Low energy lighting is becoming the norm as inefficient bulbs are phased out. Energy efficient lighting technology is developing quickly and a range of products are now available to choose from.
In this section we review old and new lighting technologies and fittings, highlighting the benefits of switching to energy efficient products to save you money and the environment
Traditional light bulbs, also known as tungsten filament, incandescent or GLS (General Lighting Service) bulbs were invented over 100 years ago and are extremely inefficient. Only about 5 per cent of the electricity they use is converted into visible light. The filament is heated up until it glows giving off a yellowish white light. The bulbs do not last long because the filament gradually evaporates.
Halogen light bulbs also use filament technology but run at a higher temperature making them slightly more efficient than traditional light bulbs. They are mainly used in spotlight fittings. Though more efficient, they are often used in large quantities, increasing the total electricity used to light a room. The EU Commission started the phase-out of D and E-rated bulbs in September 2013.
Often rooms with halogen spotlights are brighter than they need to be so you may be able to save money by installing lower output bulbs. LEDs are an excellent energy efficient alternative.
CFL technology uses gas inside a glass tube which is charged with electricity until it glows and gives off light.
CFLs use about 75 to 80 per cent less electricity than an equivalent traditional bulb and can last up to ten times longer. They are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and ranges of colour rendering capacity
CFLs are great for replacing standard home light fittings. Spotlight bulbs are available but not widely and tend to be more expensive.
Strip lights use the same technology as CFLs but the tubes are shaped longer and flatter.
Strip lights are more efficient, faster to light up and emit a better quality of light than traditional strip lights.
Strip lights are not often used in homes but can be a good choice for places where bright light is required such as in kitchens or above bathroom mirrors. If you do have any, a modern slim tube fitted in a good reflector mounting is the most efficient option.
LEDs are simple solid state electronic devices that allow electricity to flow through them in one direction to produce a small amount of light.
Bulbs for domestic use contain a large number of LEDs so that a bright enough light is emitted. LED like-for-like replacements for halogen downlighters are now available from specialist suppliers and some retail chains. They are still expensive, but they are the most efficient option and pay for themselves several times over before they need replacing.
A dark lamp shade can absorb more than half the light a bulb emits which can reduce the efficiency of your lighting. You can save energy and money by using transparent shades or fittings that you regularly clean.
Light fittings with a reflective inside can increase efficiency if concentrated, directional light is required.
Spotlight fittings often have this reflective inside. Halogen spotlights and LEDs do not require a reflective fitting as the reflective surface is incorporated into halogen bulbs’ design while LEDs give out directional light by default.
Some light fittings are designed be used with CFLs only but the tube-only CFL that you need for these fittings are more expensive and not cost effective overall by comparison to ordinary CFLs.
The Energy Saving Trust is a partner in the IEE-funded PremiumLight project which aims to increase the take-up of high quality, energy efficient lighting products. PremiumLight is publishing results of laboratory testing of bulbs to help point consumers to the best products on the market. Read the PremiumLight site for more details.
In partnership with the Energy Saving Trust, the Lighting Industry Association (LIA) Laboratories have launched the LIA Verified scheme, providing independent certification of the performance and safety of bulbs and luminaires. Read more here including details of upcoming verified products.