The best and last lights you’ll ever buy

Published Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “disruptive technology”.  It’s a cliché describing when a new product is so superior to whatever it’s replacing that it turns an entire industry on its ear.  

These days, there’s probably no better example of disruptive technology than light emitting diodes – LEDs.  And a generous rebate from NB Power means this is a perfect time to get them for your home or business.

Best lighting ever

When it comes to LEDs, you don’t really need to know that LEDs were patented in 1966 but were initially too dim and expensive to be very useful.  

You don’t really need to know of the big breakthrough in 1994, when three Japanese scientists invented the first bright LEDs suitable for conventional lighting; it won them a Nobel Prize in Physics.  Or that LED prices have been falling ever since.

What you do need to know is this: LEDs are revolutionizing the world of lighting, and for many good reasons.  

First, they’re extremely efficient, using 80 per cent less energy than those incandescents we used to swear by.  An LED as bright as an old 60 watt incandescent uses just nine watts.  (A comparable CFL uses 13 watts.)

Second, they last really, really long.  An LED bulb installed today and used for one hour a day will last until about 2085.  Essentially, LEDs will make lights permanent features of buildings rather than things that burn out and need to be replaced regularly.  Talk about convenient!

Third, they come on instantly.

Fourth, they are safer because they don’t get hot.

Fifth, they are available in a range of colors and hues, including the soft, warm white most people prefer.

Sixth, they contain no mercury or other noxious materials, so there are no issues with disposal. 

LEDs cost a bit more to buy, but more than pay for themselves in energy savings and convenience.

Options

When LEDs first hit the market a few years ago, regular bulbs were about all you could get.  Today, there are many options.

Six, nine and 15 watt bulbs are available to replace ‘old’ 40, 60 and 100 watt bulbs.  LED tubes are available to replace fluorescent tubes (with a bit of rewiring generally required).  Clear bulbs that mimic the glowing filaments of incandescents are now available for chandeliers and other decorative fixtures.  Coloured bulbs and LED strips offer ambiance.

And many different types of fixtures (with LEDs permanently mounted inside them) are now available: from stylish for home use to functional for workshops and other workspaces.  Fixtures mean no bulbs to change, ever.  I have a few in my home, and they are wonderful.

Key points to remember

If you’re in the market for LEDs, here are four key things you’ll want to know.

First, it’s essential to pick bulbs that give the light color you want.  A bulb’s color is indicated by its K number.  For warm white, choose 2700 to 3000 K.  For daylight white, choose 4000-5000 K.  For workspaces where intense brightness is preferred, choose 5500-6500 K.  Be sure to get it right, because you’ll living with the bulb you choose for a long time!

Second, not all bulbs can handle moisture or extreme cold.  Make sure any bulbs or fixtures you intend for exterior use are approved for those conditions.

Third, most LEDs are dimmable – but not all.  And some dimmer switches don’t work with dimmable LEDs.  So if you have dimmers, do a bit of homework before you buy. 

Fourth, this week is a perfect time to buy LEDs for your home or workplace.  NB Power is offering an instant, in-store rebate of $4 - $7 off select single and multi-pack LED bulbs, and $5 off select LED fixtures – but only until April 30.

So if you haven’t installed LEDs yet, now’s the perfect time.  I guarantee they will disrupt your old bulb-changing habits.