Halogen light bulbs buying guide

Halogen lighting has become very popular over the last fifty years. Halogen and Energy Saving Halogen bulbs offer a completely different set of features to other forms of lighting.

How halogen bulbs work

Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent bulb and just like an incandescent use a tungsten filament. However, unlike the incandescent, the filament on the halogen bulb is enclosed by a small heat-resistant quartz or hard glass envelope. This envelope is filled with a halogen gas, which returns evaporated tungsten back onto the filament, increasing lifespan. This regenerative process is called the ‘halogen cycle’. A halogen bulb filament is hotter than that of an incandescent bulb, usually at 3000K.

A relatively large bulb such as a halogen GLS is essentially a ‘bulb within a bulb’, with the quartz envelope enclosed by a further glass casing. Smaller bulbs such as halogen capsules need especially careful handling, as they have no exterior cover and glass contamination causes premature failure.

Energy-saving halogen bulbs

Original halogen lighting is only fractionally more energy-efficient than incandescent. However, newer energy-saving halogen bulbs generally use 20-30% fewer watts than incandescent or standard halogen equivalents. This is achieved in two ways:

  • Premium-fill gases like xenon or krypton are used instead of argon, causing the filament to burn more brightly and reducing required power for identical output.
  • An IR reflective coating on the halogen quartz envelope bounces infrared heat back onto the filament, again causing it to burn more brightly for the same wattage.

Incandescent replacement

Energy-saving halogen technology is widely used in retrofit products for replacing incandescent bulbs, many of which have been phased out recently by EU legislation. It produces a marginally cooler, brighter-looking light than the old technology, and is better than incandescent light at rendering short wavelength colours (i.e. violets and blues).

Energy-saving halogen bulbs are available as an economical alternative to incandescent GLS bulbs, candles, ‘R’ reflectors, globes and golf balls. Halogen typically has twice the lifespan of an incandescent equivalent.

Halogen spotlights – mains-voltage GU10 & GZ10

Halogen GU10 light bulb

Halogen is one of the primary technologies used in spotlighting, partly due to the fantastic choice of products available. Another reason for its popularity is its superb colour rendering. A halogen bulb includes all colours of the visible spectrum in its light, which means colour is displayed with more consistency than is possible in LED or fluorescent technologies.

The GU10 spotlight is by far the most common type of mains-voltage halogen reflector. It is used in accent lighting, task lighting, and general lighting. GU10 bulbs use what is known as a ‘twist and lock’ base, introduced by Sylvania in 1996. The base provides a very secure electrical contact, similar in principle to a bayonet cap.

One defining factor in a GU10 is that IR heat is always projected forward in the beam, whereas many MR16 low-voltage bulbs of the same size (50mm diameter) use a dichroic filter to dissipate heat through the back of the bulb.

The GZ10 bulb is a relatively rare mains-voltage bulb that dissipates its heat using a dichroic filter through the back of the bulb. The GZ10 is unsuitable for use in most GU10 light fittings, and despite having the same pin arrangement it should not theoretically fit (a GU10 bulb has a bevelled base, whilst the GZ10 is squared). Light fittings normally carry a ‘no cool beam’ symbol to signify incompatibility with the GZ10.

Halogen spotlights – low voltage AR111, MR8, MR11 & MR16

Halogen AR111 spotlights are often used in shops or showrooms, and normally have a metal block over their filament to prevent glare.

The massively popular MR16 is universally loved by specifiers, partly for its wide variety of designs and beam angles.

Low-voltage spotlights are available with an aluminium-coated reflector, which projects IR heat forwards, or with a dichroic filter that allows IR heat to pass through the back of the lamp. A dichroic spotlight is useful for displaying heat-sensitive objects like food, artworks, or textiles.

Another advantage of low-voltage spotlights is their sharper, brighter quality of light over mains-voltage counterparts. In addition to display lighting, LV halogen spotlights are common in downlights and wire lighting systems.

Halogen AR111 light bulb

Halogen low-voltage spotlights use the following caps:

  • AR111 = G53
  • MR8 and MR11 = GU4
  • MR16 = GU5.3

All halogen low-voltage lamps require a 12V transformer, which is used to step down mains voltage to individual or multiple LV bulbs, dependent on maximum load.

Linear Halogens

Linear halogen lamps with R7s bases are found in floodlighting and security lights. The filament of the lamp is supported along its complete length, and the round bases at either end fit into sprung contacts. The filament must remain horizontal to maintain lifespan.

