While it used to be the case that your average UK home was fitted with bayonet cap lamps throughout, these days most homes you walk into will likely have GU10 halogen lamps in at least one room, either in the form of flush downlights, a central ceiling fitting with multiple bulbs or perhaps a side spot lamp.

gu10examples

Halogen lighting is a bit of a misnomer, it’s often sold as being more energy efficient than traditional tungsten lamps with the highest rated halogen GU10 lamp sitting at 50W while 60W or 100W tungsten lamps used to be common fare, however a single 50W halogen just isn’t going to light a room in a rounded way like a 60W tungsten used to, so people end up with four or six halogen spotlights in an average sized room and therefore may consume 300W of lighting power where a 60W bulb used to be deemed sufficient.

Halogen lamps also get very hot, and in applications where the lamp is angled or where heat cannot dissipate properly, their lifespan is much shortened. Even in ideal conditions, most halogens are only rated for up to 2000 hours.

In order to get the most out of a GU10 fitting, you really need to switch to LED technology. At the time of writing, a 3 - 4W LED bulb is equivalent to about 35W of halogen lighting and a 5 - 7W LED bulb will put out about as many lumens as a 50W halogen. For a room with six downlights, 3.5W LED bulbs will only draw 21W of power and decent lamps may be rated at 20,000 to 50,000 hours of life.

Traditionally there have been two off-putting problems with LED technology, the first being the high price and the second being the colour temperature with white LED lamps tending towards the cooler blue-white end of the spectrum. Although this may be desired for ‘clean’ areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, most people want a warmer yellow-white glow around the living areas of their home.

Both these issues are being addressed with prices continually dropping and technology improving to provide a wider choice of colour temperatures.

For the past four years I’ve been using GU10 Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) in my dining room, however one of them has become intermittent and they all have annoying slow warm-up times so I decided to swap them out for LED bulbs. I was interested in Ikea’s range of LED lamps which promise warm-white colour, only 3.4W power consumption per unit and 150 lumens of brightness which is more than my CFL lamps can produce at 7W consumption per unit. The real interesting thing about the Ikea lamps is that they only cost £4 each at the time of writing which is a relatively small price tag for a 150 lumen LED bulb.

ledare-bulb

You have to be very careful of LED lamps. Branded versions by quality manufacturers such as Philips, GE, Crompton, Osram and Sylvania will live up to their long life promises, but they can command a premium price. Unbranded or supermarket-brand units may make long life claims and still cost a few quid but I’ve seen them fail quickly. LED technology is a lot more complicated than traditional lamps which produce light by burning a filament. The Light Emitting Diode (LED) itself is a low voltage DC component, so a decent LED lamp has to contain circuitry to reduce the incoming mains voltage, rectify it from AC to DC and regulate it into an even supply. Cheaper lamps cut corners and may use substandard components or cut out the full-wave rectification or regulator stages which can substantially reduce the lifespan of the lamp and cause flicker. Cheap lamps touting long life claims from the likes of eBay may look good at first, but if they start failing after a few months the seller and manufacturer are probably relying on you not bothering to go through the hassle of returning them, especially if you have to pay return postage costs.

It’s interesting then that Ikea have such a product at this price. I mean, I know they’re in the flat-pack furniture game, but they are reknown for a certain level of style and quality while maintaining a reasonable price point. Does this translate to their own brand electrical products though?

Where previous clients of mine have balked at an £8+ price tag on a LED lamp, paying just four quid per unit is far more reasonable, and if they really do the distance, the saving in energy and replacement lamps means these things could pay for themselves and actually start saving you money in as little as two years.

A closer look at the LEDARE product reveals the following specifications:

220-240V operation at 3.4W
150 Lumens (290 Candela) light output
2700 Kelvin colour temperature (i.e. a warm-white colour output)
GU10 fitting
36 degree beam angle
25,000 hour life rating
25,000 power cycles
Non-dimmable
53.5mm length (same as a standard halogen lamp)
<1 second full-brightness switch on time

Now, that’s not a bad set of specs for four quid so long as the product lives up to these claims. You can’t use them on a lighting circuit with a dimmer switch, but that’s about the only limitation. Their size allows them to fit into any GU10 housing that any halogen equivalent can squeeze into and there’s no mention of them being unsuitable for enclosed fittings unlike some LED lamps which require an airflow to keep their circuitry cool. The beam angle is narrower than a halogen equivalent which means the light is focussed onto a more concentrated spot, but this shouldn't be too much of an issue in a room with even downlight coverage.

Of course, the only way to know if they’re up to the job is to try them out in a real-world situation. I fitted these lamps into my enclosed dining room ceiling downlights on 27/08/13. This room sits in between my living room and kitchen so sees a lot of footfall. At 25,000 hours they should do about 20 years based on the amount of hours per day the lights may be on for in that room. To be honest though, anything above two years would make them value for money. They’re already saving 18W compared to the CFL bulbs I took out and they provide a brighter instant-on light.

Any problems or failures will be recorded here, otherwise no news is good news!