I have always thought of LED lighting as those colourful, sticky strips of light that can be tacked under shelves or up stairs. That is until I was searching for lighting for my new kitchen. I wanted something minimal and bright to light up the units and worktop for cooking, and I assumed halogen spotlights were the way to go. But after a little bit of research I soon discovered that you could get the same effect with LEDs – bright, focused light with a warm and inviting colour in a multitude of shapes and designs.
At first I was a little confused why you couldn’t change the built-in bulbs in the lighting track I had chosen – when I had halogen lights I was changing the bulbs every few months. Then I learnt, why would you need to change them, when they can last 20,000 hours, some 50,000 hours. That’s 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs and around 8 times longer than halogen. LEDs can last years, never mind months. Not only that, they’re far more energy efficient too, consuming up to 85% less energy, and in the process reducing those electricity bills.
In fact, if the whole of Europe switched over to LEDs, we could save the equivalent of Portugal’s annual electricity consumption each year and cut carbon emissions by 15.2 million tonnes by 2025. That’s a lot! So it’s a no brainer, right? Sometimes it’s harder to put into practice and as I’m still a little new to all this, I put some questions to UK-based LED lighting experts John Cullen to learn more about the benefits, cost savings and design options out there. Here, senior designer Rebecca Crawford has some great tips for choosing LEDs and getting the most out of them.
Why choose LED’s, can you tell us about the benefits?
LEDs have improved dramatically over the last few years and are finally at a stage where they can be specified for use throughout the house and garden. They no longer have the negatives we once associated with them, such as the cold blue colours, feeble light output, and a depressing flat lighting effect which produces a very white light, and areas such as colour consistency are improving.
Using LEDs will save money on your energy bills; some of our fittings are as little as 1W instead of the old tungsten halogen versions being 20W! They also require less maintenance as they will last longer than the old tungsten halogen versions; around 50,000 hours as opposed to halogen’s 2,500 to 4,000 hours. There is also no flicker or warm-up time when turning on LEDs.
You do still need to select your LEDs carefully to ensure good colour rendition (CRI or Colour Rendering Index is an indication of how accurate a “given” light source is at rendering colour when compared to daylight on a scale of 1-100. The higher the CRI, the better the colour rendering ability, look for CRI over 90), dimming control, colour consistency and heat management to preserve the longevity of the LED.
Jargon buster: LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are miniature light sources that offer increased efficiency, longer lifetime and virtually no infrared or UV emissions by using semi-conductor technology.
Aside from those thin LED strips, what other applications or designs are out there?
LEDs are so small that they can be used almost anywhere. We use them to create layers of light.
In a home, for example, in addition to ceiling recessed downlights to create general light, they can be used to add a linear glow under a breakfast bar or to light a bookshelf, spotlight a piece of artwork or sculpture, uplight doorways and fireplaces, within pendants as a decorative feature above a table and wall lights for the main light within a property.
LEDs are great used in a garden or on a roof terrace as they are low heat so won’t burn your foliage and are low cost to run. This allows you to transform your outdoor space into a magical and even more functional area at a fraction of the cost.
Fact: LEDs can save you around £450 a year in savings. For example, if a home’s halogen consumption is 3,180W (say a one-bedroom flat), an equivalent LED that consumes 500W could save a household £245/year. A two-bedroom house may consume 5,880W with halogen lights, but with LEDs it would consume 958W and therefore £450 across a year. *Example calculation based on 2.5 hours usage per day
What are the easiest ways to integrate LEDs into the home without costing a fortune or completing changing a room’s decor?
The simplest way would be to integrate the wonderful new LED squirrel lamps such as those from Tala into decorative pendants or table lamps. They have been designed to look identical to the familiar warmth of an original filament bulb, but without the same wastage of energy.
How can LEDs be used to transition a room from daytime to night?
Using LED strip within joinery is a fabulous way of adding drama into a living room. Ensure you install them on a dimmer switch so you can have them brighter during the day when you require more light in the room. At night they can be dimmed down to can create a wonderful glow to enhance the space and show off your ornaments and books, changing the space from mundane to marvellous.
Beam Angles: narrow beam angles can be used to uplight pillars, arches and doors or for pinspotting the centre of a dining room table. Medium beam angles can be used for artwork, cabinets and cupboards, while wide beam angles are best for kitchen units, larger surfaces and whole rooms.
What’s the best way to add focused task lighting?
A free standing light is always going to provide the best option for additional task lighting. A decorative table light might suffice however if you are using one, consider a more translucent shade to create a stronger more diffuse light. Alternatively, there are excellent direct task lights which are ideal to read by such as our Pocket of Light.
Where do you think LED lighting can go in the future?
LEDs are getting smaller and more powerful. At John Cullen, we have always strived to create subtle yet dramatic lighting scenes and a lot of that is controlled by how the fittings themselves minimise glare. The quality of the light is always increasing and will therefore allow us to light works of art with minimal risk of damage.
What styles can we see coming up in 2017?
With decorative lighting there is a definite trend for finishes with warm metal tones. Copper, rose gold and bronze are huge. For the LEDs within them, the squirrel cage LED is still big on trend but the LED retrofits are emerging as better quality and more reliable within the home.
Thank you Rebecca! I hope that has helped de-jargon the world of LED lighting a little better and provide some useful advice. I personally had no idea that you could buy those beautiful, Edison, filament-style bulbs with LED technology, let alone the wide array of options out there. And with mains voltage halogen lamps scheduled to be phased out by September 2018, there’s never been a better time to switch to LED lighting. Will you be, or perhaps you already have? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you…