Things you need to know in the world of Lighting

The meaning of IP rating

IP stands for Ingress Protection; the code refers to the resistance of a luminaire to the ingress of solid particle and water. The IP rating code has the format of: “IPxy”, where x and y are numbers varying from 0 to 8 which ultimately define the resistance to solid particles and water. Basically, the higher the number, the higher the protection rate, e.g. a luminaire in a bathroom in a bathroom which is close to a bath or shower has a typical rating of IP44; an outdoor up light has a typical minimum rating of IP65, while a swimming pool luminaire will have an IP Rating of IP68. Sometimes a third number may be included in the ingress protection code, indicating the resistance to impact, this is essential when luminaires are installed in areas where the resistance against accidental or vandalism or is of high importance (e.g. prisons, sport halls, certain schools and public areas etc.).

The difference between Dichroic and reflector bulbs

Every tungsten and tungsten halogen bulbs that are used in downlights, spotlights and similar luminaires use a reflector at the back of the light source that allows it to concentrate the light on a beam as opposed to diffuse it in all directions. Originally this reflector was created by coating the back of the lamp with an aluminium layer. However, because the tungsten and halogen lamps generate a lot of heat, aluminium reflectors focus and project this heat in the light beam. In most cases this would be seen as a disadvantage as the heat could potentially damage the illuminated surfaces in the long run. To get past this problem, dichroic reflectors were developed; these are designed with special material filters that reflect light but only a small percentage of the heat is generated, most of this is transmitted through the reflector to the back of the lamp. The result is that the heat generated in the beam of light is considerably lower and the side effects are contained. Make sure to allow enough clearance around the fitting in the void because the heat is dissipated in the void at the back of the luminaire. If this space is somewhat unavailable because of the proximity to a timber joist or insulation materials, the dichroic lamps should not be specified as the surfaces near the luminaire would be exposed to a serious fire risk.

The difference between transformers and ballasts

A transformer is an electrical or electronic component needed for low voltage bulbs in order for these to operate correctly. A common transformer for lighting applications converts the supply voltage from 230v (mains voltage in residential buildings throughout Europe) to 12v, which is the typical voltage required by tungsten halogen bulbs. A ballast or control gear performs a similar function of a transformer, but it also incorporates additional electrical and electronic components required by other types of bulbs in order for these to work properly. An element that is required by the linear, compact fluorescent lamps, metal halide lamps, cold cathode lamps and LEDs is a control gear. In terms of LEDs the control gear is more commonly called driver. The secondary or output voltage of the ballast varies depending on the specific type of lamp it is serving.

How to dim LED lights

LED lights can be dimmed providing the correct driver is installed and it is compatible with the lighting control system dimming the related circuit. Like with fluorescent lamps, there are various ways of dimming LEDs, the most common methods for dimming LEDs are 1-10v and DMX. Any dimming method requires an extra set of cables from the lighting control system to the LED driver in addition to the cables for the power supply (230v). Another requirement is a cable for the control signal (extra low voltage e.g. 1-10v, DMX bus, etc.). You must make sure that the correct wiring is provided before completing the installation works. Due to LED technology constantly evolving, new drivers are being developed that are capable of dimming via standard dimmers that are adopted for the incandescent or low voltage bulbs.

The correct way to wire LEDs

There is a right way and a wrong way to wire LEDs, it all depends on the type of LED you have. With the exception of LED replacement bulbs for halogen downlights (GU10 and GU5.3 lamp holders), which have been recently introduced into the market, all LEDs need a driver for their correct operation. A driver can feed either one LED luminaire or multiple LEDs. The vast majority of LEDs currently commercially available will have to be wired in series from the driver. This means that the “+” (red wire) of the driver will have to be connected to the “+” terminal (red wire) of the first LED, while the “-” terminal (black wire) of the first LED will have to be wired to the “+” (red wire) of the following LED, and so on until the last LED, which will have the “-” connected to the black wire of the driver. A series connection ensures that the current is kept constant across all LEDs. Remember that there are many different currents and loads, some of them are dimmable, but some are not. Always check that the driver adopted is compatible with the number and types of LEDs installed. Also, make sure that you check the product sheets for technical details of the LEDs.

A fire rated downlight

A fire rated downlight is a recessed luminaire that integrates a fire resistant can or ring of intumescent material in the portion of the luminaire concealed in the ceiling void. In case of fire in the space below the luminaire, the high temperature will cause the intumescent material of the can or ring to expand and fully seal the installation hole of the downlight (ceiling cut-out), thereby assuring the original fire resistance characteristics of the ceiling. An alternative to standard downlights and fire hoods (where these are required) is fire rated downlights, and although they may be more expensive than standard downlights, they generate a saving in the installation cost.

Make sure that you select good quality fire rated downlights as there are many cheap alternatives out there which should only be fitted with open bulbs or bulbs with a maximum rating of 35w. These can be a bad choice due to the fact that they not only limit the flexibility in the choice of the bulb, but may also cause a fire risk if you insert the wrong type of bulb. Do not assume that you can replace the bulb with a standard 50w version available from all retail shops. If you do this then it will cause the downlight to overheat, therefore creating a potential hazard in the years that follow when the bulb needs replacing.

The meaning of EE lighting

Energy Efficient Lighting is dictated by the light emission versus power consumption of various light bulbs.

In residential applications, a bulb is considered energy efficient when its luminous efficacy** is higher than 40 lumens per circuit watt*.

