The death knell sounds next week for directional halogen lamps with an energy rating of class D or below, and good riddance to the damn things too!

Examples of a class D directional halogen lamp are the MR11, MR16, R63, R50 and even the popular GU10 which is the most common directional lamp found in many downlight and spotlight fittings, so it may surprise you to hear that from 1st September 2016 these will become harder to get hold of. While this date doesn’t mean stores cannot sell their existing stock from then onwards, one DIY chain store I was in today had already emptied their shelves into the bargain bin.

gu10See you in hell halogen-boy!

So, should you stock up on halogen GU10’s and their ilk while you still can?? Goodness no! These lamps are horribly inefficient. They have a short lifespan at the best of times, 1000 – 3000 hours, but this is much reduced if installed in an angled fitting or not ventilated, they burn at 300 Celcius, they’re a fire hazard if incorrectly installed and they gobble up energy, piling the pounds onto your electricity bill.

Any Brexit-voting* metric-hating, Daily Mail reading, Fahrenheit-fondling hold-out who insists energy saving lamps don’t put out the same quality of light has simply not tried a modern LED lamp from a reputable brand. Today’s LED lamps give out the same luminosity with the same beam angle and the same colour temperature as a halogen lamp while offering a flicker-free light output with no warm-up time unlike a compact fluorescent lamp, and they can have an attractive physical appearance which matches a halogen equivalent, yet unlike the halogen cack, modern LED lamps should last for years, they run relatively cool to the touch and they tend to consume up to 90% less energy.

oldnewAn early LED lamp (left) compared to a more modern equivalent. Both are dimmable, however the former has a large form factor precluding its installation in many downlight fixtures and it also sports a more unattractive industrial styling across its face.

Upgrading to LED is a no-brainer, and although the purchase cost of a LED lamp will be higher, the money saved in maintenance and power consumption should see a general payback of about two years. If the lamp then goes on to last fifteen to twenty years, you’re quids-in. In fact, investing in LED lamps is financially sound as the long term savings off your ‘leccy bill mean it’s a guaranteed return on investment if you buy smart.

And that’s the key to LED lamps – it’s important to buy branded and from a reputable source. Those “Shitola” brand lights from off eBay which are a quid a pop but promise fifty years’ service will probably last just long enough for the eBay seller to do a runner with your money before they start failing or bursting into flames. Don’t buy brands you don’t recognise, don’t buy LED lamps which are dirt cheap, and don’t buy from here-today-and-gone-tomorrow retailers, market traders or online sellers. Also, avoid supermarket/store own-brand lamps, with the possible exception of Ikea who offer LED lamps at low prices, and to date I’ve never seen an Ikea LED lamp fail.

3WlampsSix 3W Ikea LED lamps illuminate my dining room at just 18W total power consumption instead of the 300W which halogen equivalent lamps might burn through.

Brands you can trust are those you might recognise for lighting such as Philips, GE, Osram, Crompton, Megaman, Bell and suchlike. If you buy a LED lamp from one of these manufacturers from a reputable source then it’ll probably come with a two to three-year warranty you can actually count on, and if it claims a fifteen to twenty-year lifespan on the box (usually based on 2.7 – 3 hours of use per day), then it will likely live up to those claims.

If you’re shopping around for a LED GU10 lamp to act as a direct replacement for a 50W halogen, look for a lamp offering a light output of 350 lumen (460 candela) or higher, with a flood angle around 40 degrees and a colour temperature around 2800 Kelvin (warm white). All this information will be on the packaging and should be easy to find. Tick those boxes and you’ll be hard pushed to tell the difference between your new LED lamp and some old inefficient halogen pants.

Another advantage of LED lights is that they can come in different colour temperatures, so if the yellowness of warm white makes your shiny new gloss-white bathroom or kitchen look a little.... well.... grotty.., then choose a cool white or daylight version of the lamp to give the room a fresher appearance. It is even possible to get colour switch lamps where you can set the colour of the light output on the fly as I reviewed earlier this month on my ridiculous YouTube channel that nobody watches. Cheers.

Where you might get unstuck with retrofit LED lights is when you have an existing dimmer switch, as you need to buy dimmer compatible LED lamps, but even then there’s no guarantee your new lamps will work with your old dimmer which may necessitate you needing to upgrade your switch, however you shouldn’t worry about crossing that bridge unless you come to it and besides, if one brand of lamp doesn’t like your switch then you could always try another one as not all LED lamps are created equally.

Unfortunately, we live in an over populated world where renewable energy can’t yet meet a hundred percent of demand and where fossil fuels and nuclear power are still required to make up the shortfall. Lighting is especially problematic, as by its nature it is an energy draw which peaks at that time of day when the yield from solar generation is at its lowest, so in the coming years as the millions of halogen lamps still out there finally flicker out and are replaced by lower power equivalents, this will equate to a vast reduction in demand on the grid at night, which will either mean we need to generate less power in the first place or that we have more available for all those other gadgets which now pervade our modern lives.

Whichever way, the price of energy will undoubtedly go up, because that's what it does, so the less you can burn away on necessities such as lighting the better, even if you are one of those with more money than sense.

*Brexit voters should note that this crappy island we live on cannot even generate enough power for our own current daily needs and we import masses of MegaWatts from France, The Netherlands and Ireland via undersea intercontinental links. So yeah, there's that.