LED lighting – an introduction

LED lighting is the most energy efficient form of lighting around today. An LED, or ‘Light Emitting Diode’, uses the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material to create light. Most LED lighting combines a high-brightness blue LED with a yellow phosphor, which acts like a filter to create white light.

LED Lighting: From concept to creation

The blending of blue and yellow light to create white light was first noticed by Sir Isaac Newton in the early 1700s. Almost 300 years later, the 1990s invention of the blue LED by Shuji Nakamura unlocked the possibility of white LED lighting, which has become one of the greatest technologies of the early 21st century.

Benefits of LED

  • LED bulbs and luminaires have exceptionally long lifespans, with manufacturers quoting up to 30,000 to 75,000 hours. By comparison, CFLs and fluorescent tubes are typically rated at about 6,000 to 15,000 hours and halogen lamps at 2,000 hours.
  • LED light bulbs radiate minimal IR or UV light, either of which can damage artworks and other display items by heat damage and fading.
  • An LED lamp is always vastly more energy efficient than any incandescent or halogen equivalent, and usually more energy-efficient than fluorescent.
  • LED lights are particularly resistant to damage by shock or vibration. This is not true of incandescent or fluorescent light sources.
  • LEDs are small, which allows great design freedom for lighting designers, and makes it easy to produce retrofitting lamps.
  • Being relatively cool-running, LEDs do not raise room temperatures and create a need for air-conditioning to be utilised (cooling rooms generally costs more than heating them).
  • LED bulbs offer the user a choice of colour temperature (warm white, white, cool white), meaning you can tailor your lighting for a particular application.

Identifying the right LED bulbs

Many people new to LED lighting will be converting from halogen or incandescent and wondering what to look for when replacing their existing lamps. Lyco usually quote an equivalent in terms of wattage (halogen for spotlights, incandescent for general lighting). For example, 5W=50W might refer to a 5W LED GU10 spotlight with the light output of a 50W halogen equivalent.

Buying LED – FAQs

Is LED bright enough?

Already LED lighting is used in car headlamps and street lighting. It is suitable for many applications where inefficient lighting has previously been the only option, and its versatility will only increase as lumens-per-watt performance goes up.

Are LED lights dimmable?

Many are, though you should take care to pair them with a high quality LED-compatible dimmer switch.

How is LED lifespan measured?

Because LED lifespan is so long, it is calculated using limited data from a large sample selection. The end of an LED’s life is widely accepted as the point of 70% lumen maintenance (when it has lost 30% of its original output), though the benchmark used varies between manufacturers and is not always quoted.

How good is LED colour?

LED bulbs have a minimum CRI 80 rating for colour rendering, which is a good quality for most purposes. Historically, the discontinuous spectrum of LED made it less dependable for colour-critical applications than an incandescent light source but that is a thing of the past. Already there are CRI 90+ products on the market and LEDs are expected to improve further in the very near future.

Benchmark LED products

Its always handy to know what are the best or most popular products are when looking to buy. With this in mind we provide a regularly updated list of the top ten LED bulbs and most popular LED light fittings. Being constantly maintained, these articles should always prove to be a great source of reference.

Why not browse our extensive LED range including LED bulbs and fittings?

Want to know more about lighting or looking for inspiration? Try our Lighting Advice section.

Copper lighting – lasting style

Copper lighting designs seem to rouse more interest than most. Why is that? Man’s relationship with copper dates back at least 10,000 years, when we were already using it to fashion pieces of jewellery. It is our oldest metal, and it’s also vital to our health as an essential trace element.

Perhaps more than anything else, the thing we find so beguiling about copper is its colour. Other than gold, copper is the only metal imbued with natural colour. Every other metal is grey, or white, but none have that naturally warm hue. It’s almost a light source in itself.

Widely used for indoor and outdoor lighting, copper lights can look equally at home in traditional or modern settings and for coastal lighting it has few equals.

Indoor copper lights

The popularity of copper has risen in recent years. Its rich colour and reflective sheen help create a relaxing ambience. Depending on the finishing process, the appearance of copper can vary from bright and shiny to dark and muted, so there’s usually a luminaire to suit any type of décor.

Antique Copper Dynamo Pendant Light

Copper is in fashion, and is a malleable and durable material that lends itself well to a wide variety of designs. Whether it’s an old-fashioned counterweighted pendant or a modern minimalist fitting, there’s something to suit all tastes.

A great kitchen and dining room lighting choice is the Dynamo Pendant, which has a warm antique copper finish and is part of a range of co-ordinated products. The retro style of this fitting is ideal for any traditional or eclectic environment.

Fisherman Triple Lamp Pendant in CopperThe Fisherman 3-Light Pendant is an elegant light which is particularly suited to dining rooms and kitchens. Strikin in appearance, it features a stunning copper construction, and uses old-fashioned seeded glass diffusers for extra appeal.

For the ultimate in minimalist, contemporary design, the copper  Pendant provides the perfect partner for the low-energy designer Plumen bulb.

Quick fact – Copper is not magnetic, which is one way of telling whether or not a product is made of pure copper.

Outdoor copper lights

Copper is an extremely durable material when taken outside. It is one of the few metals that resist airborne salt corrosion in coastal locations. When used outdoors, copper light fittings are either pre-treated to preserve their finish, or they’re left to form their own protective patina by the process of oxidisation.

Copper Blokhus Wall Light
The Scandinavians are market leaders in outdoor lighting. Informed by their experience of diverse habitats and climates, and temperatures ranging from -40°C to 30°C, the standard of design and manufacturing set by Scandinavian lighting companies is exemplary.