Specialist halogen R7s heat lamps include jacketed and non-jacketed versions. Jacketed lamps tend to last longer, since they’re protected from contaminants such as food.

Heat lamps are available in clear, ruby, or gold finishes. A clear finish is used where the bright white light of halogen is required in addition to heat. Ruby or gold finishes subdue light output for applications where heat is predominantly needed.

Capsules

Halogen capsule bulbs

Halogen capsules are used in applications such as caravan lighting, boat lighting, pelmet lighting, or desk lighting. They come in low-voltage G4 or GY6.35 types, or a mains voltage G9 format. The suffixed numbers in their names are based on the distance in millimetres between their two pin centres.

The G9 is the most compact mains-voltage halogen bulb available, and because it requires no 12V transformer it’s widely used in extremely small light fittings.

High-powered specialist halogen capsules are also available for applications such as theatre, TV, film, or projector lighting.

Take a look at out Light Bulbs Guide or shop for light bulbs.

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Solar lights provide light all year round!

It is a common misconception that solar lights do not work on cloudy days. Though solar panels gather more energy on a clear, sunny day, they require only daylight to function. Lyco’s high quality solar products are designed to work efficiently throughout a UK winter.

History of Solar Lights

Solar lights seem a modern idea, but they first appeared around fifty years ago. Photovoltaic or solar energy itself was first glimpsed in the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the discovery of the silicon solar cell in the 1950s that solar energy could finally be used to power small electrical devices.

By the 1970s solar energy was being used in offshore navigation lights (e.g. oil rigs), lighthouses, and railway lighting. Since then progress has seen us move towards the perfect partnership of sunlight and LED …

Solar lighting and LED

LED has a host of qualities that make it suitable for solar use:

  • Longevity – Extreme longevity means you can fit a solar LED light into any hard-to-reach position without worrying about a replacement.
  • Environment-proof – LED lighting is unaffected by any low UK temperature. It will provide instant-on light even in sub-zero temperatures, reaching full brightness immediately.
  • Hardy – As a solid state form of lighting, all LED lights are naturally shock-proof and vibration-proof, making them suitable for robust outdoor use.
  • Disposable – Zero mercury content makes LEDs eco-friendly and easily disposable at the end of their useful life.
  • Compact – LEDs are remarkably compact, which means a wide range of solar-powered products are available, including LED rope lights and fairy lights.
  • Direct Current – As LED technology uses DC power it synchronises easily with the DC power produced by solar panels.

Improvements in LED solar lights

In recent years, LED has become increasingly viable as a solar-powered light source. Lumen-per-watt performance has roughly doubled for every three years of LED development. Already LEDs are being used in car headlamps, aircraft anti-collision lights, and in solar or non-solar street lights.

A good solar light will have a high-quality circuitry, a bright LED with high lumen-per-watt efficacy, and a decent rechargeable battery. NiMH batteries offer longer discharge time and higher capacity than Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries. Li-Ion batteries have minimal ‘memory effect’, so they can be partially discharged and recharged repeatedly.

Products

Lyco sell a diverse range of carefully selected solar lights including:

Security Lights

The Aston Solar PIR Light
The modern-looking Astron Solar PIR LED Floodlight automatically triggers light when it detects movement. It uses 64 LEDs to produce the equivalent output of a powerful 150W halogen lamp, which is easily bright enough to deter potential intruders. The Astron uses a Li-Ion battery and can be activated up to 100 times per night for 1-minute durations.

Wall Lights

The Canterbury Solar Wall Light is a stylish fitting from The Solar Centre with a built-in ‘dusk to dawn’ photocell for automatic lighting overnight. An override switch lets you switch it on and off as required. With its pair of 600mAh NiMH batteries, the Canterbury is able to keep its super-bright white SMD LED going for up to 10 hours from a full charge.

Line Lights

For decorative effect, the Bling String Solar Fairy Lights can be wrapped around trees, parasols, gazebos, or trellises, and installed within minutes. These energy-efficient LED lights can stay lit for up to 12 hours using their included rechargeable batteries. They have a ‘dusk to dawn’ photocell that automatically turns the lights on and off overnight.
Durham solar post light

Post Lights

Part of the Silverlight range, the Durham Solar LED Post Light is ideal for lighting driveway or path entrances or highlighting garden features. Its pair of NiMH batteries enables 10 hours of light once fully charged. A dusk to dawn sensor is integrated, which automatically switches the light on during darkness and off again as it gets light.  This can be overridden by a manual on/off switch.

