Is it time to change your lightbulbs to LEDs?

Lightbulbs. The plastic carrier bags of the energy-saving world (doing a perfectly fine job, but an easy target for Energy Saving Measures) have been fiddled with for years, with the EU banning normal incandescent bulbss back in 2011. Even the supposedly better Halogen bulbs are scheduled for extinction in a few years’ time, but the standard replacement CFL (compact fluorescent) lights aren’t actually bright enough to find your way to bed at night. So what is the crack with energy-saving blubs and should we just bite the bullet and replace our bulbs now- while we’ve still enough light to do so?

At the moment you have three options for bulbs- halogen, CFL and LEDs, although halogen bulbs were doomed to go the way of incandescent bulbs in 2016, although they have earned a stay of execution from the EU until 2018 so far. You can’t even work out what bulbs you need in watts as (being part of the point) the watts used by the old incandescent bulbs far exceeded the equivalent energy use of the new bulbs; here’s a handy conversion table using the new-fangled notion of lumens:


Obviously, LEDs are by far the lowest energy guzzlers- and they also last the longest at around 25,000 hours of use. So why don’t we all immediately switch? Well, LED bulbs are also the most expensive. Nevertheless, there has to be a point at which it’s worthwhile making the switch, doesn’t there?

The handy folks over at the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) worked out the equivalent running costs of using the three different types of bulb if you had the lights on all the time, or for six hours per day, as well as the comparable cost per bulb.


As you can see, using LED bulbs saves a little over £4 per year in energy but costs £6 more than CFL bulbs, meaning it would take two years to be better off, but at least you would be able to see (a main complaint against CFL bulbs is how long it takes them to get to (so-called) full brightness, even though the CSE now boasts that modern lights can get up to 70% bright inside one whole minute). And if you compare against the halogen bulb, you need to remember that while you’d manage a year’s continuous use with one LED or CFL bulb, you’d need at least four (and probably five) halogen bulb, meaning the cost of the bulbs is similar, but the energy bill saving is actually over £46 compared with LEDs. No wonder councils are retro-fitting all their lights with LEDs…

But who actually has the lights on all the time? If you look at the figures for six hours use a day, the actual cash savings are far lower, and it would take five years to earn back the extra cost of an LED compared with a CFL bulb. When looking at Halogen, you’d probably squeak by with one bulb too, but even so, the cost saving on your bills for one year will more than cover the extra cost of the bulb.

So it seems that, despite annoying EU nudge tactics, LED will be the way to go, purely from a protecting your pocket point of view. Only problem, of course, is how much it costs to change all your fancy light fittings


  • Fagin
    Bad bit of copy & past journo-ing. LED emitter is one element of a bulb & it's related components. Therefore it has the potential to run for years & years if it is paired with equally good emitters (matched properly for output) & other components are also up to par, compared to the cheap as chips mentality which means yes the emitter still works but other aspects crapped out long ago ...& were soldered badly, designed badly for heat dissipation, realistic efficiency etc. Like I say shit reportage, you also write for the daily mail, build em up knock em down tactics with stories, after all you are only writing a filler whilst you finish your book eh!? ..however how would you feel if someone misrepresented your work in the same manner?
  • patrick
    I've replaced all my bulbs with LED. I'm not too concerned about the initial cost. For me the advantage is not having to change bulbs so often. The only disadvantage is that the LED replacements for Halogen MR16/GU10 bulbs don't have such a wide beam - the light is more like an upside down V rather than the flatter V you get with halogen.
  • dave
    You can buy LED bulbs significantly cheaper than what you have stated. also i moved from CFL to LED early this year and i have already noticed the cost benefits, i think this is because you are comparing modern CFL bulbs to LED, most people like myself would be upgrading from old versions which are maybe up to 7 years old (older for some people) where the benefits are larger. if you were replacing bulbs LED is the way to go, they are better, cheaper to run and they're cost is dropping all the time.
  • Chris
    Energy usage/cost rule-of-thumb if it's 20W & you leave it on 24/7 x 365, it'll cost you about £20 in electricity. This holds Watt-ever the usage is :P eg 10W, 12hrs/day, every day for the year; about £5 in electricity.
  • Rob
    Worth remebering if you change from halogen downlighters to the LED versions you have to replace all the transformers too - my last estimate (a while back now) made payback period to be about 10 years - bargain !!!!
  • NotWhoYouThinkIAm
    Pre LED lights, my local council depot was running halogens inside a loading bay 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a sparky, I drew up a detailed proposal to swap them for equivalent cfl lights - showing that the new lights would pay for themselves in about 6 months. The reply from the council included the words "smart" "arse" and "no". The halogens ran so hot, we would often have to throw the whole fitting away as it had welded itself shut, meaning the savings were actually even higher.
  • Albi
    Or just search ebay for 'rough service bulbs'. That is basically how the old, banned incandescents have been relabeled and how you can still buy them. My house is full of 150W rough service bulbs.
  • LL J.
    I've replaced all my CFL bulbs with LED not because of a few measly quid over the course of a decade, but because they emit full brightness straight away. Sometimes you just want to go into a room for a few seconds to fetch something.
  • Alex
    I renovate houses and often use rough service bulbs in lamps as the house will be out mains lighting for 6 months. We smash lots of bulbs so need them cheap. However Led is by far the best, so our house is LED. I prefer the light from them, the fact they are instant full brightness and that they don't get too hot, or need replacing often. No reason to keep the old bulbs unless you too smash a lot of bulbs.

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