Light-bulb moment: LED vs halogen and fluorescent lighting


Lighting accounts for up to 15% of the electricity we use at home, so the type of bulb you choose is important. We look at the many differences between LED, halogen and fluorescent lights – and how the long-term cost (or saving) is more than just the purchase price.

Halogen – Some like it hot

A halogen light, or incandescent bulb, creates light by running electricity through a filament. They’re cheap to purchase and the pure white light they emit reduces eyestrain, so they’re good for reading.

However, they are also a potential fire hazard around the home. This is because a halogen bulb emits light by burning white hot – the filament reaches an incredible 2500°C, and the bulb 500°C. In fact only 10% of the electricity used by these bulbs goes towards creating light, with a whopping 90% turned into heat, so efficiency is low. In summer, your air conditioner or cooling system will have to work harder to compensate for the extra heat being generated. 

All this combined with the fact these bulbs only last for around 1000 hours means you’re paying a lot more for halogen lights in the long run. 

Fluorescent – Mercury’s rising

Fluorescent lights are cheap like halogen bulbs, but last much longer – they should last approximately 9000 hours. They also give off more light per watt compared to halogen bulbs, are more energy efficient and don’t give off heat.

Frequently switching a fluorescent light on and off will significantly lower its lifespan, so you’ll have to replace it more often. Also, significant temperature drops or rises will affect their efficiency and the quality of the light they emit. 

The real issue with these bulbs, however, is that they contain mercury, a dangerous heavy metal. If a bulb breaks it can be harmful to both people and the environment, which is why proper disposal is essential

LED – A lot to love

LED (short for light-emitting diode) bulbs are the most efficient lighting choice, using only a third of the energy of fluorescent lights and potentially reducing your lights’ energy consumption by up to 80%. This is because an LED bulb needs a lot less heat to generate light, which is good news for your air conditioner.

Unlike fluorescent bulbs, the temperature of the room won’t affect the efficiency of an LED, so they’re energy-saving all year round. LEDs also last more than eight times longer than fluorescents – up to 80,000 hours – so you won’t have to replace them as often.

Although LED lights are generally more expensive to purchase than other bulbs, advances in manufacturing technology mean they are getting cheaper all the time. And because they are more efficient and last longer, you will be much better off in the long run. 

LEDs generate directional lighting, so they might not be as appropriate for table lamps as other bulbs. However, some LEDs now come with diffusers, which can help this issue. 

Making your decision

Next time you’re at the supermarket shopping for bulbs, think about more than just the price tag. A considered choice could have much larger benefits for your wallet and the environment in the long run.

Date: 27 April 2016
Category: Energy Facts | Living Sustainably

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