If you are considering replacing general lighting (i.e not spotlights) with LED substitutes, then this is a personal review of some of the many LED spot lights that I have tested (and in most cases still quite happily use) for the following types of lighting application:
To buy any of the products featured here, or if you’re simply interested in further unbiased, genuine customer reviews and all the latest prices then just click on the photographs or product names.
The links lead to the same place I bought all mine, namely Amazon who offer not only good quality LED bulbs but invariably also the absolutely best prices available anywhere and of course their legendary returns policy.
Click here if instead you’re interested in good quality LED spotlights
General Service LED Light Bulbs
There are of course other ways of spreading directional light out so it gives all round light and one of the most ingenious designs so far is the Philips Novallure
This perfectly demonstrates one of the simplest yet most effective techniques (that I‘ve been banging on about for ages) for both softening and spreading LED light out, namely reflecting it off something.
In this case the something is a precisely engineered, highly reflective inverted cone that is positioned a centimeter or so above an LED that points straight up. Some of the light passes the cone and carries on up, but most of it hits the cone at various angles and is thus reflected away in all directions orthogonal to the original direction of the light source. It’s another stunningly simple idea that works brilliantly and requires no moving parts, electronics or other complexity since it’s all done with mirrors (or a mirror to be pedantic).
Energy savings are in the order of 80% and being a miniature screw fitting it is perfect for chandeliers and similar fittings that require numerous small, low powered lights. These days you can often see this very bulb used extensively in shop lighting displays, not only to alleviate the cost of running numerous lights all day long, but because the mirror design makes them incredibly sparkly. The bulb is available in both clear and frosted forms, though personally it seems a shame to mask the sparkling effect behind frosting.
Staying with Philips, another popular choice is this Philips Econic 5W bulb.
Philips claim it produces light equivalent to a traditional 25W bulb though quite a few folk seem to think it’s brighter than that (subjectivity strikes again). However for those who are looking for something with rather more power, there is also the Philips Econic 7W (available in an ES screw type rather BC bayonet base) which is equivalent to a standard 40W light bulb with warm white and dimmable.
Interesting to see that as LED lighting becomes more widely available and adopted, so the issue of dimming increasingly becomes a selling point. The manufacturer’s own product spec is here and interestingly they claim energy savings of 90%.
Ledzworld 6.5W Dimmable GLS LED
One of the more interesting all purpose GLS LED light bulbs available to consumers is this Ledzworld 6.5W Osram Dimmable GLS LED. Perhaps not a name you’re familiar with, but there you go.
Ledzworld also make arguably one of the best GU10 LED bulbs currently available for domestic use (which like this bulb is also dimmable).
The shot on the left shows a Ledzworld 6.5W Dimmable LED Bulb and on the right a regular 60W incandescent light bulb. There is a difference but not much of one – it would certainly put a 40W bulb in the shade. As regards dimming, it does and very well too (see below).
Not only does this closely resemble a regular light bulb in overall size and shape, but it has a very high power factor (possibly among the highest on the market today) which of course means it is incredibly efficient. Power factor in case you don’t know is a measure of the total electrical consumption of a device and can often obscure the true savings attainable with any specific device – if you’re interested in a bit of math then follow this link for more about LED power factor.
But one of the main reasons to give this particular LED lamp serious consideration is that it is fully dimmable on most domestic dimmer switches and, this is the cool bit, it changes color just like a normal incandescent bulb does! So as you dim the light the color temperature gets warmer, just like we’ve all gotten used to.
Quite a number of folk have found the lack of color change when dimming an LED somewhat annoying if not slightly creepy, so this is a very welcome innovation and possibly unique to Ledzworld products since they own the patent for what is termed Color Temperature Adjusted (CTA) dimming. At heart it’s such a simple idea you wonder how no-one else thought to do it earlier; basically it incorporates an orange LED that fades up as the white LEDs are dimmed down.
