Everything you need to know about LED lights

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have been around since the 60s, but it wasn’t until the invention of high-brightness LEDs about 25 years ago that the technology started to become a viable alternative for other forms of lighting. Now we wouldn’t be without them – they’ve trimmed our power bills and given us unprecedented control over how we light our spaces. But how do you choose the right LED?

Bright spots

One big advantage of LEDs is their high efficiency; a 12W LED can be almost as bright as a 100W incandescent bulb. “LEDs last up to 25 times longer and typically use about 75 per cent less energy than incandescent lighting,” says Jason Neophytou, HPM lifestyle expert. “LED lights also emit approximately 50 per cent less heat than halogens, keeping your home cooler during the warmer months.” 

led lighting
Shed light on working areas such as the kitchen with cool tones.

The smarter option

Even relatively simple LED bulbs include onboard electronics for power management, and they come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes. This means most ordinary globes and standard 120cm fluorescent tubes can be replaced very easily, by swapping them for LEDs of similar dimensions. Check with a licensed electrician to see if your globes can simply be replaced, or whether you’ll need all new fittings and wiring.

Many LEDs also offer advanced features. Smart LED lights controlled by wi-fi networking give you the option of integrated dimming without rewiring your light switch. “Philips ‘Hue’ lights use the latest in wireless technology to control dimming,” says Duane Shore, Pacific channel marketing manager for Philips Lighting. “You can control them via the Hue smartphone app or voice control with Google voice assistant. You can even set lights to dim on a schedule that mimics your presence when you’re not at home.”


Driver reviver

No matter how smart LEDs can be, you’ll still need the services of a licensed electrician in some cases. “If you have an older home, say pre-90s, the drivers and transformers for halogen downlights might be delivering more power to the LED than is necessary,” explains Duane. “Safety is the greatest concern, so get a qualified electrician to check driver compatibility.”

Living colour

To match the light output of an incandescent bulb or halogen downlight, simply choose an LED of the same size and shape, with a brightness equivalent to the wattage of the original bulb. This parameter is prominently featured on the packaging.

“HPM colour-changing dimmable LED downlights offer three colour temperatures ranging from 3000K to 5000K,” says Jason, referring to kelvins (K), the unit of measure used to describe colour temperature. The higher the kelvins, the brighter or cooler the colour, with the highest numbers closest to daylight. “You can adjust these quickly and easily from cool white to natural white and warm white by removing the light and flicking the colour switch on the back. I recommend cool tones in spaces such as the home office, bathrooms and laundry, while warm white works well in bedrooms and dining rooms.”

Cracking the code

What does all the weird jargon on the packaging mean?

Beam angle: Measured in degrees, a higher number means the light is spread over a wider area.

Colour temperature (kelvins): How ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ the light appears. Warm white is around the 3000K mark, while the cool white of daylight tones is about 5500-6500K.

Dimmable: Whether the bulb can be used with a conventional electric light dimmer.

Equivalent power: This describes the LED’s brightness by comparing it with the power of an incandescent bulb.

Hg: Whether the bulb contains any mercury, a poisonous metal.

Lumen: The brightness of light produced. A 100W incandescent bulb emits about 1500-1600lm.

t(h): The bulb’s minimum life expectancy in hours (usually at least 15,000).

Switching cycles: How many times you can turn the bulb on and off before it starts to wear out.

Wattage: How much power the bulb actually uses. LEDs used for overhead lighting are typically in the range of 4W-12W, while halogen downlights tend to be 20W-50W.

Light fantastic

Had a lightbulb moment for lighting inspiration? Check out your local Bunnings store for all of your lighting needs.

Photo credit: HPM.

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