  • *A circuit-watt is the power consumed in lighting circuits by bulbs, their associated control gear and power correction equipment.
  • **Luminous efficacy is a measure of how effective a bulb is in transforming electricity into light. It is measured in lumens per watt and often referred to as “lamp efficacy”.

This has become more relevant to the domestic user due to Part L of the Building Regulations which came into force in April 2006. It states:

“Para 43: Reasonable provision would be to provide in the areas affected by the building work, fixed energy efficient light fittings that number not less than;

  • a) one per 25m² of dwelling floor area (excluding garages) or part there of OR
  • b) one per four fixed light fittings. Typical energy efficient lamps are linear and compact fluorescents, cold cathode, metal halide, sodium and some LEDs.”

For more useful information and advice please take a look at our Lighting Advice section.

Six Lighting Options You Need To Remember

There are six main lighting options that may be beneficial to remember;

1. Downlights.

Downlights can be recessed in to the ceiling for optimum effect, you can choose from three main types of downlights: fixed (where the light beam shines directly downwards) or angled/directional (which will allow you to specifically shine the light where you need it), and low voltage (supplied for use with a transformer) or mains voltage. Choosing downlights where the bulb is fitted at a high level can help to reduce glare. If you purchase a low voltage light, this will provide you with a much brighter, whiter light in comparison to mains voltage. With downlight bulbs you can purchase different beam widths as well, which can create very unique and interesting effects. If you’re looking to create a “flood” effect, then you should choose a wide beam lamp (50 degrees) or down to 12 degrees for a narrow, precise beam. Positioning a group of narrow-angled beam downlights (200-300mm from the wall) can produce a wonderful effect.

2. Uplights

Uplights are usually mounted on a wall in order to throw light onto the ceiling; alternatively they can be floor-mounted to add dramatic highlights to pillars or an architectural piece. It is important to check the heat output for the fitting if you are considering the floor-mounted option. Another significant point is that light tends to pick up all imperfections, so make sure when lighting your ceiling that it has a flawless finish. The last thing you need to do is to highlight the mistakes of your premise to guests.

3. Decorative.

Placing some decorative lights onto the ceiling or the wall can add additional interest and sparkle to your premise. When considering ceiling lights, be wary that ceiling pendant lights can have the effect of lowering a ceiling; therefore it is not advisable to use them for a ceiling less than 2.5m in height, with the exception of hanging low over a dining table.

4. Wall wash lights.

These can be fantastic for highlighting textured surfaces such as brickwork or tiles, wall wash lights can be surface or recessed and used to light vertical surfaces.

5. Lamps.

Floor or table lamps can add a great structure and decoration to any room and is an easy way to add further layers of light to the room. You must remember to choose shades carefully because translucent shades will give a gentle, filtered light, whereas solid shades give a stronger shaft of light.

6. Discreet lighting.

Discreet lights are exactly what the name suggests; they provide light whilst keeping the light source hidden from view. These can be positioned under shelves, within cabinets, above units etc. these can be particularly useful in creating a warm and comfortable ambience and there are many fittings available now to achieve stunning effects.

All you need to know about LEDs

As many of you may or may not know, LED technology is the latest source of low energy lighting. But how does LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting really differentiate from regular lighting? And how can it help you? Here at Lyco Direct, we are going to provide you with all the answers and uncover the facts behind LEDs.

LED lights use significantly less energy than regular incandescent bulbs and have a much longer average light life. They last on average up to 50,000 hours and if they are used only for a few hours each night then they can even last up to 30 years. The great thing about using LED technology is that the lamp produces no ultraviolet or infrared radiation, which means that no heat is emitted, they remain cold to touch. This is perfect for you to place the lights next to delicate objects such as garden furniture or sensitive plants and they will not be damaged by the light. This also helps to lessen global Co2 emissions and therefore battle climate change. Another aspect that applies to places like hotels, pubs and restaurant gardens is that insects are not attracted by the light from LEDs, so people can eat outside without pesky bugs interfering.

LED lights also come in a fantastic range of colours that include white, red, blue, yellow, orange, green and amber. We also stock two types of LED light bulbs that change colour automatically, travelling through a spectrum of colours to produce a spectacular lighting effect that is great for display, festoon, party, bar or disco lighting. These can also make great additions to your patio, decking or pathway, adding a splash of LED colour to your premise. LED lights are designed to be installed outdoors as well as indoors, most fittings are completely weatherproof. With a decorative range to choose from, you can replace your existing GLS lamps with these, whilst maintaining a traditional look. The long life of LEDs means they are replaced less often, which helps reduce landfill.

Although the initial out-lay for LED light bulbs is greater than that of traditional incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs, the pay back is so great that LEDs really will save you money on your fuel bulbs. Many believe that LED bulbs can not be fitted to dimmable appliances but that is no longer the case. You can now purchase special low energy bulbs that are fully dimmable for use with normal dimmer switches. The real difference between the LED bulbs and traditional bulbs is that conventional lamps’ visible light arises as a by-product of the warming of a metal helix, a gas discharge or by the conversion of a proportion of the ultraviolet radiation produced in such a discharge. In LEDs the production of light takes place in a semi-conductor crystal, which is electrically excited to illuminate.
So, that’s all you need to know about LED lights, the facts, the science and most importantly how you can save money by using this technology.

For more useful information and advice please take a look at our Lighting Advice section.