Spotlights

The Helios Solar LED Spotlight is constructed with a die-cast aluminium body, and delivers a superbly reliable performance. A crisp light is emitted from four super-bright white LEDs, powered by two AA 1000mAh NiMH batteries. These lights have an 8m range, and can last for up to 10 hours. A dusk-to-dawn sensor switches on the Helios overnight, or you can use a manual on/off button. This is one of the best solar spotlights on the market!

Solar potential

To illustrate solar energy potential, the earth receives more energy from the sun in one hour than the entire world uses in a year.

Feel free to take a look at our full range of solar lights.

Need more information, advice or a few more ideas? Try our Lighting Advice section.

Plinth lights – adding dimension to your kitchen

Plinth lights are small, low-level lights usually installed into the kick boards of kitchen units. They have a decorative effect as well as adding ambience and an element of safety. Here we look at the various types of plinth light, their advantages, and which ones to choose for any kitchen.

Plinth light benefits

Plinth lights are primarily installed for their decorative effect. They help modernize a kitchen, and are at their mood-enhancing best when general kitchen lighting is not overpowering. Contrast is a vital ingredient in creating ambience, and plinth lights look great when they’re the centre of attention.

Highlighting effects

Plinth lights highlight the colour and texture of a floor. Rather like a picture light, you can choose a colour of light that will emphasise the floor colour. For instance, a warm white light is a good match for wooden floors or red tiles, whilst a cooler white or blue is good for stone floors or white tiles.

See in the dark

Aside from their visual appeal, kitchen plinth lights can act as night lights, perhaps in anticipation of a midnight snack or drink. Modern LED lights make this possible through their minimal consumption of power. Plinth lights can sometimes be hooked up to a PIR sensor so that they trigger automatically when anyone enters the kitchen.

The LED advantage

Most modern plinth lights use LED technology. Aside from being energy-efficient and cheap to run, LEDs are a versatile light source from a designer’s viewpoint. They’re compact in size, extremely long-lasting, shockproof, vibration proof, and resistant to low temperatures. LEDs are also relatively cool-running, which avoids any possibility of burned fingers if you have children at floor level.

Plinth lighting styles

There are two main styles of plinth lighting: continuous and spotlighting:

Continuous

Continous Plinth lights - 5m Flexi-stripAn example of continuous plinth lighting is the Deltech 5M LED Flexi Strip, which can be cut to size and fitted in many types of confined space. The warm white light of this strip will complement wood or red tiles. Deltech also produce an RGB Colour-changing LED Flexi-strip, which allows many colourful modes and effects when operated by a separately available remote control.

When concealed around the base of a kitchen island or fitted unit, the glow of continuous LED strips can create an attractive ‘floating’ appearance.

Spotlighting

With the spot approach, a series of small fittings are faced outwards to regularly accent or wash the floor with light. LEDs are ideal for this, with their naturally directional nature, crisp bright light, and rich colour.

Square-shaped fittings such as the Stratford Recessed Square LED or the double-insulated Robus Croxley LED Tile Light look extremely neat as plinth lights. They create a uniform look and often complement the lines of kitchen cupboards.

Multipurpose lighting

When buying plinth lights for your kitchen you’ll notice that many suitable lights are not primarily marketed as plinth lights. Some are decking lights, others might be under-cabinet lights, but many are fine for this purpose.

The Simpson LED Walkover Lights, for example, are designed as outdoor decking lights, and are completely dust-tight and waterproof as a result. These lights can withstand plenty of punishment, including shock, vibration, and being sloshed by a kitchen mop.Surface mounted LEDs

For ease of installation, Endon’s Set of 4 Surface Mounted LED Downlights is a smart, low-profile solution to plinth lighting. The lights adhere to a surface by self-adhesive pads, and are wired through to an included LED driver. The Endon lights are relatively easy to install, but lack the waterproofing of outdoor lights.

Adding dimension

Plinth lights add extra dimension to a kitchen, especially when complemented by wall-washing up-and-down lights and diffused ceiling lights. Layered light creates visual interest, highlighting each part of the room and giving a greater impression of space.

If you’re a designer, specifier, or end-user, plinth lights are a fantastic way of adding depth and style to any kitchen!

Looking for more inspiration or advice? Try our Lighting Advice section.