5 things to consider before buying LED bulbs

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For several years now, the electric lighting industry has been extolling the virtues of LED bulbs over traditional incandescent light bulbs. And with good reason; the advantages of LED bulbs are real and significant: they use less electricity and last far longer than standard incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs have been a tremendous success for well over a century, but they've had their day. LED bulbs win hands down and they're here to stay - at least until something better comes along. However, while most consumers are now aware that LED bulbs are better, there are other considerations to take into account when replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED lighting. Here are five points to be aware of when buying LED bulbs.

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1. Economy

LED bulbs of a particular brightness are more expensive to buy than incandescent bulbs that produce the same level of brightness. They have a much longer lifespan, however, and will need replacing far less frequently than standard incandescent bulbs. Over a period of a few years, the savings made will be real and substantial, but keep in mind that if you're intent on replacing all of your existing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, there will be a more costly outlay to begin with. Once you've made that outlay, however, you can expect the same LED bulbs to still be operating up to 15 or more years later. When you consider how many incandescent bulbs you would need to replace in that time, you'll see that the savings are clearly considerable.

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2. Power and Brightness

LED bulbs are 80%+ energy efficient

LED brightness is measured in LumensThe technology behind LED bulbs provides a much more efficient 'power to brightness' ratio; they draw far less power than their incandescent counterparts for the same amount of brightness, so your electricity bill will be reduced. Both tungsten and LED bulbs have a wattage rating printed on the box, but although we're used to thinking of wattage as an indicator of brightness, it's not strictly accurate, especially in the case of LED bulbs. Wattage is an indicator of the power that the bulb will draw, not the brightness, which is measured in lumens. For LED bulbs of a given wattage, the lumens rating can vary depending on the design and also from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, an incandescent 60 watt bulb typically produces 860 lumens of brightness. An LED bulb producing the same amount of lumens may require anything from five to ten watts of power, so there's no clear way of estimating the brightness of an LED bulb based on its power rating. Fortunately, most manufacturers know that their customers rely on wattage ratings rather than lumens to estimate the brightness required, so they usually provide an equivalent wattage rating that an incandescent bulb would require to produce the same amount of brightness.

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3. Colour

Create the right ambiance with a choice of colour temperature

The colour of the light produced by bulbs is an important factor. Due to a lighting property known as 'colour temperature', the light produced by incandescent bulbs has a soft, comfortable, slightly yellow hue, which makes them suitable and desirable for living rooms and bedrooms. Kitchens and bathrooms, on the other hand, are often fitted with fluorescent lighting for a purer and usually harsher white light, which is more suitable for functional use. Modern 'white light' LEDs now come in a variety of subtle hues, which may be described on the box as soft white, warm white, daylight or any other descriptive name that the manufacturer has come up with. Choose the appropriate colour that provides the lighting ambience you need for the space you're illuminating.


4. Heat Production

Although LED lamps consume less power than traditional incandescent or fluorescent lights, they still do produce heat and are designed with heat sinks in their base to dissipate that heat into the atmosphere. If they are mounted in a tightly enclosed space, however, the heat may not be able to dissipate efficiently, which can shorten the lifetime of the bulb. If you had to replace an LED bulb as often as you would change a burned-out, traditional incandescent bulb, you would be losing money instead of saving money due to the higher cost of replacing an LED bulb. If you need to light a small enclosed space, look for an LED bulb designed for that purpose.

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5. Brightness Control

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Many living rooms and bedrooms fitted with incandescent lights are also fitted with dimmer switches in order to vary the amount of light produced. Dimmer switches have very simple circuitry that enables you to reduce the voltage supplied to the light bulb, which with incandescent bulbs results in an instant and easily controlled reduction in light. Not all LED bulbs, however, work well with dimmer switches that were designed for incandescent lights. LED bulbs have far more complex circuitry and require a specific voltage in order to operate correctly. The result may be that the light will flicker or may not even work at all. There are LED lights that are designed to work with existing dimmer switches, and you should always check the box to see if an LED bulb that you're buying can be dimmed without problems of operation or shortened lifespan. Otherwise it may be necessary to upgrade your existing dimmer switches to those designed for use with LED bulbs. If you need to have LED lighting that can be dimmed, make sure to check the manufacturer's technical data on the box or get advice from a knowledgeable salesperson.

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There's no doubt that LED lighting is the way forward for most domestic and commercial lighting requirements, at least for the foreseeable future. Their advantages definitely outweigh any disadvantages they might have, and as it's still a relatively new technology, ongoing developments may eventually eliminate those disadvantages completely. The low power requirements and greatly extended lifespan of LED bulbs also mean that they're more environmentally friendly. Many governments worldwide, mindful of their international commitments to reduce energy consumption and waste disposal, are increasingly backing the use of LED lighting as an eventual replacement for all incandescent lighting.

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