Love your light bulbs

14 February 2014

As the old saying goes, “nothing says I Love You like an energy-saving light bulb”.

Okay, that may be a paraphrase of sorts, but at Top10 we do love energy efficiency – and with the spirit of St. Valentine in the air and the addition of Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED lamps to the Energy Efficiency Guide to celebrate, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a tenuous tie-in and some dreadful puns.

Here are our top tips for learning to love your light bulbs.

1. Say those Three Little Words…


… which are, of course, “turn it off”. Modern bulbs turn on instantly and warm up in less than a minute. So, for domestic lamps, it is never more efficient to leave it switched on, even if you’re only leaving the room for a few seconds. And you don’t need to worry about turning it on and off too often either : bulbs featured on Top10 are designed for a minimum of 50,000 switching cycles –that’s on and off seven times a day for twenty years.


2. Three’s a crowd...


With the demise of the old incandescent bulbs, there are now three types of commercially available light bulbs: halogens, CFLs and LEDs. Halogen bulbs are now the least efficient: using three times as much energy as CFLs and four times as much as LEDs. What’s more, most of them are designed to last for only two years. So we don’t recommend halogen bulbs – they’re the gooseberry. You can find more information on each bulb type here.

3. Money can’t buy me love…


…but it can buy me a decent light bulb. CFL and LED lamps are more expensive than the less efficient halogen varieties, but not only do they last a lot longer (at least six times longer for CFLs and ten times longer for LEDs) they save you on energy too. Based on the lists on Top10, for a standard 60W equivalent bulb a CFL will pay for itself in less than a year, while an LED bulb – even at £15 a pop – will save you money within three years.

4. Do it in every room in the house


On average, each house has 34 lights (Energy Saving Trust, 2012). Even switching the ten most frequently used bulbs in the house from halogen to LED would save 320kWh of electricity, and shave over £45 off your bill in the process. That’s a romantic meal for two – depending on where you go.

5. LEDs: the light of your life


LED lamps featured on Top10 are designed to last for at least twenty years on average. Not quite a lifetime; but then, the average marriage in the UK lasts
only eleven years
. So – statistically at least – your light bulb could be more of a life partner than, well, your life partner.

6. It’s getting hot in here, so… change your bulbs?


Rumour has it that, prior to his record label’s interference, Nelly’s 2002 hit “Hot in Herre” (sic) was meant as a heartfelt diatribe against incandescent light bulbs, which waste over 90% of their energy as heat. The Texan rapper would doubtless be delighted to know that LED lamps waste hardly any energy as heat, and remain cool to the touch in operation. CFLs do get hot, however; and (done carefully) checking the temperature of your bulbs can be a good way to decide which ones to upgrade.
 

7.  Set the mood


Nobody wants to snuggle on the sofa with a harsh light searing their retinas. Choosing the right level and colour of light will make your home more comfortable and potentially save energy in the process. John Lewis provides a comprehensive buying guide for lighting, while if you want to get technical and look at lumens and lux, click here for suggested lighting levels for different rooms in your house.

8. Dim the lights…


Not so long ago, “mood lighting” meant extension leads and desk lamps, or a scarf thrown over the light – both a waste of energy and a fire hazard. Nowadays, both CFL and LED retrofit bulbs can be dimmed. The Top10 lists allow you to filter by whether a bulb is dimmable. Some require a dimmer switch to be installed, but some don’t even need that – meaning your lounge can become a sophisticated boudoir by simply replacing one bulb.

9. Breaking up is hard to do


It can be tempting to leave your old bulbs in until they break before replacing them. Great as this is from a “waste not, want not” perspective, you could be waiting a while. You will save energy and money by upgrading your bulbs – particularly your old incandescent bulbs – as soon as possible.

10. Putting out your old flame


While light bulbs contain glass, they cannot be recycled in your usual glass recycling collection. While most types of bulb can be safely disposed of in your rubbish collection (wrap it in newspaper to minimise the chances of it breaking), CFL bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and can’t go in your bin. If one of your CFL bulbs happens to break open, use rubber gloves to seal it in a plastic bag and ventilate the room. Then recycle it – plenty of supermarkets and council buildings have collection points for low-energy bulbs. You can enter your postcode here to find your nearest point.