Upgrading to LED

aaeaaqaaaaaaaatiaaaajdu0oduzzwjkltlhodqtngjhzc04zdi3ltzlmwjkodc5zwzkzgFive years ago when my new bride and I came home to begin our new life together, one of the first things that I started doing as a simple upgrade was changing out any old incandescent bulbs to the well known compact fluorescent (twisty bulb) lamps. We had different colour temperatures and wattages all over the house, but we were being energy efficient. Not only were we making the greener choice we were going to save money in the long run because they lasted longer and were cheaper to run. We even bought a big box of CF lamps from Costco to replace them as they died.

Jump ahead a few years and there was a new buzz in the lighting market: LED lamps. We’ve been hearing about LED lighting for years now for Christmas lights, TVs, accent lighting, etc., but it was finally available as a replacement for a standard A-type (screw in) light bulb! The short time that the compact fluorescent lamps had spent at the top has left a lot of confused home owners who are looking for an easy way to make their home more energy efficient.

Everyone seems to know that the incandescent bulbs are bad news. They have been slowly phasing them out of stores and the higher wattage bulbs are no longer available. The only trail that they have left behind is their equivalency in wattage that can be found on the new, more energy efficient lamp’s packages. Everyone knows that a 100W incandescent bulb will easily light up a relatively large room, or a 60W a standard bedroom. The difference with LED technology is that it will depend on how the diodes are placed in a lamp that will determine what wattage is required to replace a different bulb. I have a feeling this will be the standard for some time as lumen output is a completely different language, and can be deceiving.

The major problem that the compact fluorescent lamps have left behind is their inconvenient disposal. Most people know that they are supposed to be taken to an appropriate recycling facility but (much like a random battery that you’ve just replaced) they don’t want to go out of your way to find that facility… and one CF lamp in the garbage won’t hurt anyone. They need to be properly disposed of mainly because of the mercury that each lamp contains. When this is disposed of incorrectly, we more than undo the good we’ve done for our planet by switching to the more energy efficient light source.

When my wife and I started replacing our compact fluorescent lamps and remaining incandescent bulbs (mostly in small lamps) with LED lamps, we (okay, mostly I) started to pay attention to lamp colour, lumen output, and even lamp shape so that we would have a well lit house. As you can see from the picture in the heading of this post, we had quite the mismatch around the house.  Two of the same lamps wouldn’t even necessarily match. Not only were they all different sizes, many of them were different colour temperatures as some of them were higher quality than others (to put it nicely).

The upgrade started when I was walking around Home Depot and (as I usually do when I’m there) I went to check out the lighting section. I wanted to buy 3 LED lamps that I could use in the washroom for our soon to be installed dimmer as the fluorescent lamps could also not be dimmed and two of the three had died that week. After browsing around, I noticed that there were rebate coupons on the shelves granting a $5 rebate for each package (with a maximum of 5 per purchase). I grabbed 5 individual LED lamps, and was back the next day for 5 more. It took some trial and error, but I was able to figure out which lamp wattages and colour temperatures should be used where. When I went back a third time, the rebates were over, but luckily there were only a couple of fixtures that still needed the new lamps. I did also get some help from my Philips Lighting supplier at work.

So, I’ve mentioned some pros and cons for the different bulb/lamp types, but here they are in a simple chart:

Incandescent bulbs: 
– can be dimmed
– inexpensive
– easy to dispose of
– natural colour temperatures
– inefficient
– short life
– being phased out of stores

Compact fluorescent lamps (twisty bulbs):
– energy efficient
– becoming more inexpensive
– available in different colour temperatures
– long life
– inconvenient to dispose of
– cannot usually be dimmed
– short life for cheap brands
– famous for causing headaches

LED lamps:
– energy efficient
– rebates often available to help with up-front cost
– available in different colour temperatures
– extremely long lasting
– can be dimmed
– available in many shapes to fit your application
– still more expensive up front
– new technology that is constantly changing and being superseded (not sure if this is a pro or a con)

The cost is still higher for the LED option, but that seems to be the only downside. It’s the only lighting technology that is being improved on right now for standard A-type bulbs and is definitely the way that the lighting industry is heading. From what I’ve heard from different lighting suppliers, they’re now working on drivers in LED fixtures that allow the colour temperature to change as it is dimmed to create an even more natural lighting solution that is more similar to the now-outdated incandescent fixture. The technology is constantly improving and the prices continue to drop. It’s only a matter of time before they start phasing out the CF lamps because the damage that they are doing to the planet is greater than the good that they were created for.

My recommendation is that the next time you go out to buy a replacement bulb, give an LED lamp a look. If you buy from a reputable brand, it’ll likely last longer than you’re at your house, reduce your energy consumption, and likely be available for some type of rebate (though you may need to look online if you can’t find coupons in store).

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