A lightbulb moment: Why switching to LEDs will save you money, waste and a whole lot of carbon

13 Jun 2019
5 min read

Lighting accounts for 20% of all the energy consumption in the UK and there’s increasing talk about LED bulbs these days. So what is it about LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes, if you want their full name!) that makes them such an all-round good option?

1) LEDs last longer and pay for themselves

LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours on average – with some newer models promising up to 100,000 hours of light. And as they use far less energy, you’ll see the savings on your energy bill each month.

Which? puts the annual cost of running an LED lightbulb at £1.71, as opposed to £2.04 from a CFL and £8.42 for a halogen bulb. Over the course of its very long lifetime, a single LED bulb can save you around £180.

How long do LEDs last?

A standard LED bulb left on for 24 hours a day, every day, would last 6 years. The same bulb left on for 12 hours a day, would last 11 years. If it was on 4 hours a day, that bulb is rated to last 17 years.

2) LEDs use far less energy

LEDs are six to seven times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and use 80% less energy. So they reduce your energy demand and subsequently cut carbon emissions from power stations.

3) LEDs produce less heat

95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light and only 5% is wasted as heat. On the other hand incandescent bulbs only convert 5-10% of energy into light and the rest is heat. So you’re basically paying for heat, not light. And as the world warms up, avoiding extra heat is becoming increasingly important for our health.

In 2012 around 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. These accounted for savings of around $675 million in one year.


4) LEDs don’t contain toxic mercury

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) contain mercury, unlike LEDs. And, as LEDs last much longer, you need fewer of them, so they have dramatically less impact on the environment, and about 95% of their components are recyclable.

5) LEDs waste less light

In 2017, 570 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions were reduced because of switching to LEDs. That’s similar to shutting down 162 coal-fired power plants around the world!

LEDs are super versatile. They can be ‘dimmed’ and come in omnidirectional (where the bulb shape throws light in all directions like a standard lightbulb) and directional designs (which focus the light where you want it). You can choose directional bulbs if you don’t need to light your ceiling, or omnidirectional if you have a bigger space to light. You gain greater control over where you light your rooms so you don’t need extra lamps.

6) LEDs fit existing light fittings

There’s no expensive refitting or upgrade necessary to start using LEDs (although you should have an electrician check your circuits if you’re changing from a halogen bulb to an LED – occasionally there can be issues with switching to a lower wattage). Clever companies have already designed them to fit bayonette, screw and other standard fittings. It’s literally as easy as changing a lightbulb.

OK, I’m convinced. So how do I buy?

It’s a good idea to see LEDs as a long-term investment, because they do cost more up front. As a general rule it’s good to get the best quality bulbs you can afford, but also bear in mind brightness, tone and shape. Here are the things to consider when you go to buy your LEDs:

  1. Fitting: take your old bulb with you or write down the fitting type.
  2. Shape: make sure you get the best shape for your lamp or fixture. There are some beautiful, unusual bulbs out there, in addition to standard shape bayonettes for a more traditional feel – not to mention gorgeously twinkly fairy lights, for indoors and out of course
  3. Brightness: Here it gets interesting! LEDs work in lumens. This lovely chart from Ovo energy explains how to convert them to watts so you know what you’re after. So, if you’re replacing a 40W bulb you would need 400 lumens or 6Watt. Some LED bulbs are suitable with dimmer switches so again it’s worth specifying when you order.
  4. Temperature: Depending on the space and the effect you want to create, you can go for warm or cool light temperatures. LEDs used to be quite blue and cold compared with standard incandescent bulbs, but the technology is really evolving in leaps and bounds. Light temperature is measured on a Kelvin scale, with most standard bulbs being in the 2700K region. 
  5. Cost: Check the bulb life and wattage to get a sense of whether or not it’s worth the cost. They will come with a warranty so be sure to keep the information – just in case.

Some places to buy

  • John Lewis has a large selection of LEDs, including some really attractive traditional and heritage style bulbs. Prices start from £2 a bulb for simple spots, right up to over £100 for the truly stunning Tala Voronoi bulb which would turn your light fitting into a centrepiece. 
  • IKEA offers a good selection at reasonable prices. We especially like the vintage industrial feel of the Lunnom, £5 and the jolly Nittio, £12
  • Screwfix offers a good selection of trade rated, good value bulbs. Great for kitting out your business. 
  • B&Q has a vast range of LED lighting, including some attractive solar powered lamps and fairy lights for your garden.

All lit up

As with most green switches, changing to LEDs really doesn’t have a downside. The initial outlay is more than made up for by the savings in electricity within 2 years. A longer lasting lightbulb cuts waste along the supply chain – if you need to change them less often, fewer need to be transported; that’s fewer trucks on the road, less packaging and less landfill at the end of their life. Meanwhile you get to spend far less money on your electric bill and far less time balancing on chairs battling with bayonettes. It’s a simple switch, but the benefits are clear.

Featured image: Wilson Vitorino from Pexels

Other image: Dzenina Lukac from Pexels


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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