Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Building an extension. A common mistake with the kind of low energy lights you are allowed to use

If you're building a new extension on your home then you will probably be aware that the building inspector will expect you to install a certain amount of energy efficient lights to comply with the regulations. In this short post we won't go in to massive details regarding the regulations but we will highlight an issue that seems to occur quite regularly. 

A previous version of the rules demanded that 25% of all lights in the extension be 40 lumens per circuit watt and only have the ability to take dedicated low energy bulbs. (Read our blog regarding understanding lumens here This basically meant only bulbs with pins (typically like PL bulbs) could be used. This part of the regulations was designed to stop someone from using a low energy bulb when the inspector visited and then changing it for an old fashioned incandescent type after they left.

This was all very good until the technology of low energy products improved that rapidly that the newer more efficient items outpaced the regulations and consequently the lighting products with the greater efficiency no longer complied with the rules. A typical example of this would be the LED GU10 bulbs that used half the power of the then current compact fluorescent versions but didnt comply because they were the same size and shape as the halogen GU10 so they were not a dedicated product. (The irony of course being that as they matched the halogen GU10 the LED version could fit in to a greater number of existing lights).

We would imagine that this would have had a bearing on the newer L1A version of the regulations that changed to specify bulbs needed to be 45 lumens per circuit watt but more importantly that you were now required to install a minimum of 75% of these low energy bulbs however they no longer need to be dedicated. So in effect instead of a quarter of all lights needing to be low energy it is now three quarters but the choice of bulb is much easier to understand & choose & consequently the actual light you install can be a lot more basic with a simple bayonet or screw cap lampholder.

The common mistake mentioned in the title of this post that we see quite regularly is the fact that some homeowners (and even building inspectors) still seem to be following and quoting the old 25% dedicated rule which is now long out of date. So if you're in the middle of, or thinking about, building an extension on your home then make sure you understand the current rules regarding energy efficiency and lighting. You can view the current regulations on the governments planning portal website here 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

How Much Do Low Energy Lamps Save You?

The major headline on most of the tabloid newspapers is the rise in energy bills that will hit us this Autumn/Winter. This is bad news for those of us trying to keep our bills as low as possible it seems like we a facing an uphill battle. The Guardian has commented that electricity prices are expected to rise as much as 30%, this article can be seen here.

It is all well knowing that swapping to a lower wattage bulb will save you money on your bills, however it is less known exactly how much it will save. Our annual Energy Bill has just been renewed so we thought we would compare how much money a low energy bulb would save. The picture below shows the price per KiloWatt hour on our particular price plan.

Obviously everybodys price plan is different however this will give you an idea of how much electricity actually costs and how much can be saved by swapping to low energy bulbs.

Here we can see that there are two different prices, the amount for the first 900 kilowatt hours and then the price after this amount. The prices are excluding VAT so an extra 5% would be added to these prices.

For the purposes of this blog we will use the amount it costs for the first 900 kWh to base our costs on. The particular light bulbs we will use to compare the low energy and halogen versions are GU10 light bulbs which can be found in a wide range of spotlights and recessed ceiling lights. Most households will have at least one fitting with these bulbs in, and many new properties will have a huge amount of them for use in most rooms. After the first 900kWh have been reached, the prices of the following comparisons will then be halved.

4W LED GU10 Lamp
GU10 LED 4 Watt Bulb

On the left we can see two types of GU10 bulbs. The first being the 4 Watt LED version which is exactly the same size as the halogen lamp but looks slightly more futuristic. When the bulb is actually inside the light fitting the only part of the bulb would would see if the front part. These bulbs are designed to last up to 30,000 hours which means they are perfect for light fittings in hard to reach places or somewhere where it may be difficult to access  to change the bulb.
GU10 Halogen Lamp
GU10 Halogen 50 Watt Bulb
Below the LED bulb we can see the standard halogen one that most people have had in their homes for over a decade. These lamps use 50 Watts of power and become extremely hot. This can often lead rooms to becoming very hot in the summer as halogens waste a lot of energy on heat. The heat is also a problem when these lights are installed into recessed downlights as a build up of heat can often cause the bulb to blow prematurely which means another trip back to the shops. With the average life of a Halogen between 2000-4000 hours there is not much comparison to the huge 30,000 hours that LED bulbs last.

The way of working out how much electricity costs you can be varied however we will use the easy way of imagining we have 10 downlights running on one circuit. Many new houses have these in the lounge/bedroom which means when you turn your bedroom lights on you have 10 bulbs running together to give you the light for your room. In some houses the amount of downlights can be split up ie. 4 in the bathroom, 4 in the lounge, 2 in the utility etc. 10 is a nice round number which should be able to make it easier to calculate the total cost.

