem glaring in the home
World Of Electricals Lumens Chart
We are all familiar with the concept of thinking of light bulb brightness in terms of their wattage. In reality the wattage refers to the power the light bulb consumes rather than the light given off. LEDs use only a fraction of the power to produce the same amount of lights as the old bulbs so it's better to start thinking in terms of lumens, which are a measure of the amount of visible light.
The table below shows the approximate comparison for differing bulb types.
Simply put - they use less energy and save you money
LED lighting has already transformed commercial lighting and is coming to transform our homes, saving vast amounts of energy and resulting in substantially lower household bills. LEDs illuminate instantly, use around 90% less energy than traditional bulbs and have a long life of typically 25,000 hours.
Around 15% of electricity expenditure is on lighting. Changing just one traditional incandescent (standard) 60 watt light bulb, in use for 4 hours a day will save you upwards of £50 on your bill over five years; 10 bulbs = £500. After accounting for bulb and fitting costs it's still over £40 per bulb. A household changing ten bulbs should save at least £350 over five years. And this assumes electricity prices don't increase.
Savings are nearly as much when replacing halogen bulbs, which offer only around 10% improved efficiency compared with a standard bulb; they also use the old fashioned technology of heating up a wire to give off light. For many people convenience is also a factor. LED bulbs last for typically 25,000 hours of use, far exceeding old technology. It makes changing bulbs an infrequent occurrence. This all makes so much sense that the Government is doing its bit by phasing out the sale of incandescent bulbs (nearly complete) with a broad range of halogens due to be phased out shortly.
NB - technical people call light bulbs 'lamps' and light fittings 'luminaires'. We'll stick with the term 'bulb'
What are dichroic lamps?
The term ‘dichroic lamp’ almost always refers to low-voltage halogen spotlights. The interior surface of these lights is designed as a multifaceted reflector (MR), with the purpose of gathering up the widespread light of the burning tungsten filament and projecting it forward through the front of the lamp.
Invariably the surface of this reflector is manufactured in one of two ways; it’ll either have an opaque aluminium coating or a dichroic coating. The purpose of an aluminium coating is uncomplicated: it projects as much light as possible forward without discriminating between visible light and invisible UV or IR radiation, either of which can potentially be harmful.
A dichroic coating is essentially a thin layer of non-metallic film, sometimes referred to as interference film, which reflects visible light from the filament forward whilst filtering infrared radiation and allowing it to pass through the back of the lamp. Since IR radiation is a significant source of heat, the net effect of this is to make the beam much cooler.
When buying or installing a dichroic lamp you first have to ensure that the light fitting or lamp-holder can dissipate the back-firing heat. Any recessed or enclosed luminaires that cannot accommodate such a lamp should be marked with the IEC 605598 ‘No Cool Beam’ symbol. If your light fitting is labelled in this way you’ll need an aluminium reflector lamp.
The beam of a dichroic lamp is significantly cooler than other halogen spotlights, which extends its usefulness drastically for displaying heat-sensitive objects such as paintings, photos, leather goods, food, and wine. One such lamp is the superb Osram Decostar Energy Saving Halogen MR16 51S, which uses a dichroic coating to reduce heat in the beam by a remarkable 66%. This lamp further manipulates IR radiation with IRC technology, which reflects infrared heat back onto the filament to increase energy efficiency.
A second potential benefit of a dichroic coating is that it can be used to remove longer [redder] wavelengths of the visible spectrum to create a halogen spotlight with an unusually cool temperature. This has some appeal, because it’s ordinarily uncommon for a filament lamp to output anything other than a warm light, but there is a trade-off in colour accuracy and a lower CRI score. Most dichroic lamps, like the great-quality Philips Accentline Halogen GU5.3 Spotlight, remove only IR radiation and maintain their maximum CRI 100 rating for colour rendering.
Low-voltage MR11 or MR16 halogen dichroic lamps have other inherent advantages that complement their IR filtering properties admirably. With a relatively compact filament they are optically very controllable with minimal spill light, and deliver a focused, crisp beam. What’s more, they’re very affordable, and rarely more so than with the bargain-priced Lyco Halogen MR16, which is dimmable, highly colour-accurate, and might last you two or three years – all for mere pence! For mood-enhancing effect you might try some multi-coloured accent lighting with Lyco’s glass-fronted Colour Halogen MR16s.
Other forms of dichroic lamp
Though dichroic lamps are mostly low-voltage, they can occasionally be found as mains spotlights. The common GU10 reflector is really an MR16 lamp with a ‘twist and lock’ 240V mains-connectable base. Cool-beam versions of the GU10 can be found with a dichroic coating, although they are known as ‘GZ10’ lamps. Lyco sells the dimmable Sylvania Hi-Spot ES50 Halogen GZ10, for instance, which is a great choice of mains-powered spotlighting around heat-sensitive objects. Again, great care needs to be taken in ensuring this lamp is installed into a fitting with sufficient heat dissipation.
The future of cool-beam halogen
The very need to handle unwanted heat in a lamp is, of course, indicative of poor energy-efficiency, and that places dichroic lamps in something of a precarious position. In Australia the common low-voltage 50W MR16 has already been subject to a phase-out, and there have been one or two reports in the UK of its imminent European demise. When this does come to fruition – and it seems only a matter of time – it is believed the more energy efficient IR-reflecting and Xenon-filled 12V halogen spotlights will remain available (the Osram Decostar previously highlighted being an example).
MR16 lamps have existed for over 30 years, and the threat of their extinction has caused some disquiet among lighting designers worldwide. With the more energy-efficient models seemingly safe for at least another three years or more, we might in that time expect LED alternatives to have been further improved and for their prices to have finally toppled. In the meantime, you can still reap the benefits of a crisp, bright, vivid, colourful, pretty cool halogen source of light!
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