Lighting makes up a 20% chunk of your whole bill – so it's definitely worth having a think about.
Old school light bulbs are known as incandescents. They pass electricity through the filament, getting so hot they glow. Only 5% of the energy they use creates light, the other 95% is wasted. That’s a pretty poor performance.
Energy saving light bulbs have a better conversion rate. That means they turn more of the electricity used into light, and less into heat.
What kind of bulbs should you get?
There are so many different types of bulbs out there it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few popular low energy options to consider.
These are the closest relative to the original incandescent bulb. They have a filament enclosed in halogen gas, so they can burn even hotter but use less energy. They save 20-30% but other bulbs can do a lot better.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CLFs)
These used to be the best choice for general lighting. Put simply, they’re curly versions of the long fluorescent tubes you often find in garages or kitchens. They produce loads of light and use up to 80% less energy than incandescents. They do contain a little mercury, so you have to recycle them safely. And in recent years, they’ve been overthrown by LEDs that perform far better.
These really changed the low energy lighting game. Each bulb is 90% more efficient than an incandescent and they can last up to 34 years. On top of this, they contain no harmful stuff, meaning less hazardous bulbs end up in landfill. If all 28 million homes in the UK made the switch to LEDs, we’d save a whopping 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The living definition of a lightbulb moment!
LEDs use a semiconductor which is a piece of material with positive and negative charges throughout. The electricity switches between the charges and this creates light.
The only drawback is that the clever bit takes up half of the bulb. In real terms, if you put a sphere around an LED only half of it would be lit up. Although this is a small price to pay for the overall benefits, it’s a problem our newest type of bulb – filament LEDs – solves.
Now you understand how an LED works, a filament LED will make perfect sense. Filament LEDs were designed for people after lighting with bigger coverage than a classic LED. Inside a glass container, very small LEDs are placed along a cylinder. This mimics a filament and provides 300 degrees of light. Although they have a shorter lifespan than a classic LED, they are even more efficient and have an attractive retro look.
Are there any downsides to low energy bulbs?
Low energy bulbs are a little more expensive than incandescents but they pay for themselves in less than a year. You might also have to change some of your light fittings if you replace your lighting.
If you use LEDs outdoors, bear in mind they cause more light pollution, which might disorient insects – and turtles if you live near a beach!
But overall, low energy lighting saves you money and lowers your carbon footprint without compromising on style. The switch is definitely worth it.