A less well known make is the Ledon 10Watt LED Light Bulb. Putting out an impressive 60 lumens per watt this has a total luminous flux of 600 lumens which does indeed put it right up there with a regular 60w incandescent light bulb. The color temperature is claimed to be 2,700K which is pleasantly warm white, with CRI (Color Rendering Index) up at 90. Helpfully, the manufacturer has provided loads more information including these LED test results.
This bulb also includes an interesting “Double Click” feature which reduces the brightness by 30% of the original lighting level when the light switch is double-clicked. This is not such a gimmick as you might at first assume – this from a spokesperson for the Royal Household Property Section (yes, the Queen of England no less is switching over to LED):
“We were attracted by the double-click dimming feature of the LEDON product and by the very high light output. These are working very well enabling staff to dim down, for example when they are working on a PC, using the standard light switch”. In other words you can get a simple dimming function without the need for an actual dimmer switch (see note below for further information on this subject).
It’s not cheap it has to be said, but like all high quality LED lamps, if installed in a high use fitting it will pay for itself surprisingly quickly and thereafter save a considerable sum of money. The estimated energy savings are 85% (about 7 times cheaper to run than the equivalent incandescent bulb) and you can check out the financial implications for yourself using the seemingly obligatory LED savings calculator. For those who like playing with such things, here is a small collection of LED savings calculator links.
Note that Switch Dimmable (aka double-click dimming) light bulbs are not the same as actually “dimmable” ones. They rely on a regular light switch to send instructions to an internal dimming mechanism and will absolutely not work if connected to a dimmer switch.
Genuinely dimmable LED light bulbs have been few and far between and suffered from three basic issues.
- First, they don’t change color from white to yellow/orange as they dim, although some do know offer this (check out the Ledzworld CTA dimming system).
- Second, they don’t usually dim down below 10% (if you’re lucky) and the dimming is often not exactly seamlessly smooth.
- And thirdly, they tend to be picky, picky, picky about whether or not they will play nice with any given dimmer switch. As a general rule you’re likely to be OK with an old style slide/rotate switch and get nowhere with an electronic push/touch type dimmer. However, even if the light dims nicely some dimmer switches can cause the light bulbs to buzz (though I’ve know this to also happen with regular incandescent halogen lamps too, particularly when 12v transformers are present).
That said, they are getting a whole lot better on this front and the best advice I can offer for the moment therefore is to try it out and if it’s not to your liking then send it back – I highly recommend using Amazon for their amazingly easy returns process (they also usually have the best prices too).
Click this link for more about the fraught issue of dimming LED light bulbs.
LED G4 Capsules
G4 capsules are the diminutive unsung heroes of a great deal of modern lighting. They’re called G4 because they use the simple bi-pin push fit system with a pin gap of 4mm (more here about light bulb types) and being very small they find their way into all manner of fittings – low profile spotlights, desk and reading lamps, chandeliers, and indeed anyplace else that calls for a small, bright light. The downside of course is that until recently, all G4 capsules were halogen based, meaning that they got ferociously hot, requiring shielding and notices on the fittings warning folk not to touch the bulbs.
They’re also not exactly cheap to run, because although each capsule may be only 10 or 20 watts, when used en masse (to light a glass cupboard for example, or in a large chandelier) that can seriously add up. Cue the LED alternative then, which uses either 1 or 2 watts to match the 10W and 20W halogens, and runs cool to the touch while soaking up vastly less electricity.
Unlike with the halogen lighting, there are two types of G4 LED capsule – unidirectional and omnidirectional. Which you choose depends on the intended application as we shall touch upon.
Both use tiny surface mounted devices (SMDs) which are in effect raw LED chips. The unidirectional version uses a “pillar” with SMDs affixed to each of the four sides and also on the top, so as shine light in all directions.
The omnidirectional ones use a simple disc (or platter) with all the SMDs thus pointing in the same direction. When these are used to replace low profile halogen cabinet lights for example, you can if you need to remove the reflector to give yourself a bit more space inside the fitting (since LEDs have no need for such things).
