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How to get the best out of energy efficient lighting

•  LEDs becoming the norm - but questions remain 
•  What are the best light effects to use around your home?
•  We speak to lighting design expert on the options out there

LEDs are becoming the dominant energy efficient lighting option – but for many, they remain a new and quite daunting technology.

We spoke to Graham Festenstein, who runs his own lighting design consultancy as well as serving as the Vice President – Architectural of the Institute of Lighting Professionals (ILP), about how to get the best effects when upgrading your home’s bulbs and fittings.

Get over preconceptions

Festenstein acknowledges that the LED market brought some initial teething problems. He said:

“The technology is constantly getting better. LEDs were initially a bit of a nightmare for domestic users as they’re different to the whole way they understand light bulbs. There were issues, for example, with how you quantify the colour white, as the old rules didn’t work anymore. Plus a lot of people were going out and buying cheap LEDs from a supermarket or ebay and then wondering why they weren’t very good.

“Initially I think this did the industry a lot of damage, and clients still think that LED lighting is cold and not very flexible. It doesn’t have to be like that now, as the manufacturing industry has responded.”

energy efficient led light being fitted in ceiling

Switch on and see

While LEDs are more expensive than old style bulbs, prices are falling. But that’s not to say taking the plunge and buying all your home’s new lighting at once is a good idea.

He said: “One big recommendation I always make is to try them out. Don’t go out and buy 20 LED light bulbs; buy one, have a look at it and see how it works.

“There are manufacturers that are better than others, and I’d advise not always going for the cheapest, as you tend to get what you pay for, and it’s a false economy if you don’t get something of a reasonable quality. For not a lot more, you can get something that you’ll be really satisfied with.”

The brands to look out for

So which bulbs does Festenstein himself tend to use?

He explained: “I often use Megaman lamps, as they mostly have very good colour rendering and a good representation of warm white – not too yellow or orange. They also generally dim well on a wide range of dimmers. It’s not a high street manufacturer, but you can get them online quite easily.

“Other manufacturers include Osram, who have been around for years, and Phillips. It’s not say that there aren’t newer and cheaper brands that are good, but it’s much a case of try it out and see for yourself.”

Setting the mood

To get the best effects from LED lighting, you might have to consider more than the bulbs themselves. If you’re taking on a broader refurbishment project, it’s could be the perfect time to really get to grips with your home’s lighting systems, making some long-term savings and improving aesthetics.

He added: “The key is flexibility. Being able to create more than one circuit in a room is definitely beneficial in terms of being able to modify the mood and create a pleasant environment.

“The other key thing to ensure flexibility is to use dimmers on all your circuits if possible. You have to choose the right lamp for this – and indeed the right dimmer. You don’t want to be in a situation where you find a lamp that looks good, then you try and dim it and it flickers. This is getting better and easier, but it is again something to test before investing too much money.”

This blog is the first in a series of advice pieces with Graham. The coming blogs will take a look at low-energy retrofit lamps for larger refurbishment projects, and how to create attractive, practical effects.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.