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LEaDing the way

How man times have you heard the phrases "ethically sourced", "environmentally friendly", "energy efficient" recently? Lots, right? Consumers are becoming more conscious in our purchases so products that are innovative, beautifully crafted and won't kill the planet are top on our list. When it comes to interior styling and decoration, lighting is right up there on the important things you need to consider. I don't know about you but, for me, lighting can make or break the style in a room as much as the layout or colour scheme. But with incandescent lighting (your traditional bulbs) becoming a thing of the past, are you able to find the perfect LED bulbs to achieve the lighting that your room needs?

Why is it important to understand LED lighting?

Because of the cost of high end LED bulbs, it is very important you get it right, first time. You really don't want to turn the light on at home after you unpacked the expensive bulb only to find that it is not bight enough or gives off the wrong kind of "white" colour. Also, because of their circuitry, LED bulbs are not always compatible with traditional dimmers! You need to make sure you find bulbs that are or replace your current dimming switch with a leading-edge (LED-compatible) dimmer (more expensive option).

What is a LUMEN anyway

Remember when we used to read all the bulbs boxes for Watts? Well contrary to what you may have been led to believe (see what I did there?), wattage does not indicate brightness but rather measures the energy that the bulb draws. So when shopping for LEDs, you can park all your "WATTS" knowledge because it is no longer relevant (and as per the above, also wrong). In short:

WATT = Energy unit

KELVIN = Temperature unit

LUMEN = Brightness unit

Before talking about LED lighting, you need to understand LUMENS. The lumen (latin for "light") is the real measurement of brightness of a light bulb. The more lumens in a light bulb, the brighter the light. LED bulbs consume 5 times less wattage than our traditional incandescent bulbs so a 40W incandescent bulb does not correspond to a 40W LED lamp! But no need to try and do the maths while in the lighting sections of B&Q, it's all ready for you here (and don't worry, packaging can also help with comparison between inandescent and LED bulbs if you remember the above rule).

How to choose your LED bulbs based on their WATT consumption

It all comes down to the brightness you're after and the area you want to add lighting to. Of course, the amount of lighting may well be prescribed by your own personal style - so it could be that you wish to have atmospheric lighting throughout your home and wish to completely disregard function. Go for it, it's your home after all! But here's an easy guide to navigate the aisles of whichever shop you end up buying your bulbs from. And of course, the same principle applies whichever brand you choose, be that Plumen or other.

1. LOW LIGHT OUTPUT (245lm - 435lm or 25-40W)

This is best for bedside table lamps, or where you have multiple light sources in a room, for example, this is your living room and you have downlighters on your ceiling as well as 2-3 lamps around the room. The table (or floor) lamps are not your primary lighting source, therefore you can go for less bright lights with them. As low as 25 Watt. However, if you have a pair of table lamps on either side of the sofa do stay consistent in their brightness and choose similar bumbs.

The Plumen 001 CFL bulbs (not LED) shown with the drop cap hats which you can combine with the 002 LED bulb (top right)

2. MEDIUM LIGHT OUTPUT (around 680lm or 60W)

There is nothing worse than bad light in a room. Besides the 'styling' part of any space, there is function to be considered and bad lighting can affect everything from the size to the function of the room. A room with the right lighting in it is inviting and will become more functional over time.

If you are buying bulbs from your main lighting source, go higher this time. This is especially true in rooms like your kitchen and where you have a single light pendant in a bedroom. At the end of the day you need proper light to be able to find things! You can then work around that main light source and add complimentary lighting with table or floor lamps as well as candles and mirrors that reflect lighting.

When adding a cluster of pendants over a kitchen island or table, you can (and in my opinion should) keep the lighting low. There's nothing I hate more than having dinner in a restaurant and having a strong downlighter in my eyes whichever chair I choose around a table. The soft light will create a better atmoshpere. Where you have a cluster of lights you also add style and architectural details in 3D while keeping the functionality right.

One of my favourite styles is the cluster of 3 as shown below, which is great for a dining table that sits 6-8 comfortably. For round tables, you can also choose pendants in different heights over the table or add a few (3+) pendant caps together at the same height.

3. HIGH LIGHT OUTPUT (1125LM+ or 75W+)

I really cannot recall when the last time was that I used a 100W lamp but I am sure it was donkeys years ago. If you don't want to make your electricity provider richer I would strongly advise you against it, even if you are going for LED. However, some rooms calls for it, such as living rooms with really high ceilings where you want a main source of light that is not a chandelier (or multi arm pendant). In that case, your 100W incandescent corresponds to 16-20W in a LED bulb. Still, the saving is massive, don't you think?

There is upfront cost but it will pay off

While cheaper to run over time, LED bulbs are pricey upfront. They are definitely more expensive than incandescents but eventually pay off of their cost. Just be patient. But you need to be consistent and go LED all the way, throughout your home otherwise, don't expect to see a real change in your bill.

Having said that, there are more reasons for using them than just cutting your electricity bill. Are you currently letting a flat? Did you know that tenants look more favourably at properties that have greater energy efficiency? I have been both a tenant and landlady at the same time and I can tell you that while I looked at properties to rent out (especially the larger and older ones), energy efficiency always made a difference in my decision.

If your property leaks hot air from the roof because insulation sucks, you can at least cut your bill by making sure you have LED lighting throughout.

Speaking from experience

Because this blog is not about making recommendations about things that I have not tested, I can tell you that the first thing I did when moving into our current property (80s detached home) was to change all downlighters to LED with a simple change of their transformers. I also changed all the lights in the property I rent out to achieve an A efficiency rating (that flat was already very energy efficient and going to LED was the only recommendation we got from our energy efficiency certificate). I have also sourced the PLUMEN lights for projects as they are not only efficient but so recognisable in their design. Where PLUMEN goes, others follow.

Why go for PLUMEN

Would you really go for second best when you know that this bulb will not need to be changed again for the next 10+ years and will still look fantastic? But what really got me going about writing this post is the fact that PLUMEN now have...dimmable LED bulbs!

Yes, you heard right. Compatible with Varilight V-Pro range dimmers (£30 for single or £36 for double dimmers which you can find in a number of shops and online) these dimmable LED bulbs can help you create the right ambience in residential and commercial properties.

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