The pictures incidentally are of, firstly a unidirectional 1W G4 LED capsule in a glass fronted kitchen dresser (a 10W halogen is on the left and a 1W LED G4 on the right).
This cupboard originally contained 6 x 20W halogen G4 capsules and, being a north facing kitchen looking out onto a garden full of large trees, the lights were left on for many, many hours each day. So that was 120 watts now replaced perfectly adequately by 6 watts (and yes, the lights still get left on – it’s gloomy otherwise).
The second shot is of a desk lamp, comparing a 20W halogen bulb on the left with a 2W G4 LED on the right. It’s difficult to argue which is brighter, though it is more obvious in a photograph than in real life that there is a difference in the light itself. The halogen lamps do inject a warm, slightly pink hue which is absent from the LED equivalent. For an example of an omnidirectional LED G4 capsule in use, check out this article about repairing LED garden lights.
The image on the left is an example of an LED G4 Omnidirectional Capsule, this particular one being a 1W pillar style LED that emits light in all directions. The other two are, smallest first, 1W and 2W unidirectional G4 LEDs. Omnidirectional LEDs are best for situations where you need a (relatively) slim fitting bulb and/or all round light, such as in a lighting cluster or small table lamp.
For desk and small reading lamps a better bet is a unidirectional LED since you actually do want all the light heading in the same direction (there’s little point sending it into the back of the lamp cover – even it is reflective). As a rule, use 1W G4 LEDs to replace 10W halogens and 2W for 20W versions, but you also need to bear in mind that there are differences in size.
The brighter ones (I hesitate to call them bulbs since they’re are in fact SMDs) on a thin platter) measure 31mm diameter and are roughly twice as thick as the 1W versions that measure 22mm diameter. This can make them a very tight, verging on impossible squeeze in some fittings – the slimline cupboard fittings in the photo above being a good example (they did fit but only just, and proved in fact to be too bright for that situation). They seem to fit easily enough into most desk lamps though.
All the pictures above show Aurora 12v G4 LED Capsules either in use or to illustrate what the products actually look like (nothing like a traditional light bulb, that’s for sure). Aurora are one of the best known supplier of lighting products in general and LEDs in particular and their LED G4 capsules are high quality and also available in colors other than just warm and cool white.
At the time of writing they are also offering FREE DELIVERY and up to 75% OFF so check them out! You can also read unbiased reviews by ordinary customers who have put them in their own homes.
LED Mood Lighting
Moving away from general service lighting, LEDs are extremely effective at providing mood lighting. A particularly popular location is behind a TV set to provide ambient backlighting for a home theatre installation. They are also often angled so as to color wash walls and/or ceilings and are very effective at creating atmosphere in bathrooms and bedrooms.
Generally speaking LED mood lights work best in informal situations with reasonably subdued light levels. They tend to be somewhat overpowered when competing with bright lighting and can also be quite distracting in some settings. But used appropriately they are a great addition to domestic lighting and many units are highly programmable and/or remotely controlled to provide a huge variety of different tones and color change sequences.
Some people wonder how some LEDs are able to change color and the answer is that they use three separate diodes: red, green and blue (the old familiar RGB) that when combined produce white light. However by modifying the current flowing to each diode it is possible to in effect fade that component up or down which alters the color balance (for example, by fading out blue the combination of red and green will start to appear yellow). No filters required and for all practical purpose a limitless range of directly emitted colors.
First up we have the cheap and cheerful Auraglow LED color changing bulb. This is quite literally just the light bulb plus a remote control for setting/programming it, so you will need a bulb holder (often a clip-on holder is offered as an optional extra) if you don’t have a suitable location already in mind.
As already mentioned, these types of light work best when used for wall wash effects so you really don’t want to fit it in a regular downlight recess for example.
On the plus side, this product is cheap and does a perfectly functional job and you can always add to your setup by buying more bulbs (the one in the picture requires a BC/B22 bayonet type holder but you also obtain it in ES/E27 and GU10 formats).