The Cost of Halogens
If we have 10 fittings with a 50 Watt bulb in each one and these are left on for one hour it would use 500 Watts of energy per hour. This equates to exactly half a kilowatt, therefore costing us 12 pence every hour. Now lets imagine a typical winter day, the lights are switched on from 7am-9am in the case of somebody working close to home. Then at 5:30pm we arrive home in the dark and the lights go back on until 11:30pm when everybody has gone to bed.

Taking this into account the usage is 8 hours and as previously discovered every hour costs 12 pence. Therefore for 8 hours usage per day it is costing 96 pence. Obviously on weekends this will be more, especially on long dark days. So for a Saturday which is cloudy and raining the lights may be on from 7am-11pm, this could be costing £1.92 just for these!

The above calculation is not the whole electricity bill for one day, it is just for these 10 spotlights. When you add into the equation a TV, Fridge Freezer, Microwave, Kettle, Electric Oven and Washing Machine, the price is becoming much higher. Realistically you would not be able to cut the costs of domestic appliances massively so the only real way is the light bulbs you are using. Next we will compare LED's to see how much we will save with the newer technology.

The Cost of LED's

LED bulbs lose very little energy in the way of heat, making them much more efficient. They also last longer and use a huge amount less electricity that halogens. It is true that they do cost slightly more upfront, however as demonstrated above halogens use an awful lot of energy which in the long term will cost a lot of money.

We will use the same scenario as with the halogen lights. An average working winter day with 8 hours usage. Each of the lights are now only 4 Watts, therefore the usage will be 40 Watts per hour. The wattage used per hour has been reduced by 92% and is now only costing 0.0096 (just under 1 pence per hour). On a working day when we use 8 hours electricity, the cost is now only 0.0768 (just under 8 pence per day).

To put it into context, we could leave the LED bulbs on for 12 hours constantly and this would cost as much as leaving the 50 Watt halogens on for one hour! As mentioned previously, on a long dark Saturday the cost of having the LED bulbs on from 7am-11pm would only be 15 pence.

The upfront buying cost of LED's is slightly higher with the 4 Watt ones selling at around £11.00. However we can see that within 6-8 months the money you are saving on your electricity would have payed for the bulbs and after this period the saving will continue for many years. You can view a ranger of LED GU10 bulbs here


We have seen that there is a considerable saving to be made by switching to LED bulbs and the saving is instant. Just to re-cap the below text contains the comparisons between the LED GU10 bulbs and the Halogen light bulbs.

GU10 Halogen                                            GU10 LED
50 Watts                                                        4 Watts
12 Pence per Hour                                       0.9 Pence per Hour
96 Pence per 8 hours usage                       8 Pence per 8 Hours Usage
2000-4000 hour lifetime                               30,000 hour life time

We hope this has given you some insight into how much cheaper low energy LED light bulbs can make your bills. Remember the GU10 fittings was only an example, there are plenty of other types of bulb fitting that can be swapped for low energy including GLS Bulbs, Candle Bulbs, MR16 bulbs, the list goes on. You may also be interested in our blog post comparing the differences between halogen, CFL & LED GU10 bulbs which can be found here or our post where we discuss how the electricity companies may be reacting to low energy bulbs in your energy bills here

If you would like any more information then please just ask.

Thank You for reading.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

You dont have to save the world, changing a few key bulbs to low energy could make all the difference

Our blog tends to concentrate on energy efficient lighting issues but we also like to read similar interesting blogs that focus on greener living as well. Earlier this evening I came across this useful blog Making your home greener by allrenewables that focussed on general tips for energy saving around the home and it got me thinking about the simple things that we can do that could make all the difference to your energy bills & your carbon footprint.

As I read the blog I started to look at the lighting I had in my lounge & dining room. It became clear quite quickly that each different light had a very different role to play from each other. There is a standing lamp in the corner of the lounge (loaded with a low energy cfl lamp) & a halogen ceiling light. As we like ambient light in our living room we usually opt for the standing lamp to be illuminated to give us a warm glow where as the ceiling light is rarely used.

In the dining room we have 4 low energy cfl downlights in the ceiling and 2 LED GU10 picture lights on the wall. If we analysed these 4 types of light we can deduce that the standard lamp is used to provide an overall light and is active for most of the evening, where as the ceiling light is off. The picture lights are active for most of the evening and provide more ambient light, but the downlights are off unless we are eating at the table.

