Light up your home and cut power bills
Most of us understand the importance of good natural light.
Whether it is for completing a task such as preparing food or simply because it makes a living area more livable, having a good light source is rightfully considered an integral element in a house.
But when the sun goes down and the lights go on, few of us understand how lights can work to improve the indoor environment.
Production knowledge development specialist for Beacon Lighting, Denise Hammond, says homeowners often put lighting decisions in the `too hard’ basket when renovating.
“Lighting is daunting and it is only when you have bad lighting that you realise your mistake,” she says. “Too often people call us on the day the electrician arrives.”
Given the changes to light bulbs, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us throw up our hands. The old, cheap incandescent lights, once universally available at the supermarkets, were phased out from 2009 and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were widely promoted to take their place.
While these bulbs gave off much less heat and offered much greater energy efficiency – lasting up to six times longer – they had their drawbacks.
Apart from taking some time to warm up to their full brightness, the early bulbs gave off a cool blue light more reminiscent of a butcher’s shop than a welcoming living area. For those accustomed to dimmers, CFLs removed this option.
New LEDs (light emitting diodes) quickly followed and are now widely considered the future of energy efficient lighting.
More familiar in traffic lights, these bulbs are far more energy efficient but, again, early bulbs came in a limited range of mostly unflattering colours.
Now, the 50W halogen tungsten lights, commonly used in downlights, will start to be phased out largely to be replaced by LEDs.
It’s a safer option given the amount of heat halogens can emit into the roof space but with prices approaching $70 to $80 per LED bulb, replacing a number of bulbs could be an expensive exercise.
DAZED AND CONFUSED
It’s no wonder that homeowners are confused, says Melbourne manager of Artemide, Emilia La Forgia.
“People are still learning about CFLs and LEDs,” she said.
“But I still find a lot of our customers are confused and don’t understand the technology,” she said.
“Even just a year ago, the technology was still developing.
“A lot of the new LED fittings are just coming out now and so the colour is still being developed.”
While they are certainly different to the straditional lights we have all become used to, Emilia says the LED lights have improved considerably and are able to be used in similar ways to their predecessors.
“We have them in all forms of lights now from table and floor lamps to downlights and pendants,” she says.
“And they are quite versatile.”
Even the maligned CFLs can work well when used more effectively.
“The fluoros are gorgeous over a kitchen bench because they give a nice even light,” says Emilia.
Sam Carpinteri from ClassicLite, says not all light bulbs are created equal.
“There are so many LEDs out there now with the basic LED for $10 and then the higher quality lights can be $50 or $60 each,” Sam says. “People don’t understand that the quality is different but sometimes the budget dictates the terms.”
Sam is such a fan of LEDs that he has installed them in his own home, using them for strip lighting under cupboards in the kitchen and downlights and floor lamps in the living area. They have the added advantage of being dimmable, giving him more control over the light levels, without running up the power bill.
“The light output is good and the cost to run it is low,” says Sam. “With energy star ratings, LEDs come out on top.’
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