The Hue light bulb is straight out of science fiction. Manufactured by electrical giant Philips, it looks normal enough, but can change colour and be voice-controlled via your smartphone using Apple’s Siri operating system — visit www.meethue.com.
A free app can apply a timer, act as a dimmer switch or arrange to wake you up gradually. It can also flash a pulse in time to music. More explanation can be found at www.johnlewis.com, where the bulb retails from £49.95. The store also sells a bulb at £79 that acts as a speaker playing via Bluetooth.
However, most people simply want a good source of light and there are plenty of options to choose from at John Lewis in Oxford Street. It has 80 different types of bulb hanging down in groups that you can turn off and on, so it’s a good place to seek inspiration.
The old incandescent bulbs that once lit our homes are now illegal because they wasted so much energy. We loved their sparkle and warm glow. Their common substitutes — Compact Fluorescent Lamps, or CFLs — have not proved popular.
They have awkward shapes, warm up slowly, tend to flicker and their light quality is often poor. However, they save about 80 per cent of energy costs, and last upwards of 8,000 hours — the old bulbs used a lot of energy by getting hot and lasted about 1,000 hours.
Squirrel cage bulbs are hung without shades, sometimes singly but more often in lines or groups as they do not give out much light. This also means you can admire them without being dazzled. They are priced from about £15, and the fancier types can cost a good deal more.
Experts agree that LEDs are the future. Light Emitting Diodes of the past tended to be rather dim but now there are brighter, cheaper versions that come in attractive shapes. “LEDs are the best bulbs for saving energy. They are the way forward,” says Nick Smith, a director of Yorkshire-based light-bulbs-direct.com, who also sits on the technical panel of the Lighting Industry Association (www.thelia.org.uk).
Replacement bulbs cost about £5. LEDs are so long-lasting — up to an incredible 50,000 hours —that they are now built into many fittings, most noticeably in sleek, wafer-thin strips. Changing a bulb is a thing of the past.
A Heal’s “mix-and-match” stall sells LED bulbs, braided flexes, lamp holders and shades, all made in England. The new lighting shop is at the homeware specialist’s showroom in The Queens Building, Westbourne Grove, W2.
A new design firm, London-based Buster+Punch, is going a step further to make exposed bulbs truly contemporary. It has designed a robust, elongated glass shape with a narrow upright LED “light pipe” inside that casts light outwards, but also spotlights any object below. Bulb life is around 10,000 hours. In a crystal, gold or smoked finish, it costs £39.99 from www.busterandpunch.com (showroom, by appointment, at 24 Southwark Street, SE1).
A new version of the Plumen also has LED technology plus a decorative shape inspired by the work of modernist artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth.