It’s no secret that LED lighting is on the rise. In the last decade, LED technology has moved out of the realm of digital watches and clocks and into home lighting space, and it’s here to stay. Whereas early LED lighting was harsh and cold, current advancements have resulted in warm and stylish choices more appropriate for the home, and they’re continuing to improve.
There is still a lot of debate over whether LED has truly come far enough for the discerning decorator, though. On one hand, LED lights are up to six times more efficient than the incandescent bulbs that we all grew up with, meaning they are easier on the environment and easier on your utility bills — and they don’t get burning hot like incandescent or halogen bulbs.
On the other hand, some designers don’t feel like the warmth of LED lights have caught up with their incandescent equivalents yet, especially when LED costs more than incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lights.
Is it worth switching to LED? Like most things, it depends. There are more factors to consider when choosing LED than with incandescent or fluorescent lighting.
We asked one of our top lighting experts, Danielle Lavigne, for some of the common concerns that people should look out for when choosing LED lighting. When she meets with clients in our Edmonton showroom, she ensures they are making an informed choice when it comes to LED lighting. Here are some of her most valuable pieces of advice.
LED Fixtures vs. LED Bulbs
When considering LED lighting, it’s important to note that not all LEDs are considered equal.
You can purchase fixtures that have integrated LED lighting already installed, so you do not need to install and maintain any light bulbs. This can be handy, and integrated LED fixtures can have a higher light output than LED light bulbs, but after the manufacturer’s warranty expires (normally five years), you are responsible for any failure in the fixture. Often, you’ll need to replace the entire fixture.
Danielle said this is a big concern for her clients:
“Some people don’t want integrated LED fixtures because if something happens five years down the road, you can’t just change a light bulb.”
You hear all the time that LED fixtures can last 30 years, but is it true? LED lighting hasn’t been around long enough for us to know for sure, but if you don’t like changing light bulbs and need a higher light output, you may want to consider an integrated LED fixture like the ET2 Puffs 6-Light Pendant:
LED bulbs, on the other hand, behave just like any other bulb. They can be used virtually anywhere you use a regular incandescent light bulb, but they last a lot longer. Just be sure that if you’re going to be dimming your LED bulbs, you have a compatible dimmer installed (more on this later).
Many LED bulbs don’t have the same look as incandescent bulbs, though, so if you’re hanging an industrial-looking fixture, like the Artcraft Jersey Chandelier, where the light bulbs are exposed, be sure whatever bulbs you choose will match the aesthetic. In this case, you’d have to decide whether incandescent or LED are more appropriate.
Light bulbs come in different colour temperatures called Kelvin temperatures, and whenever you hear people referring to “warm” or “cool” light, they are referring to the Kelvin temperature. LED lighting now comes in a variety of colour temperatures to match the look and feel you want.
The lower the Kelvin number, the warmer the light is, while a higher Kelvin number will result in cooler light. For example, a 2700K light will be warm and yellow, while 6000K will be more blue and white. “Most people want the 2700K-3000K range,” said Danielle.
For example, this vanity light from Kuzco Lighting typically comes in 3000K colour temperature for a warmer glow.
It all comes down to personal preference though.
“We have to be really careful to ask if people want their lights to be more yellow or more blue,” said Danielle.
What You Need to Know About Lumens and LED Lighting
We’re all used to looking at the wattage of a light bulb to get a sense of how bright a light is going to be, but LED lighting is largely measured in lumens now. This means that if you’re just looking at wattage, you might not be seeing the whole picture.
The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light, but these numbers can be deceptive. There are two ways of measuring lumens — total lumens and delivered lumens. Total lumens measure the total amount of light created by the fixture, but once reflectors, lenses and shades direct the light towards the surface you want lit, only a portion of the remaining lumens, called delivered lumens, are visible.
When choosing LED fixtures or bulbs then, it is important to check whether the manufacturer is giving you the total lumens or delivered lumens. When Danielle is helping her clients, she has to double-check whether the fixtures her clients are looking at are going to provide enough light.
She said, “We sell a lot of LED bathroom fixtures because they’re sleek and modern. They’re all measured in lumens now, so even when a bathroom could be very small, like a powder room, some of these light fixtures are not providing enough light based on the lumen output. It might say it’s 8,000 lumens, but then the lumens perceived by the eye are less, so it’s not enough light for a bathroom.”
It’s crucial that if you’re not sure whether a fixture is going to provide enough light for your needs or not, you seek the advice of a lighting expert to guide you through the process.
This 24” Strate Vanity light from Kendal Lighting provides 1,025 total lumens, but should still be enough light for regular bathroom use.
Since LED lighting does not dim the same way as incandescent or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs do, there are unique precautions for dimming them.
Often you’ll need a special dimmer switch that can accommodate LED fixtures or light bulbs, so If you’re building a new home or doing a renovation, you’ll have to coordinate closely with your electrician. Otherwise, you could find yourself with flickering or non-functioning lights.
There are three basic types of dimmers:
- Regular 120-volt dimmers for use with incandescent or CFL bulbs (compatible with some LEDs)
- Magnetic low-voltage dimmers
- Electronic low-voltage dimmers
Each of these three types is compatible with certain LED light bulbs and fixtures. You don’t need to worry about the technical details, but not all LEDs will work with all dimmers, and vice versa. Danielle has come across these issues on some of her home build projects:
“There have been instances where I’ll tell electricians that a fixture needs to go on an electronic low voltage dimmer, and then I’ll get a call from a client saying that their lights are flickering. We’ll have our service guy go out and look at it, and sure enough, the wrong dimmer’s been put on.”
Most manufacturers will list the dimmer requirements for each fixture or light bulb, so make sure everyone is on the same page about which dimmer to use.
When it comes to re-lighting a home, LED lighting is the one thing on everyone’s mind.
According to Danielle, “Everybody is questioning whether it’s worth it to switch over. When I’m with a client, that’s the number one question.”
Whether you decide to switch or not comes down to personal preference, but whatever you decide, it’s important to make an informed decision that takes all of these factors into account. That’s what lighting professionals like Danielle and our other showroom staff at Robinson Lighting & Bath Centre are for.
“I could talk to you for hours about LEDs,” Danielle said, laughing.
To get some of the looks featured in this expert advice post, check out our Fall Flyer for limited-time promotions by clicking the image below. You can also make an appointment to visit a showroom and get your own personalized advice by clicking here.
This post was written in collaboration with Danielle Lavigne, who has 10 years of experience in lighting design and sales. You can usually find Danielle helping clients light their dream homes in our Edmonton showroom and during in-home consultations. Her best advice? “Not everybody thinks lighting is going to be a challenge, and it is. Selecting lighting for a whole house is hard— finding things to fit within budget, fit within style, and coordinate throughout the whole house. I think that people need to be prepared to allow time for selecting lighting.”
*Fall Flyer Sale Price valid until December 31st, 2016.