The New House: Lighting problems already

The New House: Lighting problems already

My plan has always been to get all the lighting in the new house set up to work both locally (at the switch on the wall) and by remote control. Ultimately I want a system that can switch relevant lights on when I return home, and to switch lights off in the evenings in unoccupied areas of the house. Partly because I want to tinker, but also because it will save a considerable amount of energy (and therefore cost).

After months of waiting for the builders to finish the house, we finally moved in last weekend. Naturally, things have been a bit hectic, but I’ve had a chance to have a bit of a poke about with my Home Automation modifications in mind. Generally, things are pretty good, mainly because the house is a new build, and so there are plenty of sockets and telephone points throughout the house.

The main stumbling block has been the demands placed on the developer by the new ‘Part L’ of the building regulations that came into force last year. This has a load of detail about the fuel efficiency of the house, which on the whole is mostly good news for me and the environment. The increased thermal efficiency of the building will lead to us having to spend less to heat the place after all.

But the following statement causes me some problems, it refers to the output of the energy efficient lighting that must make up the bulk of the light fittings in the house:

[Light fittings should produce] more than 45 lamp lumens per circuit Watt, and a total output greater than 400 lamp lumens.

All the down-lighters in the house (7 across the three bathrooms and 9 in the kitchen), have fittings and bulbs that look identical to standard GU10, but are in fact a slightly modified type developed purely to meet these energy efficiency requirements of Part L. They are called SGU10, and prevent the insertion of standard GU10 bulbs. I can see the thinking here, if they fit the house out with ‘standard’ low energy bulbs, I can simply come along and remove them and put in some kind of nasty high energy (and very hot) halogens. Hence the modified and more restrictive SGU10.

This causes me problems. I had intended to fit 5W dimmable LEDs in the kitchen, costing something like £8-12 per bulb. So upon learning about this Part L/SGU10 situation, I googled ‘dimmable SGU10 LED’.

The result:  £75. Yes seventy five pounds sterling. For one bulb. There are 9 down-lighters in my kitchen.

It’s very irritating. I can understand the government being keen to state a minimum level of efficiency for lighting. But effectively, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t care about the ratio of light output to electrical watts burned. I care about the quality of the light and the ability to dim them. And as I say, I intended to fit lower wattage bulbs than they have 9 x 11W CFLs = 99W. I would prefer 9 x 5W LED = 45W, more than half as much power consumed.

So it looks like I’m going to have to stick with SGU10 CFLs. Even though I hate the quality of the light they produce, and that awful flicker when they start up. Even so, I’m going to have to replace the ones that are fitted by default as, of course, they are the (cheaper) non-dimmable variety!