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LED Downlights and Spotlights: Did You Know?

LED Downlights and Spotlights: Did You Know?

 

LED-downlights-and-spotlights

Did you know this about LED Spotlights and Downlights?

Some LED downlights can have a sharp edge to the beam of light which means, if you don’t overlap the spread, the result won’t be smooth. By choosing ‘soft edge’ LED downlights you’ll avoid this jarring effect.

LED Colour Temperature

You need to choose the Colour Temperature of the light emitted. Some manufacturers will class Warm White as 3000K but this is on the cool side. Although they can work well in bathrooms and kitchens, it’s better to go for 2700K in living areas.

The light given out from the luminaire or lamp is also given a CRI index which indicates how true colours are under their light. For example, from 1 which is monochrome, going up to 100 which is sunlight. Fabrics, paint colours, food and even your face will look much better the closer to 100 you go.

Dimming LEDs

How the downlights dim will be affected by a) the driver if they are dedicated downlights and b) the lamp used if they take retrofit bulbs. And then there’s the dimmer module itself. They need to be compatible to ensure smooth, silent dimming.

You can now select LEDs that will ‘dim to warm’ which will not only enhance your experience in the evenings but could also benefit your sleep. (See my article on How Lighting Affects Sleep).

Tips when using LED Downlights

Try and avoid glare from downlights. This is best achieved by ensuring that the light source is set up from the surface. A dark baffle will absorb the glare even more. A golden baffle will make the light warmer.

Don’t place downlights in grids when designing home lighting. This should be left to offices and commercial situations where a blanket level of light is required. In homes the downlights should only be placed where they are needed for the greatest effect.

If you select downlights that don’t blend into the ceiling your eye will automatically go upwards. You don’t want people to notice the finish of your downlights so try and avoid contrasting colour trims to your ceiling.

Even though some downlights can angle well, sometimes you’ll need a wider spread of light to feature a painting, for example. In this case surface mounted spotlights can work better. Again, go for a finish that will blend in with your ceiling.

Choosing the right beam angles of light emitted from the downlights will have an influence on the overall illumination. Wide beams work well for overall illumination whereas narrow beams will punch more lights down onto a kitchen island, for example.

Downlights will need to be fire rated where there’s living accommodation above (if the fire barrier has been perforated). There are fittings out these days that are fire rated without the fire canister and even LED GU10 lamps that are fire rated in their own right.

Downlights come in various sizes and there are some punchy little LEDs on the market that are excellent for including in an atmospheric circuit, for example washing down in front of a fridge in the kitchen or opening up dark areas along a corridor. You don’t always need a large full powered downlight, even dimmed. These micro downlights give a wider band of effects available.

Lighting technology seems to progress in leaps and bounds so it’s always good to keep up with what’s on the market. We do!

How to Choose Downlights

How to Choose Downlights

how-to-choose-downlights

How do I choose downlights for my self-build project?

“What type of downlights should I use in my new-build?” This a question which raises its head in the early stages of a building project. “Should I go for dedicated LED downlights or use fittings that will take retro-fit LED lamps?”

“What type of downlights should I use in my new-build” is a question which raises its head in the early stages of a building project. “Should I go for dedicated LED downlights or use fittings that will take retro-fit LED lamps?”

You can view an updated article about Downlights and spotlights: LED Downlights and Spotlights: Did You Know?

Here are some tips that I can offer from my experience as a lighting designer

Designer Downlights

Recently some clients had fallen in love with an LED downlight by a renowned design company and wanted to incorporate these in their lighting scheme. The fittings were beautiful with the light source set back (always recommended), a gold domed interior and a minimal trim giving all the benefits of trimless without the complication of needing to be plastered in.  In addition the fitting had a wide variety of specialities that could be incorporated such as beam angle, colour temperature, CRI, light source and dimming protocol.

The fitting was a beauty but there was only one problem – price. These designer downlights don’t come cheap and although of prime quality, incorporating these in a full house design can drive up the budget exponentially so they are not usually the average self-builder’s first choice.

Dedicated LED Downlights

Whilst you may not want to blow the budget on the top designer downlights my ethos is that if you are going to incorporate dedicated LED downlights then you need to go for the best for these reasons.

Colour Temperature and CRI

These are not the same thing – Colour Temperature relates to the warmth of the light emitted and CRI (Colour Rendering Index) means how colours will look under the light. The higher the CRI the better the colours will look (more akin to natural sunlight) and lower the colour temperature the warmer the light.  Generally the better quality downlights will allow for 2700°K and 90 CRI but you would be hard pushed to get this from a standard cheaper version.

Low Glare

There is nothing worse than dazzling glare from downlights so the light source should be set back, either within a dome or with a baffle such as these below. A dark baffle or dome will absorb more glare and a gold or copper toned dome will warm the light further.

Longevity

The guarantee issued by the manufacturer is only as solid as the manufacturer issuing it and manufacturers can merge, reform or go into administration. Technology can fail and LEDs are no exception so try and ensure that you purchase dedicated LEDs from quality suppliers and don’t pay too much attention to the 10 year guarantee.  Even when all is well with the manufacturer/supplier over the years your LEDs will change slightly in terms of colour and output and replacing one failed LED with a brand new replacement will often ‘jar’ in the existing overall scheme.

Output

In residential situations this is usually more of an issue where ceilings are high as a more punchy amount of light will be required to travel the distance. Retro-fit lamps can’t get quite such high output as a dedicated LED fitting although in most domestic situations I don’t find this is an issue.

Alternatives

So, whilst good quality dedicated downlights may tick all the boxes in terms of function and design, the price and longevity issues make it worth considering the alternatives.

LED Lamps

The quality of retro-fit LED lamps has vaulted in the past few years with excellent colour temperatures and CRI and even the facility to warm the temperature as they are dimmed – perfect for dining rooms.

Just caste your mind back to when lighting was easy. The ‘bulb’ died and you popped another in within a matter of minutes.  Things have now come full circle but with a difference – the ‘bulbs’ are LED GU10s or MR16 lamps and the need to change them is rare though much easier than calling in an electrician to replace a dedicated LED fitting.

A good source for purchasing LED lamps online is: https://www.ledhut.co.uk/spot-lights/gu10-led-bulbs.html

Always ensure the lamps you select are compatible with the dimmers used

Mains or Low Voltage Fittings

There are still many low voltage downlights available, particularly from Europe, although my feeling is why have a transformer when you can avoid one more link in the chain that could go wrong. When the budget is restricted my tendency is to specify good quality Mains downlights that take LED GU10s, most of which cost about £100 less than the designer light I mentioned at the beginning.  Worth thinking about.

Avoid ‘runways’ of lights – concentrate on where the light is actually going to fall

Don’t have all downlights on the same circuit – this will help manipulate the ambience

Ensure that fire hoods are used where necessary if fittings are not Fire Rated

Avoid using downlights in vaulted ceilings – insulation will be compromised

Future proof your project – go for the best LEDs or choose standard fittings with LED GU10.