Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Economics of LED Bulbs

My friend Francis Mahon is on a mission. By trade, Francis is an "oil man", but he sees his future as being in sustainable, low-energy alternatives. As we drove around my home area, Francis was pointing at shops filled with halogen bulbs and at photovoltaic and solar water heating arrays.

Often, he just walks into a shop or pub and chats to the manager, then follows up with a spreadsheet showing the economics of a full refit with LED bulbs, which he then supplies and fits himself. Not a living yet, but every little helps - the planet, that is.

This weekend, after fitting out our bathroom in bright, pure-white LED bulbs, we went out to buy a new light fitting for the kitchen that would take these GU10, 240V 5W LEDs instead of the MR16 12V 25W halogen ones I have been using, that need a mini-power station cooking away behind them - the heavy, inefficient transformer unit.

Taking five times less power, the kitchen is now even brighter than the bathroom - indeed, so bright now, that we're going to have to install dimmable bulbs and an LED dimmer switch instead.

The light fitting we bought came with old-school halogens, and Francis told me simply to drop them into the recycling station - new and unused! It's just not right to put them back into the market in any way and thereby cost both the purchaser and the planet unnecessarily.

I haven't checked out the maths, but Francis assures me that it's always economically better for you to change all your bulbs to LED right now - not to wait until they pop - even if you've just put new ones in, or got new ones with the light fitting, as I had.

Roughly speaking, the benefits are: brighter, whiter, broader light; 5-10 times less power consumption, 10-30 times longer life and thus half the replacement cost at current unit prices - although that will certainly be significantly less by the time you need to change them 5 or 20 years from now.

You can buy new bulbs online for a couple of quid. I'm already half way there, but I plan to go all-LED this year: the only thing that will delay me is the need for new fittings and LED dimmer switches, and my search for bright, IoT-ready RGB bulbs.

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