How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (2023)

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Find out how to replace existing light bulbs with LED bulbs, how they work, how much you can save by converting to LED lighting and also how to change your existing lighting over to LED's. You will also find out about the different colours of LED bulb that are available. Also learn about which LED bulb you should use and where, including those used internally and externally. You will also learn about which types of bulbs can be used with a dimmer switch and which can't.

LED Lighting is the future of lighting, these new eco-friendly light bulbs save both money and energy. A typical bulb lasts around 50,000 hours of continuous operation, that’s over 17 years if used for 8 hours every day! They can also reduce your lighting bill by up to 90%, that’s a saving of up to £300 per year based on the average 3-bed semi detached home.

LED Lighting for Indoor Use

There is a selection of direct halogen replacement bulbs like the new GU10 SMDs, MR16, E27 and MR11, simply plug these replacement bulbs straight in to the old fixtures and benefit from huge savings on your electricity bill. This statement is largely true however there are a couple of points to add.

The MR16 and MR11 refer to the reflector, so a GU10 with either size reflector is a simple plug in replacement, however the extra low voltage lamps tend to be called MR16 and MR11 and they can’t in the main be changed by simply swapping the lamps ro bulbs over.

Many extra low voltage lamps use switched mode power supplies to give a very well controlled 12 vac (AC Voltage) RMS called an electronic transformer and, although they contain a transformer, they are much more. These often have an output range of 50 ~ 150W and simply will not work with less than 50W output. So it’s not a simple matter of replacing bulbs. Also the electronic transformer will likely need changing.

For a full understanding of RMS (Root Mean Square) please see the Practical Physics website here where you will see that RMS is a “tool” electrical engineers use to calculate current at different levels.

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As it’s name implies, Alternating Current alternates. To calculate the average current present in the circuit, the Root Mean Square (RMS) is calculated.

In addition, there are direct replacement bulbs for your existing lamps and old light fixtures, these bulbs feature the same screw in or bayonet cap and also the same dimmer switches, but benefit from running low level LED lighting, saving both energy and money.

How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (1)

It is worth noting that most dimmer switches will also likely have a range of wattage again often 10W or 50W minimum so often to swap to LED the dimmer may also need changing.

LED strip lights are simple to install and are an illuminating addition to a kitchen, bathroom, lounge, hall, cupboard or even the humble garden shed.

There are a number of different types of strip lighting available including waterproof strip lighting, non-waterproof strips, pipe strips, and waterproof gel strip lighting. These come in either 2.5 metre or 5 metre rolls.

In addition to the LED strip, you will need a 15 watt transformer for each metre of strip lighting. The longest length of strip lights you can run with one transformer is a 5 metre length and this will require an 80 watt transformer.

Two way Lighting and LED Bulbs

Another potential problem when switching to LEDs, is with two way lighting. Sometimes the current from capacitive and inductive linking can cause the lights to stay on dim when swapped for LED. This means an electric field builds up around the element which then resists the change of voltage offered by the dimmer.

LED Lighting for Outside Use

LED flood lights are designed for outdoor use making a great addition to your outside area and are especially useful as security lighting when combined with a PIR sensor. These floodlights come in a number of different power outputs, depending on the strength of light you require – from 900 through to 7500 lumens (more on lumens can be found below).

How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (2)
How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (3)

E27 LED Screw Type Bulb

How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (4)

LED Strip Light

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How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (5)

LED Flood Light

Choosing an LED Lighting Colour – Warm White or Cool White?

When buying LED lighting bulbs for indoor use it is important to choose the correct colour option in order to achieve the right lighting effect. With this in mind, there are two main colour options to choose from known as warm white and cool white. Depending on which you select, these two different colours will create a different atmosphere on your room.

Most people, when choosing a bulb for the home or living area, will go with a warm white, the warm white gives of a lovely softened natural glow similar to existing halogen bulbs.

Cool white gives a much brighter glow and is great choice for kitchens and bathrooms, however this ultimately is down to preference; the light given off by a cool white bulb is a clear more crisp kind of light.

How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (6)

Dimmable or Non-Dimmable LED lighting

Having a dimmer switch in any of the rooms in you home or studio can help create the desired mood lighting and will help with creating an effective ambience. However, before choosing a dimmable bulb you will need to ensure your lighting circuit is dimmer compatible.

If you are replacing old halogen bulbs with a GU10 LED SMD this should be fine but if you are running any 12-volt systems you will need to ensure that you have dimmable transformers and a compatible LED trailing edge dimmer switch.

To replace the 12 volt halogen system with a new LED light system can be expensive, we would recommend changing the down light fitting to a GU10 this would save you from changing the transformer and switch.

