At the beginning of their lives, LEDs were only to be found in the display panel of your clock. Now they come in different shapes with a range of applications that make them the most versatile type of lighting for homes and businesses.
However, there can be such a thing as too much choice –think ordering a coffee from a modern coffee shop: skinny, double shot, extra syrups, extra flavours, soya milk, whipped cream, decaf or not, sizes…- so here is a brief guide to understanding the difference between LED lights.
Main types of LED bulbs
General Lighting Service (GLS) bulbs: your standard bulb, available with bayonet and screw bases, the former being designated with a ‘B’ and the latter with an ‘E’. These letters are followed by a number which if the base’s diameter.
R-Series reflector bulbs: they are usually used as floodlights and downlights. The number after the R refers to the bulb’s diameter.
MR16 and GU10 spotlights: MR16s, also called GU5.3, have two thin pins and run on 12V which means they need an external transformer. GU10s have thick pins that you need to turn to lock and they run on 240V.
The new mysterious units
Before LEDs, the power of a light was given in Watts and we all knew what we needed. However, LEDs all indicate a lumens value, and two bulbs with the same wattage can have different lumens, which makes it slightly confusing.
Watts are actually a unit to measure power consumption while lumens represent the amount of light coming out of the bulb.
How many lumens you need will depend on the type of surface considered. For floors, it is recommended to have about 200 lumens/m2; for tables and kitchen counters 300 lumens/m2 and for desks and task lighting 500 lumens/ m2.
If you are replacing standard bulbs with LEDs it is worth noting that LED lighting appears brighter, so you can choose a slightly lower wattage.
In their infancy, LEDs were criticised for generating a harsh white light. Understandably, ambient lighting reminiscent of an operating theatre isn’t to everybody’s taste.
Nowadays, you can find a range of choices of so-called ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ light more suitable for everyday living. The warmth of the light is expressed in kelvin - the lower the kelvin number, the warmer the light. You can also obtain high colour rendering (CRI) LED lamps which reveal the colours of objects closer to that of natural light.
Nowadays, you can also choose the beam angle of your bulb. The smaller the value of the angle, the more concentrated the light will be.
Narrower angle bulbs, that is of less than 30˚, are normally reserved for use with a series of downlights close to each other like in cabinet lighting for example while at the other end of the spectrum, LEDs with very large angles are usually for high-power LEDs used in floodlighting.
This variety of beam angles allows you to illuminate spaces in a very precise way, and create various areas with light.