Thanks to strict government regulations, inefficient lighting in homes has quickly becoming a thing of the past. While compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have been around for a while, the far more efficient technology of LED lighting is now cheap enough to justify an upgrade. But which brands offer the best efficiency?
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There are two main considerations to take into account when you're buying new light bulbs -- primarily how much power they'll consume, and also how long they'll last. Combining these will give you a total cost for the entire life of the product.
LEDs have very long life spans -- typically over 20,000 hours for the best of the best bulbs, although cheaper ones may be rated to somewhat shorter lengths. That 20,000 hour figure equates to over 10 years at five hours per day of use -- extremely long in comparison to both CFLs and traditional incandescent globes. It’s also important to note that lifespan actually is not until the LED will fail, but when it reaches 70 per cent of the original brightness.
That said, like any electronic product, LED lights can still fail from other faults and stop working. Warranties vary, with ranges from a year up to five or more.
According to figures from the government, lighting represents on average around 12 per cent of the energy usage from households, and about 25 per cent of energy usage of the country's commercial sector. To help reduce these numbers, government introduced energy efficiency standards for lighting products in houses starting way back in 2009, and also has standards for commercial and public lighting.
In terms of efficiency, any bulbs that produce less than 15 lumens per Watt are not allowed to be sold. That's fine, becaused LED bulbs generally have better than 50 lumens per Watt efficiency. Some halogen globes can just scrape in, though the most common type of light are CFLs and everybody knows the older incandescents.
In this case, lumens just mean the amount of light outputted. Different bulbs can output different amounts of light for the same power input due to varying efficiency. Not all manufacturers list lumens either, so it can be hard to compare.
As a rough guide, a high quality 25W incandescent gives about 200 lumens of light, a 40W around 400 lumens, a 60W around 600 lumens, and a 75W about 1000 lumens.
Also Read: LIFX Wi-Fi LED Bulb Review: Work In Progress
Let’s face it: LED light bulbs are cool. They’re much more energy efficient than incandescent globes, they have better colour than fluorescents, and they start up nearly instantly. Fancy bulbs like the Philips Hue have red-green-blue LEDs, too, that can change their colour to create impressive and dynamic scenes, with Wi-Fi control. The LIFX is one of those fancy bulbs.
An Efficiency Comparison
A traditional 60 Watt incandescent light uses 60 Watts of power -- of which up to 90 per cent can be wasted as heat, instead of being converted into light. Other technologies such as LEDs, CFLs and halogens convert power into light with greater efficiency and less waste heat.
At five hours of use per day, a 60 Watt incandescent bulb uses around $27 of power per year (at an average electricity rate of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, or kWh).
In comparison, an LED globe of similar brightness uses around $5 of electricity a year.
These days, with LEDs available at similar prices to CFLs, the choice is a no brainer. LEDs generally have at least double the rated lifespan of CFLs, while being slightly more efficient and producing a higher colour rendering index, or CRI.
CFLs also have a few undesirable aspects -- such as taking time to reach full brightness, having a shorter life is turned on and off a lot and not generally being dimmable. They also contain mercury, so should (but are not always) disposed of correctly.
As imperfect as they might still be for the average, everyday, regular user, Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs are still a thing that won’t quit. The Philips Hue range is one of the best out there at the moment, with a high quality globe backed by a solid open-source wireless standard and a useful and versatile mobile app. There’s more than just a standard globe available, though — Philips’ two Friends Of Hue devices are two add-on variants that don’t exactly change the entire philosophy of your Hue devices, but that add a little more versatility in where you might want to place them around your house or office.
Advice For Buying LED Globes
We have rounded up a comparison of the major LED bulbs currently available from stores in Australia. If we've missed any, feel free to tell us in the comments. There are a few other bulbs out there that are either very expensive, not commonly sold or that are frankly cheap junk that we have excluded from the list.
Avoid buying your LEDs from cheap overseas suppliers. There are plenty of poor quality knock off products out there that have limited lifespan and dubious safety.
Double check what fitting you need -- LED bulb come in most of the standard types, but some of the more rare sizes can be hard to find.
Decide what colour temperature you want. Traditional incandescent bulbs give a very warm light, while many LEDs tend towards a whiter colour. These days you can get a range of colour temperatures.
Look out for extra functionality, such as Wi-Fi connectivity and colour changing globes.
