LED Lighting – Has it finally come of age?

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I have been dabbling with LED lighting now for some time.  This week, spurred on by a quidco offer to save 10% and get 10% cash back on my purchase, I bought some next generation LEDs from LED hut – a favourite online retailer of mine. With the next generation LED’s now hitting the market, has LED lighting finally come of age to the point that it is a viable replacement for the humble incandescent?



History

About eight months ago, I purchased some warm white dimmable GU10′s from LED Hut and documented my findings using these with Lightwave RF dimmers in this post: Fourth LightwaveRF Dimmer and Good News on LEDs. They were a success and while I commented at the time that they were slightly more clinical in feel to the traditional 50W halogen GU10′s they had replaced, they have certainly become accepted at home – we have them on most nights. While they are dimmable, they don’t dim quite as nicely as halogen GU10′s – perhaps dimming to maybe 20% of their total brightness and retaining the same colour temperature throughout their dimming cycle which is to be expected of LED’s. Rather than getting warmer as they dim, they basically stay the same colour and just get, er, dimmer!

At the time of purchase, I only bought four of them. One of them ended up upstairs on the landing (looking rather lonely in a four lamp fitting, which with hindsight, was probably a bit big for the landing) and three of them were in the lounge along with one halogen for no other reason than to not have an empty fitting. I have been meaning to order some more for some time and, this week, spurred on by what seemed like a good deal on Quidco to save 10% and get 10% cash back on top, I went to place an order for some more. This time, I decided to go for the slightly more expensive “New style GU10 LED SMD bulbs”. These are certainly more expensive than the ones I bought eight months ago, but they are better as I explain below.

LED Styles

The market seems to be split in to two main types of GU10 LED lamp. Wide angle, cheap as chips SMD 5050 based lamps and the more focussed three-cluster of 1W or 2W LEDs. The former tend to offer a much wider spread of light while the latter offer a much more focused light ideal for accent lighting.

My purchase this time was for four “New style” GU10 LED SMD bulbs, eight 3x1W MR16 (12 volt) spots (non-dimmable) and just for a test, I purchased one dimmable MR16 (12 volt) spot too. The GU10′s were destined for the living room while the non-dimmable 12V spots are for the bathroom and dining room respectively and I thought I would give the dimmable 12V spot a go in my master bedroom.

The new style GU10′s are pretty much exactly the same size as a standard GU10. They have a cluster of 24 SMD 5050 LED’s all facing forward. Unlike the previous batch, each of the SMD’s has a slight bubble or lens to it and under daylight this looks slightly yellow to my eye. I think this improves the colour temperature as I note below.

The other lamps purchased are all 3x1W SMD designs with three large LEDs centred within a pretty sizeable heat sink.

Performance

Let me get this straight, I wasn’t unhappy with my previous bunch of LED’s and was perhaps just being a little extravagant splashing out £12.50 ex VAT per lamp (the previous type have reduced to £8.38 each ex VAT so almost a third cheaper). Popping them in to my living room light fitting however, I think I can see where the extra £4 has gone. The light seems visibly warmer to my eye and has a pleasant yellowish tint around the outside of a cooler white spot. The tint isn’t so visible that it distracts the eye, but it does make the overall colour temperature of the lamps much more pleasant. We still aren’t at the warm level of Halogen yet, but they certainly are very acceptable indeed and much much nicer on the eye than those nasty compact fluorescent things.

The MR16 spots are whiter in comparison, but still warm enough to be called warm white. Being spot lights, the light is more focussed and this does make it seem perhaps whiter than the SMD 5050 clusters.

The dimmable GU10′s dim pretty much the same as the previous bunch. They still won’t drop much below perhaps 20% of their maximum light output, but the room is darker and the light is still just as cool – almost grey like. This is to be expected of LED GU10′s as most of the energy they consume results in light output rather than heat in a Halogen.

The dimmable MR16 is OK, it dims relatively smoothly just like the GU10′s and does go quite low. Strangely it flickers slightly at one point, but then stops flickering as I dim further. This may be due to a design quirk of the transformer I am using, or something else. I need to do some more experimentation to find out. The dimmable MR16 is quite a bit longer than the GU10 equivalent and while it fits my standard downlighters OK, I do need to test to see whether it will fit in the tilting fittings I have pointing at my wardrobe. I suspect they might be a bit too long for these.

 

About the Author

chrisChris works as an IT Security Specialist for a large FTSE 100 company. He is a geek at heart and loves nothing more than trying to automate his home. The problem is, his wife simply doesn't get it and can't understand why they can't have 'normal' lights like everyone else! Chris is dedicated therefore to implementing automation in a family friendly way.View all posts by chris →

  1. JohnJohn10-05-2012

    I have been interested in lov consumption light bulbs for some while (not least because my kitchen has some 45 GU10s in it – very expensive). I have looked closely at both the neon and the LED type, and have been profoundly disappointed in both. The neon type have always started to loose elements, or taike a long time to warm up, and the LED type, while lighting quickly, have always disappointed both from a light quality (too cold) and also amount of light produced. The lies produced about being ‘equivalent to GU10′ or ‘equivalent to 50W’ are staggering. I tend to look at the lumens figure, which measures the amount of light produced, and the better (and more expensive) LED lights tend to produce 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of light.

    Having said that, I do use them, and live in a degree of gloom as a result

    • chrischris10-05-2012

      I’d tend to agree with you, to a point. There are still a staggering number of really poor LED lights out there and unfortunately this is proliferated by the large sheds selling really poor products or really expensive ones. I started off with a couple of Megaman LED’s from B&Q a couple of years ago and binned them almost immediately. It was with trepidation that I purchased my first batch of LED’s (claiming to have a 320 lumen output – ignore the URL) and I must say that I was completely gobsmacked with the light output. I don’t have any accurate way of assessing these things (other than my eyes – and the wife) but the fact that she has accepted them means they must be OK. They are definately approaching the output of the GU10′s that were in there (although these were going through an electronic dimmer so may not have been getting the full 240V but thats a seperate issue). Our initial thoughts were that they were definately colder, but not unacceptably cold like LEDs of old (and not green like compact flourescents). We’d become accustomed to the light temperature and they felt normal which gave me the baseline for the feeling that the new (next generation) ones were warmer (I think it is the yellow tint to the casings which contributes to this). I havent had any of them long enough to know how well they will perform over their lifetime, but at the moment at least I have no reason to ever go back to halogen GU10′s.

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