Selecting the best LED globes

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LED Benefits

  • Long life, if used in a suitable environment. Saving future maintenance & cost.
  • Dramatically higher efficiency & lower power usage compared to incandescent lights. In general LED lights are about 80% cheaper to run.
  • Lower heat output, conventional incandescent lights waste about 90% of their power on heat output.
  • Typically lower infra-red and ultraviolet output. This can also mean a lower fire risk, especially compared to halogen downlights
  • Typically faster switching time and less likely to be damaged by on off cycles
  • Faster warm up time (especially compared to fluorescent lights). However some LED drivers / transformers do have a short startup time of around 1 second
  • A direct retrofit solution is now available for almost all types of light fixtures
  • They are usually more rugged. There is normally no glass to break and no filament to damage via vibration.
  • They are more environmentally friendly. They last longer, don't result in the emissions of as much CO2 and normally don't contain any toxic materials, like the mercury vapor in CFL.
  • Some LEDs can be setup to dynamically change colour, but this is not the norm for residential lighting.


LED Disadvantages

  • Expensive to initially purchase globes
  • Not all LED bulbs are dimmable and other flicker when dimmed.
  • Possible compatibility problems with existing dimmers when retrofitting. The larger brand name manufacturers do fairly extensive testing, but you might not be so lucky with generic LEDs
  • Possible compatibility problems with existing low voltage transformers when retrofitting
  • High powered LED downlights can be taller than halogen lights as a result of the heat sink, which can be a problem if roof space is limited
  • May fail prematurely in high temperature conditions
  • Quality / colour of the light isn't always as good as incandescent or halogen lights, but is getting better.
  • Light output and colour quality can degrade over the life of the bulb (but other lights can also suffer this problem)
  • The need for a heatsink means some LEDs don't like being installed on their side as the flutes in the heatsink won't function efficiently.
  • They are a newer more complex product than an incandescent light, getting accurate specifications and advice can be difficult. Performance depends on good engineering, not over driving the chip, having a good heat sink and a stable power supply

What to look for in a LED globe

  • High Lumens (lm). This is a measure of the light's output. You'll need around 800lm to match a 60W incandescent globe. 
  • Low wattage. Less wattage means less electricity and less running costs. But as wattage also influences the brightness, don't go too low. Low wattage also makes LED globes cheaper as smaller heatsinks can be used.
  • Make sure the fitting type (and hole size for a downlight) matches what you need. Common downlight fittings are GU10 (240V), MR16 (low voltage 12V with a transformer).
  • Lights with large heatsinks are preferable as they are less likely to overheat. The more wattage the globe has, the bigger the required heatsink.
  • Check the colour temperature is what you want. (warm white or cool white). Warm white if often used in lounge rooms, while cool white in bathrooms. But it is really personal preference here. Note that cool white globes are slightly more efficient, but not to everyones taste.
  • Pick a light with a high CRI values (>80 is preferable, > 90 is great). CRI (color rendering index) refers to the quality of the light and the ability reproduce the colours of various objected. A LED with a high CRI will ensure that a red apple actually looks red and not a washed out shade of orange.
  • If you need a dimable light, check the vendor is providing a list of compatible dimmers. At the moment LED lights have a problem with dimming. They can flicker and strobe unless compatible, and currently many LED have very limited dimmer compatibility.
  • Check the light has the Australian C-Tick approval and any transformer or driver SAA electrical approval.
  • BEWARE that not all vendors are honest about their specifications however. Check comments from other users and review sites like where possible.
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