Also Read: A Beginner's Guide To Smart Lights
Gone are the days when a light bulb had a hot filament that came on when you flicked a heavy switch. Today’s smart lights offer flexibility, security and real cost savings. But how do you get started?
LED Bulbs Available Now
Comparing LED lights is somewhat tricky -- every manufacturer has a slightly different model and luminosity rating available. We tried to compare roughly 60W equivalent globes where possible -- this is roughly 600 lumens, but many bulbs are slightly more or less, so there's a little leeway in the numbers.
The key efficiency number is the amount of lumens produced per Watt -- higher numbers are better. Of course, two 8W LEDs still cost the same to run, even if one is slightly brighter, so you don’t save any money unless you get the same brightness with fewer Watts.
The numbers are also very small -- often under 50 cents a year. Across the entire lifespan of the LED this can add up but is not enough to worry too much about. All the LEDs we featured are quite close in efficiency.
That said, LED lifespan is a bit tricky -- anything over about 20,000 hours (10 years at 5 hours a day) is probably a moot point, not to mention a bit of an unknown. An assumption of at least 5 years life is a good starting point. At this sort of lifespan, the purchase cost dominates the savings from efficiency differences.
We also included a cost to run the LED bulb for 1000 hours and a lumen per dollar of cost as a further comparison.
Phillips has one of the largest ranges of LEDs lights available. You can also get them in a number of locations, such as supermarkets and your local Bunnings.
The Philips LEDs are some of the most efficient available and will easily save their added cost across their lifespan. The Philips LEDs tend to offer a lower life than some of the other manufacturers.
Dimmable: Yes Lumens: 600 Wattage: 7.5 Watts Price: $11.99 Lumens Per Watt: 80 Lifespan: 15,000 hours
Cost to run 1000H: $1.87 Lumens Per $: 50
Ikea has a huge range of LEDs, from low to high power and for a number of different socket types. They offer very affordable prices, with decent efficiency ratings. The Ikea bulbs also have excellent run times.
Dimmable: Yes Lumens: 600 Wattage: 8 Watts Price: $8.99 Lumens Per Watt: 75 Lifespan: 25,000 hours
Cost to run 1000H: $2 Lumens Per $: 67
The verbatim LEDs come in a range of wattages, but we focused on the 530 lumen model. While this is slightly dimmer than some of the 60W equivalent competition, the Verbatim outputs this light from just 6 watts of power use.
This makes it one of the most efficient LEDs available, if you are ok with a slightly reduced brightness. One downside is that it is not dimmable.
Dimmable: No Lumens: 530 Wattage: 6 Watts Price: $11.95 Lumens Per Watt: 88 Lifespan: 20,000 hours
Cost to run 1000H: $1.5 Lumens Per $: 44
A slightly more limited range compared to the competition, OSRAM has a slightly higher powered LED listed as a 60W equivalent.
The OSRAM LEDs have excellent life span for an affordable price. They will cost slightly more to run over time, but will also produce more light.
Dimmable: Yes Lumens: 810 Wattage: 10 Watts Price: $11.99 Lumens Per Watt: 81 Lifespan: 20,000 hours
Cost to run 1000H: $2.50 Lumens Per $: 67
Want to buy in bulk? Kogan offer an affordable 8 pack of LEDs with free shipping. The price and bulb life are great, though they only have a 1 year warranty.
You can also get the Kogan LEDs as a two pack, but they are a lot more expensive.
Dimmable: Not Listed Lumens: 600 Wattage: 8 Watts Price: $12.375 each Lumens Per Watt: 75 Lifespan: 30,000 hours
Cost to run 1000H: $2 Lumens Per $: 48
With a limited number of bulb types available through Masters and Bunnings, the Mort Bay brand is lower efficiency than its competition. Which would be fine, except it costs just as much.
While still better than an incandescent or CFL, there are better LEDs available.
Dimmable: Not listed Lumens: 470 Wattage: 7 Watts Price: $12 Lumens Per Watt: 67 Lifespan: 20,000 hours
Cost to run 1000H: $1.75 Lumens Per $: 39
The WeMo family of smart home gadgets and internet-connected appliances is growing. We’ve had quite a long wait for this particular apparatus, but you’re finally able to pick it up in a JB Hi-Fi or Bunnings Warehouse near you — Belkin’s energy-monitoring WeMo Insight Switch is finally available in Australia, with an Australian power plug.