How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (7)

What is an SMD (Surface Mounted Device)?

An SMD or surface mounted device is an LED light which is connected to or soldered onto a circuit, SMD’s are found on the majority of LED bulbs.

LED bulbs have a number of smaller chips, which are on the circuit that create the light. The higher the number of chips the brighter the light or the more lumens it creates. These types of bulbs with SMD’s generate a high quality light the same colour as normal household bulbs.

What are Lumens and how are Lumens Measured?

A lumen is a measurement of how much light is given off from a light source, the power of a light or “luminosity” in simple terms is basically how bright a light is.

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If the power of a light were not very strong or dim you would say it’s not very luminous, so in this respect the higher the Lumen of a bulb, the stronger the light.

Basically a lumen is the strength of a single candle from one foot in distance (or 30cm away). So if you have a bulb or lamp that is 100 lumens it would be as strong as 100 candles from one foot away.

However it seems manufacturers can’t decide how to measure this. Some will measure output of each LED and multiply by number of LED’s used, others measure the total output, some measure on switch on, others an hour after switch on, some measure with new bulbs at maximum voltage, others with half life bulbs at the centre of their voltage range.

As a result one can replace 3500 lumen of bulbs with 2400 lumen of bulbs as has been done moving from Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL) to LED and end up with a brighter rather than dimmer room.

Energy Efficiency: Compact Flourescent Lighting CFL-V-Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Energy efficiency depends on control and with a switched mode driver built into the LED bulb, this often gives far more efficient than CFL however where simple current limiting resistors are used the CFL can be better.

Top 10 Benefits of Switching to LED Lighting

  • Last for longer – If you have fitted Halogens before you will know that these have a tendency to pop quite often. LED bulbs can last up to 100,000 hours in their lifetime, this is because they don’t have a filament to blow up or burn out
  • They are very energy efficient – They can be up to 90% more efficient than a standard incandescent light bulb, this is because they have been designed to use 80% of the electricity and the other 20% is lost in heat
  • Incredibly quiet – compared to the old halogens that have sometimes been known to make a humming noise
  • Perfect for dimming (with the right bulb) – this is because when they are dimmed they maintain their normal colour, in comparison to the incandescent bulbs that turn yellow when dimmed. Many prefer the slight colour change offered by a dimmed Tungsten bulb as it can add ambiance to a room
  • Safety first – They have the advantage of being safe to use, by only creating 20% heat you will no longer get burnt hands/fingers when changing the bulbs, and also no broken glass because of their robust design
  • Incredibly versatile – They come in a number of shapes sizes and designs and can be placed just about anywhere in your home, garden, pool, club wherever you want them there is an LED bulb type that will suit
  • Low voltage – Meaning they use a lot less energy, making them ideal for use outdoors. With this in mind you can easily hook them up to a solar panel
  • Incredibly durable and robust – Due to their build quality and sturdy design. LED lights are resistant to shock vibrations and external impacts
  • Zero ultra violet emissions – When they are lit they give out little or no infrared light, because of this it makes them ideal for lighting up ultra violet sensitive objects such as materials in a museum, or art gallery

Are LEDs Good for the Environment?

The jury is out! Some American research (University of California) shows that there are levels of lead, copper and nickel in some LED bulbs but also that there is a lot of scaremongering around this topic. It is true that ordinary lighting contains some mercury so there is huge debate all over the world as to whether Tungsten lighting, CFL or LED is the better for our environment…..Watch this space!

How to Change Down Lights (Retro Fit)

The majority of LED lighting bulbs have been designed with ease of use in mind, they are know as retro fit, which basically means there is a direct replacement for you old halogen down lights.

Below is a list of replacement bulbs and what kind of fitting they are, the GU10 SMD fitting will require you to twist the bulb anticlockwise to remove it from fitting and the others simply pull out, please note if you are replacing halogens please ensure they are cool/cold and have been turned off for sometime before removing:

  • GU10 SMD – 2 Probes
  • MR16 – 2 Pins
  • G4 LED bulb – 2 Pin
  • MR11 LED bulb – 2 Pin
  • G9 LED bulb – 2 Pin

How to Replace a Standard Incandescent Bulb (Retro Fit)

The bulbs you will usually find in your home are one of 2 types of fitting; they will either be screw in or bayonet.

The LED bulbs listed below in the image are retro fit meaning they are a direct replacement for the older less efficient bulbs. Below is a list of bulbs and the type of fixture they have to change them simply unscrew your old less efficient light bulb and change to your new eco friendly energy efficient light bulb.

