An End to ‘Throw-Away’ LED Downlights

According to Lux magazine there are radical new Ecodesign law draft proposals stating that ‘manufacturers and importers shall ensure that light sources and separate control gears in scope of this Regulation can be readily removed without permanent mechanical damage by the end-user’.

In other words we are returning to the good old days of being able to change the ‘bulb’ in our own homes without having to call in an electrician and purchase a completely new fitting.

This issue has been my real bugbear since LEDs came in, especially in the days before the retro-fit lamps became so efficient and therefore met the regulations for lumen output per circuit watt.  So many times dedicated LED downlights would fail and the electricians would shrug their shoulders and say ‘it’s just one of those things.’

By the way – why do dedicated LED downlights fail?  Because they generate a good deal of heat – not usually at the front of the fitting but within the mechanism itself.  Therefore the heat needs to be dispersed which is done with heat cooling fins but the cooling properties is often hindered by having a sealed fire rated unit which is so often required in new build properties today.  Also, this is more likely to happen with poorer quality cheaper units.

But even quality fittings can go wrong and this brings back memories of a series of dedicated LED downlights that started failing on various projects I designed several years ago.  These downlights were the new LED versions of good quality downlights I had used in the past and were supplied by a reputable manufacturer but slowly the fittings that had been installed in various projects started to partially fail. Not a happy scenario at all.  Eventually the manufacturer conceded that the original motherboards had been faulty and even came down to Cornwall to replace the entire lighting of a three storey new-build property which was a huge relief to me and my client.

So this is why I am now wary of dedicated LED downlights and why I usually recommend good quality mains downlights that will take retro fit LED lamps, or if more output is required I will specify fittings where the LED part can be replaced separately.  This ensures longevity and future proofs the fitting.  It also saves a good deal of money both in purchasing the fittings and in the money saved by a) not having to call in an electrician every time a unit fails and b) not having to purchase an entire new fitting – if you can find it (and that’s another story…)

This new proposed regulation does make allowances for fittings where the LED cannot be changed separately, such as with smaller LEDs which are used for accent lighting.  Generally I don’t find these to be a problem as they don’t generate so much heat and in addition I will always specify the best quality products here as I generally find it’s a false economy to cut corners in this area.  In the end you get what you pay for.

So all in all I think it’s a good plan for this new proposal.  It seems bonkers that an entire fitting is removed (and put in landfill!) just because part of the fitting has failed.

It looks like someone somewhere is seeing some sense and I only hope that these regulations will be put in place in the UK when we’re not part of the EU.

Claire Pendarves is Design Director of Luxplan Lighting Design

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