LED lighting is somewhat of an enigma to many people, so if you count yourself in this group then not to worry. Although the first LED bulb was created in 1962, it’s only in recent years that high-quality, cost-effective LEDs have truly started to be integrated into the home. With building regulations stating that lighting in new houses needs to be at least 75% energy efficient, now is the time to befriend these bright lights.
Here we answer all the questions you may have about LED lights, from the basics to the benefits, and everything in between.
Let’s get technical for a second. The term LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. If the concept of a diode has you harking back to a physics lesson, let’s quickly refresh your memory: a diode is a semiconductor with two electrodes, which energy can flow through. Diodes are characterised by the unique way that they only allow current to flow in one direction. An LED operates on the same principle, it is a semiconductor that emits visible light when electricity passes through it.
So, LED light is unique due to the path that electricity takes and its output. With LED bulbs, the release of energy is what creates light, as opposed to regular incandescent bulbs which release heat when energy is passed through a thin filament wire. LEDs differ to other energy-efficient bulbs too; which pass energy through mercury vapour to create UV light.
When LEDs were first invented they offered little light output in compensation for their high cost. Although they are still likely to be the most expensive option on offer today, LED bulbs use 90% less energy than other choices. So even if the upfront cost is high, you will quickly see the positive impact on your electricity bills.
LED bulbs are incredibly long lasting; with a lifespan of up to 30 years depending on the amount you use them. That’s as much as 8-10 times longer than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. They’re also safer and more durable than traditional lamps, emitting less heat and withstanding higher levels of shock due to their lack of filament. LEDs are so robust that they’ve even been adopted in torches used by the US police and military.
Another advantage of LED bulbs is their aesthetic. LEDs can be tiny, as small as 2mm, which makes them perfect for creating subtle lighting effects or for fittings in compact areas. While incandescent bulbs use filters to produce colour, LEDS come in a variety of base colours which can be combined to create an abundance of colour options. Additionally, they illuminate immediately when switched on, unlike other energy-efficient bulbs which can take a while to brighten.
LEDs are also more eco-friendly than other bulbs, which seals the deal for us. It’s estimated that around 20% of the world’s electricity output comes from lighting, so choosing a more energy efficient solution has huge potential to reduce global carbon emissions. LED bulbs release no harmful UV rays and are also mercury and glass-free, making them much easier and cleaner to dispose of.
As mentioned above, LEDs produce light in a variety of colours, so the ideal bulb depends on the lighting you’re looking to create in your home. There are three types of colour temperature produced by light bulbs: soft white, bright white and daylight—have a look at our handy guide for more detail. Most of us will be used to soft white light characteristic of incandescent bulbs, which create a warm, cosy glow. LEDs, however, can create all three of these types of light.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but lighting designers recommend soft white light in bedrooms and living rooms and bright white light in kitchens and bathrooms, as it provides an energetic feel. Daylight, much as the name suggests, is the type which provides the most similar level of lighting to natural light, so is good for spaces where you need to concentrate. We love Tala light bulbs which offer maximum energy efficiency, with a warm glow and traditional design.
Whether it’s with bulbs or strip lighting there are plenty of ways to make your home both sustainable and stylish with LED lights. Leading lighting expert Sally Storey suggests that “If you have shelving, think of integrating an LED strip into this. John Cullen’s Contour HD24 provides a very soft warm light which can be integrated into OKA’s shelving units, creating the effect of an additional window in the room.” Sally also recommends getting a lighting designer, to ensure that your home is both wonderfully lit and compliant with the new building regulations. A table lamp is also a great way to expose a decorative LED bulb—those with angled heads are perfect for showing off classic filament designs.
The future really is bright with LEDs. For extra lighting advice, have a look at more top tips from Sally Storey.