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  • E27 LED bulb – Larger Screw cap
  • B22 LED bulb – Bayonet Cap
  • E14 LED Bulb – Small Screw Cap

In the image below you can see examples of the types of bulb fittings and their type number. There are a great deal of different bulb types available for each fitting type and a great deal of different colours, shades, strengths etc…. Most of these can be purchased from your local DIY store or in some cases supermarkets.

How to Replace Existing Light Bulbs with LED Bulbs (8)

Different Types of Bulb Fitting for Direct Replacement

Please note: In the main, LED replacement lamps are not MR16 or MR11 as they don’t have a reflector so it can’t have a multifaceted reflector which is what MR stands for. Therefore the MR16 and MR11 shown in the image above are incorrectly labelled and should be GU5 fittings.

Fitting Replacement LED Ceiling Lights

Ceiling lights are a single fixed unit including the casing that will fit directly into a pre drilled hole. Each LED ceiling light has a transformer built into it to control the amount of current that flows to the bulb.

These ceiling lights are usually adjustable as the bulb units are on a swivel so you angle the light into a particular area. You can have as many of these ceiling lights on a circuit as you require which is usually dependent on the size of the room.

This particular type of LED lighting comes in a variety of different power outputs and with colour options such as cool white and warm white available. The fixed units also come in chrome white and brushed stainless.

If your not sure about fitting these we would strongly recommend calling a professional electrician as some wiring may be required and also dependant on what room they are being installed in, Part P regulations may come into effect if they are to be installed in the Kitchen or Bathroom. Please check out project on Part P of the Building Regulations.

How to Set up LED Strip Lights

When setting up an LED strip light you will require 15 watts of power per meter of strip light. The majority of strip lights can be bought in either 2.5 meter or 5 meter lengths. The maximum length of strip you can power is 5 meters, but there is no restriction on how many 5-meter lengths you can use on a compatible transformer.

When setting up a single colour strip you have a positive and negative wiring flex this can be connected to the 12-volt transformer, which takes a 240volt input from the mains circuit.

Again, as mentioned above, you may be required to carry out some wiring and if you do not have the necessary qualifications or certification e.g. Part P then please ensure that you contact a qualified tradesman to do the work for you.

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A qualified electrical tradesman will also be able to offer you advice on what type of bulb will be best suited for your particular needs and also what products are best in terms of quality, price and reliability.

All project content written and produced by Mike Edwards, founder of DIY Doctor and industry expert in building technology.

FAQs

Can I replace regular bulbs with LED bulbs? ›

The same applies to energy-saving light bulbs as conventional or filament light bulbs. You can simply replace them with LED light bulbs without having to change anything about your lighting system.

Why won't LED bulbs work in my light fixture? ›

The reasons for this can vary considerably from the power source to the bulb itself. Reasons often include a faulty power supply, loose connections, a faulty circuit design, or even damage due to water ingress caused by rain.

Can I put an LED bulb in an incandescent fixture? ›

The answer is YES. You can use an LED bulb having a higher wattage equivalent than your fixture allows — provided the LED bulb consumes less wattage than the fixture.

Can you put LED light bulbs in any fixture? ›

The answer: generally, yes, it is safe as long as the actual wattage of the LED bulb is within the limits of the socket or fixture. What is the difference between an LED lamp's actual wattage and its equivalent wattage? The main advantage of LED lamps over traditional lamps is their energy efficiency.

What are the disadvantages of LED lights? ›

Disadvantages of LED Bulbs

Most white LED bulbs emit a cooler, blue-tinted light — rather than the “warmer” glow that is associated with incandescent bulbs. Some people prefer “daylight” or “natural light” LED options. Some LED fixtures may create sharp shadows that may not be desirable in certain places in the home.

How do you change a light to LED? ›

How to Convert Your Headlight Bulbs to LED
  1. Step 1: Find Your Headlight Bulb Type. ...
  2. Step 2: Purchase an LED Conversion Kit. ...
  3. Step 3: Unboxing Your LED Conversion Kit. ...
  4. Step 4: Take Some Photos. ...
  5. Step 5: Locate Your Headlight Bulbs. ...
  6. Step 6: Remove Your Halogen Bulbs. ...
  7. Step 7: Install the LED Bulbs. ...
  8. Step 8: Connect the LED Ballast.

Why are my LED lights tripping the breaker? ›

LED power supplies have something called an inrush current. This happens when the supply is initially turned on, and for a very short period of time there is a spike of power (much higher than the specified output of the power supply), which means this can trip some breakers.

Why do LED bulbs fail so often? ›

There are a number of basic reasons for LED lights to fail but the primary issue is heat. Over-heating can be a result of a number of design and assembly issues but is still the cause of the majority of LED lamp failures – both in the fitting themselves and also the drivers.