However, it only has a limited range of colors and isn’t very powerful (about on a par with a 30W incandescent bulb, though obviously perceived brightness also varies according to what the current color is). But for a child’s bedroom, novelty effect or something to soothe you while you soak in the bath it’s fine.
As an aside, Auraglow also offer an extremely good 50W equivalent LED GU10 with a 7W LED spotlight that is also available in a dimmable version.
Another option which is well suited to provide TV backlighting or interesting effects (such as lighting below a bed, which makes it appear to be floating) is using an LED color changing kit consisting of a number of interlinking “tubes”.
They’re called tubes because they are usually sold as low energy replacements for regular fluorescent tubes, but basically they’re simply LED strips encased in a rigid plastic tube with bi-pin caps so as to retrofit into existing fluorescent lamp holders. This is cheap, effective and very easy to install, so worth considering for specific applications.
Further up the food chain (and price scale) there is Philips well known LivingColors LED mood lamp. This is the second generation version, which claims a 50% increase in brightness on its predecessor, and is available in both a clear plastic and glossy black finish.
It’s very prettily styled and somewhat reminiscent of Apple iPod technology, particularly the dinky little click wheel type remote control. Also, where the Auraglow has 16 colors to play with, this has 16 million and about 4 times the power using 15 watts to drive 7 high power LEDs.
Opinions vary quite dramatically on this one, with some people loving it and others finding faults. It does indeed cost a lot of money which perhaps causes expectations to exceed what the product can realistically deliver.
But the fact is that this is still a mood light – it is not capable of fully illuminating a room and that is not its purpose (if you really do want that then you will have to step up to something like a professional LED stage light, with a price to match).
Philips provide a rather cheesy video showing it in use (follow the link above or click on the picture) and you will notice that the unit is typically placed in an alcove or aimed at an area of neutral wall – this is typically the best way to use most LED lights since they are not so great at emitting light in all directions, but bouncing the light off a nearby surface works as a very effective alternative.
Looking remarkably similar and boasting the exact same number of colors and LEDs is the Obsess 7 mood lamp (one has to wonder if there hasn’t been a bit of copycat on one side or the other). This can be slightly more expensive than the LivingColors lamp (depending on when and where you look) but there doesn’t seem to much between the two, though fans of the Obsess 7 claim superior build quality.
Replacing Standard Domestic Lights With LEDs
Given the all pervasive nature of the common globe shaped light bulb it might seem surprising that this has been last on the list where LED equivalents are concerned. But that’s largely because scattering light uniformly in all directions is not exactly a forte of LEDs; they’re much better at emitting a lot of light in one direction. This of course means that manufacturers have to resort to clever (and thus expensive to make) ways round this. A common technique is to use a central pillar with individual LEDs all pointing in different directions and surrounded by a diffuser in the guise of a glass globe.
As a consequence, where GLS lamps are concerned there has been little alternative until recently other than the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL). In fact, as standard incandescent GLS lamps become ever more scarce (due to global legislation to phase out their production and sale) it was starting to look like there was little hope for those who, quite understandably, really have a problem with CFLs.
But thankfully that’s all starting to change as you can see from the above review of LED replacements for incandescent light bulbs. In fact just swapping out regular light bulbs for LED equivalents misses out on a whole lot more than just cost savings – LED lighting brings some new ideas to the table that conventional lighting is simply not capable of emulating.
As ever, the usual health warning applies: high power consumer LED lights are a new technology which means that a) there is a large pool of people who don’t yet understand much about the technology, and b) there are sadly all too many suppliers only too ready to leap on the low energy lighting bandwagon and exploit this situation
The (very) rough rule of thumb with the current generation of LEDs is that they produce about as much light as an incandescent lamp that draws 10 times as much power. So a 3W LED is on a par with a 25-30W traditional bulb and a 6W LED should give a 50W incandescent a run for its money. Follow this link to find out what else to consider when buying LED light bulbs.