The light fittings that are used for large amounts of time have low energy lamps in them where as the occasional lights tend to have the costly halogens. This makes complete sense. The same would apply to areas like bathrooms or landings if they need to be illuminated throughout the night.

I guess the point I am trying to make in this short post is that you don't have to try & save the world by changing every light in your home to a low energy version. But making the smart choice and changing just a few key ones could make all the difference!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Halogen V LED V CFL

Halogen V CFL V LED

It seems the low energy lighting industry is changing week on week. Originally the next great thing to replace the halogen GU10 would be the CFL (compact fluorescent) version. No sooner had these been introduced it seemed the next stage of bulb evolution was already forming in the shape of the LED GU10. It took the LED a while to reach a decent enough standard but now it seems it is finally there.

So I thought it would be a good time to compare these 2 technologies against the original halogen. After all it is a bit of a minefield trying to choose what is best when buying bulbs (or lamps). There is so much to consider. Where are these bulbs going to be fit? Are they for downlights, spotbars, wall lights? Are they for decorative purposes or for proper illumination? Will the lights be left on for a long time or will they be occasionally activated?

First things first lets start by comparing the 3 physical shapes of the bulbs

On the left is the original Halogen GU10 (similar in size and shape to the 12V equivalent) This type of bulb has been around for a long time and a large percentage of spotbars and downlights (including the ones probably in your own home) and designed to accommodate this type of bulb. You can see from the image that the LED GU10 in the middle is very similar in size to the halogen. This makes it quite easy to replace exisiting halogen GU10s with the LED versions. They should fit fine in to most recessed downlights and spotbars. The CFL version on the right is a physically longer bulb. The diameter may be the same as the Halogen and the LED but the length is longer (some lower wattage CFL bulbs have a smaller length but the 11w, which is the closest to a normal light output, is the same length as the comparison above) This means that quite often you cant simply replace existing halogen GU10s with CFL versions. They stick out of spotbars making them look unsightly and existing recessed downlights dont often have the room inside to accommodate the extra length of the bulb. Recessed downlights that accommodate CFL bulbs are usually designed to allow them to fit (they are longer than normal recessed downlights). Dont make the mistake of buying CFL GU10s and assuming they will fit your current downlights in your ceiling. You may be disappointed.

Power consumption
The typical Halogen GU10 is a 50W. This means it uses 50W of electricity. This figure has nothing to do with light output (I know we have all grown up associating wattage with how bright a bulb is but this has always actually been wrong) Use the wattage of a bulb as a guide to how much power you are using (and therefore how much money it will cost you to run it). A typical LED GU10 will be anywhere from 3w to 7w. The standard CFL GU10 will be around 11w. The Halogen is 50W. This gives you a good idea on the cost of running the 3 bulbs. The LED should be cheapest followed by the CFL then followed way behind by the Halogen. Now think how many bulbs you currently run and you can soon see how much power you are using (and therefore how much money you are paying to light your home). Of course what can put some people off is the....

Price of each bulb
A typical halogen GU10 can cost you anywhere from £1.00 to £5.00. The LED can cost from £10.00 to £25.00. The CFL from £6.00 to £18.00. The cost of both the LED & CFL has always been a factor in putting some people off from changing to this technology. If you are trying to make an informed choice you need to try and look beyond this (I know its hard, especially if you have a lot of bulbs to replace). The way to look at it is the 5w LED uses a tenth of the power and therefore costs a tenth of the price to run than a halogen. Calculate this over a period of a few months and you can see that you very quickly make back the money they cost in savings on your electricity bill.

Light Output
The light output of the 3 examples above are all measured in Lumens. The 50w halogen emits around 800 lumens of light output. The LED emits around 400 lumens and the CFL emits around 240 lumens. The halogen is the brightest followed by the LED and then the CFL. It is therefore a good idea to over-estimate the number of recessed spotlights you may install if using the LED or CFL options to ensure you have enough light output.

Can they be dimmed?
All 3 types can be dimmed however you should be aware that both the LED & CFL bulbs must be purchased as dimmable versions (there are plenty of non-dimmable versions out there). If you require dimmable LEDs and CFLs then make sure they say they are dimmable before buying. The halogens are always dimmable. Another little thing to consider is the actually dimmer you will be using. Bear in mind that the dimmer will have a minimum wattage it can handle (in the same way that it has a maximum wattage as well). If the dimmer switch says the minimum wattage shouldn't be less than 10w then you wouldn't be able to run a single 5w LED GU10 on the switch. This does catch people out from time to time.

Warm or cool white?
Both the LEDs and the CFLs are usually available in both cool and warm white. The cool white option usually gives off slightly more light output but the warm white has a more inviting glow (unless the clinical style of the cool white is what you are trying to achieve).

