Energy saving and smart light bulb buying guide

Energy saving and smart light bulb buying guide

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

Saving energy has never been more important and modern lighting options like CFL and LED bulbs offer a range of technology to reduce our carbon footprint and cut down on bills. From dimmer switches and motion detectors to smart lighting and dusk to dawn switches, read on to find out more about energy saving lighting.
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Why choose energy saving light bulbs?

Pourquoi choisir des ampoules à économie d'énergie

Lights represent a significant portion of a household's energy consumption with about 12% of our overall bills going towards lighting alone. But it is possible to get a better handle on our usage by using special energy efficient light bulbs which have a much longer service life. These bulbs also consume much less energy than traditional bulbs.

What kind of bulbs save energy?

What kind of bulbs save energy?
  • Compact fluorescent lamp bulbs (or CFL bulbs) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs can reduce the energy costs of lighting by almost 75% compared to incandescent and halogen bulbs. While incandescent bulbs have been largely phased out, following the EU ban back in 2009, halogen light bulbs have only been banned since September 2021. The reason? These bulbs use far too much energy to produce heat and, as a result, give off less light.

  • New generation bulbs have really long service lives and last about 15 times longer than traditional bulbs.

  • The light output of LED and CFL bulbs is also better than older bulbs.

Lumens vs. watts

  Lumens versus Watts

When it comes to light output, we now use lumens instead of watts. This value is used for both CFL and LED bulbs and indicates the actual light output of the bulb. Watts, on the other hand, indicate the power drawn by the light bulb. As modern light bulbs produce more light and require less power than old models, lumens came to naturally replace watts as a unit of measurement on packaging, even if watts are still often referred to.

  • 1 watt is roughly the equivalent of 10 lumens.

  • Shops will generally offer a range of bulbs rated 220 to 1400 lumens.

  • The higher the light output in lumens, the brighter the light.

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Different types of light bulbs

Modern light bulbs like CFL bulbs and LED bulbs have been gradually making their way into our homes for some time now. They provide just as much light as older filament bulbs, but are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

CFL bulbs

Les ampoules fluocompactes

CFL, or compact fluorescent lamp bulbs are made up of a glass tube and an electronic ballast. The tube contains argon and a small amount of mercury vapour.

Advantages of a CFL bulb

  • They are economical to run (a 11 W bulb is the equivalent to a 60 W incandescent bulb).

  • They are available in a range of models and sizes. They do not warm up much and are therefore less dangerous than older bulbs since they pose less of a fire risk.

  • They have a long service life (up to 15,000 hours).

  • They do not consume much energy (about 75% less than older bulbs).

Disadvantages of CFL bulbs

CFL bulbs emit small amounts of radiation. The ballast contained in these bulbs can disrupt some electronic medical equipment such as pacemakers, cochlear implants or insulin pumps. It is recommended to keep these medical devices at least 1.5 metres from CFL bulbs. Mercury can also cause issues but only if the bulb is broken.

LED bulbs

Les LED ou diodes électroluminescentes

Light Emitting Diodes, after which LED bulbs are named, are the electronic components that turn electricity into light. The light output of these bulbs is indicated in lumens (Lm) and the colour temperature is given in Kelvins (K).

Advantages of LED bulbs

  • They are very economical to run: a 6 W LED bulb is roughly the equivalent of a 60 W incandescent bulb.

  • LED bulbs do not emit heat.

  • They have a very long lifespan of up to 30,000 hours.

  • They are very efficient at producing light.

Disadvantages of LED bulbs

It's worth noting that there are fewer and fewer blue LED bulbs on the market. Following studies from bodies such as ANSES on the potential health impact linked to the blue light produced by LED light bulbs, manufacturers now offer low blue light or even blue light free bulbs. These studies suggest that the phototoxic effects of blue light could pose a real danger for our retinas with physiological symptoms such as disturbed sleep, macular degeneration and reduced visual acuity.

It is therefore recommended to limit exposure to blue light and instead to choose warm light bulbs with a colour temperature of < 3000 K in the home.

Controlling your lights

Using energy saving light bulbs is a great step towards controlling your light system but there are other solutions including dimmer switches, programmers, motion detectors or even smart home systems.

Dimmer compatibility

Dimmer compatibility

Dimmer switches allow you to adjust the light output of your lights to match your needs and to create different atmospheres around the home. Whether you're after low lighting or bright lights, you can get it all from the same bulb.

  • It's important to check the compatibility of your CFL or LED bulbs with dimmer switches. This will be indicated by the mention of 'dimmable' on the packaging.

  • An LED bulb can function with a classic dimmer switch, but you won't be able to dim the light completely.

  • It is preferable to install a special LED dimmer for better control over the bulb which will allow you to dim the light 100%.

Programming lights

Programming lights

Light switch timers and controllers can be used to control your lights (or even other appliances) to turn on at set hours automatically.

You can set a daily, weekly or monthly schedule, depending on the model.

Advantages of programming lights

  • Used as security against break-ins, a light on a timer will make intruders think there is someone home even if the property is empty.

  • Handy for making the most of appliances during off-peak hours.

Motion sensors

Motion sensors

Motion sensors or detectors turn lights on whenever presence is detected in a room and turning them off when no one is around.

Advantages of motion sensors

  • Lights only turn on when required.

  • You won't forget to turn off the lights as the sensor will do it for you.

  • Ideal for making passageways like corridors, entrances, stairways and bathrooms safer at night.

Dusk to dawn switches

Dusk to dawn switches

Photocell light switches, or dusk to dawn switches, are fitted with a sensor that adjusts the light depending on the brightness of the natural light available. These switches help you to make savings on artificial lighting no matter the time of day.

Advantages of photocell light switches

  • Your lights will adapt to conditions in real time.

  • Ideal for lighting up passageways at night.

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Modular photocell switches

Smart light bulbs

La GTC ou système de contrôle intelligent

Smart lighting is a marvel of home automation technology. Smart light bulbs, alongside other smart appliances, are connected to the internet and can be controlled via smartphone.

Increasingly used to control public lighting, smart lighting combines all the benefits of energy saving bulbs with light sensors and motion detectors and can also be used with dimmer switches. These bulbs have now made their way into our homes.

What are the advantages of smart light bulbs?

  • Increased user comfort by adjusting lighting to match natural light.

  • Energy saving as lights are controlled automatically.

  • You can custom set your lighting preferences.

  • Bulbs can be controlled remotely using a smartphone.

  • Lower CO2 emissions and environmentally friendly.

  • Less to think about since everything is controlled automatically.

More information

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Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

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