Why does my light keep blowing LED bulbs? ›

A loose connection in the fitting can sometimes cause a bulb to blow, so it's worth taking a closer look - a loose connection in the circuit can cause the electricity to arc across the bulb's contacts, providing more heat in the fitting which can ultimately cause the bulb to blow.

What happens if I put a 75 watt LED bulb in a 60-watt? ›

The bottom line? If your fixture is rated to accept 60 Watts, you can safely use 75W, 100W, or even 125W equal bulbs (which all draw less than 50 Watts of power) instead.

What happens if you put a 60w LED bulb in a 40w socket? ›

Using a light bulb with too high of wattage can lead to overheating of the light bulb. This heat can melt the light socket as well as the insulation of the wires. Once that happens, you put yourself at risk of arc faults, and this is something that could even lead to property fires.

What is the equivalent of a 60-watt bulb in LED? ›

A 60-watt incandescent light bulb can be replaced with a 10-watt LED.

Do LED bulbs need special wiring? ›

All the wiring that is commonly used in houses is perfectly fine for use with LEDs. Many LED fixtures have a transformer already built in and can be connected to a standard electrical outlet. Some LED products, i.e. LED strip lights, require an external power supply.

Can I use a 15 watt LED bulb in a 60w fixture? ›

When it comes to replacing old incandescent bulbs with LEDs, a common question that customers ask is: “Can I use an LED bulb that has a higher wattage equivalent than my fixture allows?” The simple answer is yes, as long as the LED bulb uses less wattage than your fixture.

Do you need special switches for LED lights? ›

Use an LED Dimmer switch

A standard dimmer switch cannot be used with an LED light as you will never be able to dim the LED light either completely or not very well. LED lights need their own special electronic dimmer switch to have a fully functioning and dimming light.

When should you not use LED lights? ›

Avoid LED lights above 3000K and/or labeled "bright white," "neutral white," "cool white," or "daylight white" as these lights will generally have a crisp, stark white color. LEDs with this light color contain a significant amount of blue light in their spectrum. Choose a bulb with a high CRI.

Where can you not use LED bulbs? ›

Enclosed fixtures that don't allow for proper ventilation can drastically affect the temperature of the LED bulb, causing it to overheat and shortening the lifespan of the bulb. That's why some bulbs will tell you not to use it in an enclosed ceiling fan or fully enclosed porch light fixture.

Do LED lights affect electric bill? ›

Lighting accounts for around 15% of an average home's electricity use, and the average household saves about $225 in energy costs per year by using LED lighting. if you are still using incandescent light bulbs, switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills.

Do I need to remove the ballast to use an LED bulb? ›

No LED bulbs require a ballast, although some are engineered to work with an existing ballast. You will find ballast-compatible or "plug-and-play" LEDs that are designed to replace linear fluorescents, compact fluorescents, or HIDs. Incandescent and halogen lamps do not require a ballast.

Can I replace a halogen bulb with an LED? ›

Changing a halogen bulb is very easy. In order to save on your energy costs, you can replace a halogen bulb directly with an LED bulb. In addition, LED lights last on average around 25 times longer than a halogen bulb. There are various LED lamps that are suitable for replacing halogen lighting.

Can I put a 100w LED bulb in a 60w? ›

But there's no problem using a 100-watt equivalent LED bulb, which is only about 17 watts and therefore well under the safety limit of a 60-watt maximum fixture.

Do you need to change the transformer for LED lights? ›

They will have a transformer either in the ceiling or light fitting. Some LED bulbs, like the Philips Master LED range, have in-built circuitry that can deal with most (but not all) transformers, so you don't have to change them. In other cases, you need to replace the transformer with an LED driver.

Can you legally replace halogen bulbs with LED? ›

The MoT testing manual was also updated in 2021, telling testers: “Existing halogen headlamp units should not be converted to be used with high intensity discharge (HID) or light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. If such a conversion has been done, you must fail the headlamp [the car will fail its MoT as a result].”

Do you need a conversion kit for LED headlights? ›

While LED headlights are typically more compact than HID headlights, you'll need to purchase a conversion kit before installing either option if you're switching from halogen bulbs.

What is the LED equivalent of a 60-watt bulb? ›

A 60-watt incandescent light bulb can be replaced with a 10-watt LED.

What happens if you put a 60W LED bulb in a 40W socket? ›

Using a light bulb with too high of wattage can lead to overheating of the light bulb. This heat can melt the light socket as well as the insulation of the wires. Once that happens, you put yourself at risk of arc faults, and this is something that could even lead to property fires.

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