Heat output
The Halogen will get extremely hot when operated to the point where it will burn your skin upon contact. The CFL is much cooler and will allow you to touch the bulb which will appear warm but shouldn't burn your fingers. The LED will be completely cold on the front when operated and this is often what attracts people to LED however you should bear in mind that LEDs do generate plenty of heat and this is all released through the back of the bulb which will get very hot. 

Speed of full brightness?
The Halogen will emit full brightness the instant the light switch is activated. The LED version will also do this as well. The CFL uses a technology that requires the bulb to heat the gasses inside to reach full brightness. This can take anywhere from 5 - 20 seconds though once fully illuminated it should stay like this for the rest of the night if switched on or off.

All in all it is important to decide which type of bulb is best for your environment. The traditional halogen GU10 is expensive to run and not suitable for areas that require constant light (such as a bathroom during the night or a landing). There is also the real possibility that they may be fazed out in the coming years in the same way that many incandescent bulbs are at the moment. If at all possible I think it is probably best to avoid halogens. CFLs offered a good alternative to halogens but the technology has limitations. Problems with dimming and lower light outputs combined with larger physical size make it an outdated solution. LED appears to be the future of the lighting industry. Improving light outputs with an ever decreasing cost of purchase combined with a much smaller running cost point to the best solution

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Understanding Watts & Lumens

We have always been familiar with a lightbulbs wattage. To most of us this signified how bright the bulb was. We could purchase 40w, 60w, 100w and we pretty much knew what kind of bulb we were getting. This however was not strictly true. The wattage of a bulb (or lamp as it is called in the industry) pretty much actually denotes the power consumption of the bulb. A 100w bulb is brighter than a 60W because it uses 40w more power to operate. The 100w did not refer to a particular brightness. The light output of bulbs has always been measured in lumens (though you couldn't tell this as it was never really displayed anywhere on the bulb itself or the box). With the invention of low energy bulbs, the lumen output is now very important.

It can still be very confusing for someone to compare 2 similar bulbs (one being a 50w halogen and the other being a 5w led) and yet both have the same light output. The wattages indicate to us that the 5w bulb uses far less power (and costs you less on your energy bill). What we actually need to compare is the luminosity of both bulbs to determine how similar they are. If the 50w version is 400 lumens and the 5w version is 380 lumens then we know both are very similar in light output.

New regulations now stipulate that manufacturers must indicate a bulbs lumen output on the packaging so next time you go to buy a light bulb, take a moment to compare the lumens from your standard bulb to a low energy equivalent. It may just save you a small fortune on your energy bill.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Can you afford not to consider Low Energy Lighting?

When it comes to low energy lighting there tends to be a couple of reasons to change over to energy efficient products. One is to help the environment. The other is to save some money on your electricity bill. Sometimes it's both but usually one or the other is the driving force behind the change. Lets face it simply changing a few bulbs can have a massive effect on your energy usage. Recently I changed 2 GU10 lamps in my picture lights from standard 50w halogens to 4w LED GU10s. The outlay didn't hurt my wallet too badly and the light output was pretty much the same. This got me thinking about the electrical companies who provide our energy. These companies are businesses and every business thrives for profit. If that company was charging me a set amount to run my picture lights (that totalled 100w) before and now they are charging me for 8w of power then obviously this is a 92% decrease in my power usage and thus what they can charge me for. Now imagine half the people in my street did the same. This has been happening now for quite a few years. As we continue to replace our traditional bulbs with more and more low energy light bulbs the energy companies have been losing more and more turnover & profits. Or have they? It seems to me that when we hear how the energy companies have increased their charges again and how they have made massive profits nobody questions whether these charges have been increased to cover the loss in chargeable power we use. If for example my energy company used to charge me £50 a year to run those picture lights then suddenly i only use enough power to be charged £4, they aren't going to stand for that. The logical thing to do is increase your charges so now those lights cost £10.00 a year to run (which doesn't sound bad however consider you are now paying more for each watt of power you use, therefore they are more profitable). Still doesn't sound bad does it? Well now consider the other half of my street who didn't change any of their lamps to low energy lighting. They're still using their traditional incandescents and halogens. They're using the same energy tariffs as I am only now they like me are paying more for each watt of power they use. And remember they're not using 8w to power they're picture lights but 100w. Imagine what a difference that makes to your bill. Yes helping the environment is a very worthwhile reason to switch. But at a time where things are tight, can you afford not to consider low energy lighting? Can you afford to be left behind?


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