I needed an energy-efficient LED bulb for the newly-installed outside light. It switches on every time someone walks past – which is what it’s meant to do – and flashes a few times when you first turn it on or change its mode of operation from permanent ‘on’ to PIR-controlled, and I was concerned that the GLS filament bulb I’d put in it wouldn’t last very long. Plus that was a candle bulb, to suit the space constraints, and the only one I had was a mere 25W and not bright enough. So three weeks ago I started to investigate alternatives. Compact fluorescents (CFLs) don’t deal well with frequent switching either, and neither do mains-voltage halogens. The lumens per Watt ratio of a halogen isn’t much better than a GLS anyway and, like GLSs, they aren’t happy in enclosed fittings. In addition, since the bulb (or rather, lamp, to use the technical term) is mounted vertically, cap down, I wanted one that would throw most of its light out sideways and not from the end.
All of the above led me towards LED bulbs. Mains voltage LEDs have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and are now sufficiently bright to be true replacements for GLS bulbs. If you choose carefully, the colour rendering is good with a choice of ‘warm white’ or ‘cool white’ as for GLSs. LEDs use substantially less energy than a CFL for the same lumen output, they have a longer life, run very cool and cope better with temperature variations (and enclosed fittings), don’t contain mercury, reach full brightness instantaneously, can be switched as often as you like with impunity and emit little or no UV light. They come in all sorts of formats, including ones that look similar to an Edison-style pearl GLS bulb. What’s not to like? Well, the price mainly. They are still a few pounds more expensive than an equivalent CFL, although the cost is soon recovered for any light that is used a reasonable amount.
The Edison-format LEDs available locally didn’t fit the bill for my outside light, they were too short and had a downwards light distribution. I did find a 10W LED “corn bulb” at the electrical merchant I use (much cheaper for cable, junction boxes, switches, sockets, basic luminaires, lamps and suchlike than B&Q and other DIY stores) that was designed to go in a floodlight as a replacement for a 100W linear halogen bulb. It was fearsomely bright, but double-ended with R7s caps and therefore entirely unsuited to my needs. It also cost £20. However, I returned home and googled “corn bulbs”, which are so-called because they look a bit like a sweetcorn cob. After some surfing I identified an appropriate corn bulb available from China, via Amazon, for a little over £4. It arrived a few days ago and I am very pleased with it. I have to say that it is ugly enough for me not to want to replace all the bulbs in the house, but that isn’t so much of a concern with an enclosed fitting, especially one that I don’t see often because it is outside.
The lumen output of this 9W lamp was not stated, either by Amazon or the packaging, and I took a chance with it based on favourable customer feedback as to its brightness. I estimate that it is equivalent to around a 75W GLS or a 12W CFL. I don’t actually care too much what its energy consumption is, as it will only be used for a few minutes per day even in winter. I like the fact that it gives enough illumination to navigate the path and steps to my front door safely, and I need never worry that it will fail as a result of frequent, short periods of use.
The trouble with Amazon is that it is easy and efficient, which makes it addictive. I would have preferred to support a local retailer by buying my bulb from one of them, but I couldn’t find what I wanted even in Leeds, which (according to the BBC) is the second largest metropolitan district in the UK. As the power of the internet grows, anything even vaguely specialist – like a novel light bulb – becomes ever harder to find in bricks-and-mortar shops, driving more consumers to online stores and creating a vicious circle. It is already the case that many specialist craft materials need to be bought online, especially if you want to have a decent choice of options. On the one hand this is a boon for those of us who don’t live or work in big cities and, until 15 years or so ago, would have had to make a special journey to buy something quite ordinary because there was (and still is) no demand for it in a small town. On the other, it is a shame that good specialist shops find it hard to compete with the online behemoths like Amazon. I have listed some of my favourite local craft suppliers here.
While ordering my corn bulb I had a look at my Amazon wishlist to see what else I needed/wanted. I couldn’t resist buying more plastic, safety-pin style stitch markers (for knitting) when I saw that the price had dropped to 30p. They break easily, but who cares when they cost 1.5p each? How these can be bought postage-free when second class post within the UK costs a minimum of 53p is anyone’s guess, but the answer must be that international postage from China is a lot less.
I also added some magnetic clasps to my shopping list, which cost under a pound for 10 and will be perfect for closing home-made bags…
… and eight pairs of end caps for knitting needles which were very cheap too.
Any guilt I may feel about Amazon over-indulgence will be assuaged by giving stitch markers, magnetic clasps and end caps to any of my friends who are in need of them.