The copper Blokhus Wall Light from Danish manufacturers, Nordlux, is weatherproof, suitable for coastal locations, and comes with a 15-year guarantee against corrosion. This modern fitting is not lacquered, so will quickly begin to oxidise and form a natural patina.

Copper Up & Down Wall Light - Tin TwinAlso from Nordlux is the Tin Twin Wall Light. This is an example of a lacquered copper fitting, which will retain its original look even when subjected to harsh weather. With an IP54 rating, the Tin offers robust protection against dust and rain, and emits an attractive up-and-down pattern of light.

If a copper fittings is not lacquered it will oxidise and gradually form a protective verdigris (green-blue) patina. This is widely regarded as an appealing quality in its own right, adding to the ‘natural’ look of the fitting.Verdigris Sheldon Wall Light

One luminaire with a ready-made verdigris finish is the Edit Wall Light. This durable outdoor fitting is perfect for lighting entrances or illuminating a garden. It comes with a glass diffuser and can be shielded by an optional cage accessory (available separately).

Low maintenance lighting

Having already mentioned the protective verdigris layer that forms on non-lacquered copper outdoors, untreated copper will also usually darken indoors. Again, this is a natural process that occurs through mere exposure to air.

Copper is a low-maintenance metal, and should not be subjected to abrasive or acidic cleaning when used outdoors. This will only reduce the lifespan of the fitting, which will immediately begin the oxidisation process again.

Copper utensils such as pots and pans are often cleaned using a lemon or vinegar solution, but decorative items such as light fittings are better preserved using a lacquer.

When used in coastal regions, an occasional dousing with fresh water can be useful for exterior copper light fittings. Please refer to our coastal lighting article to learn more about this and related topics.

A recyclable material

Copper is a very sustainable material and is easily recyclable. Though mankind has a longer relationship with copper than any other metal, only 12% of known reserves have been mined. The recycling rate of copper is higher than that of any other engineering metal.

Feel free to take a look at our full range of Copper lighting.

Looking or more inspiration, advice and news? Check out our Lighting Advice section

Fire-rated downlights – safety first!

Fire-rated downlights are designed to preserve the integrity of a ceiling in the event of a fire. They have a metal can at the rear containing intumescent materials, which expand under extreme heat to form a seal within the light housing. This stops flames taking hold of vulnerable ceiling cut-outs and delays a floor collapse, providing crucial evacuation time for upstairs occupants.

Compliance required

Of uppermost concern when buying fire-rated downlights is compliance with Part B Fire Safety Regulations (England and Wales). Tables A1 and A2 in Approved Document B (volumes 1 and 2) provide easy reference to specific requirements, available online.

Aside from Part B requirements, recessed downlights should comply with Part C (air flow), Part E (acoustics), Part L (energy efficiency), and Part P (domestic electrical safety) Building Regulations. All of Lyco’s downlights fully comply or aid compliance with these regulations.

Fire-rated fittings

To comply with Part B Building Regulations, recessed ceiling lights are often tested for their level of fire protection, and may be fire rated for 30, 60, 90, or even 120 minutes.

Most 2 or 3-storey houses have a minimum 30 minute fire-rated ceiling requirement, whilst a higher four-storey house typically has a 60-minute rating. A taller residential building whose top floor stands between 18m and 30m high will require 90-minute ceiling protection, whilst anything above that needs 120 minutes.

These same figures are broadly applicable to commercial or industrial buildings, with some concession given for ceilings fitted with sprinklers. Non-fire-rated downlights can be installed into domestic ceilings below a roof void. Otherwise they must be used with an intumescent fire hood, and can easily end up costing more than fire-rated fittings with this extra expense.

For affordability, Lyco sell a range of Robus fixed downlights using a standard halogen GU10 bulb. Available in White or Satin Chrome finishes, these fire-rated downlights offer an economical means of improving fire safety in any building. Halogen GU10 bulbs are notable for dissipating much of their heat through the front of the lamp, using an aluminium reflector design.

Halogen downlights for bathrooms

One of the great advantages of halogen technology is its sheer quality of light, which is only hinted at by a default maximum CRI 100 score. Halogen light is well-suited to bathrooms, where its warm hue is flattering to skin tones, and excellent colour rendering helps in tasks such as make-up application.

With an IP65 rating, the halogen-lit Eon Directional Downlight can be positioned in zones 1, 2, and ‘outside zones’ of a bathroom. It is completely protected against dust and jets of water, despite an adjustable light head. This fitting is fire-rated at 90 minutes, and available in White, Polished Chrome and Satin Chrome finishes.

The LED advantage

In commercial or retail environments, the LED downlight is fast becoming king. It uses up to 90% less energy than halogen lighting, and with a phenomenal lifespan (the Fireguard range offers up to 75,000 hours) it also saves substantially in maintenance costs. This is especially significant in difficult-to-reach recessed lights.

One of the very best manufacturers of fire-rated LED downlights is JCC, with its diverse Fireguard LED3 and LED7 ranges. These fittings are mostly waterproof, hugely energy-efficient and come in both dimmable and non-dimmable options. They use 3 or 6-LED arrays with equivalent outputs to 35W or 50W halogen downlights, respectively. A choice of cool or warm colour temperatures is another LED advantage over filament lights.

The JCC Fireguard LED3 models have a particularly modest depth, making them ideal for shallow ceiling voids. At the high end of the scale, one of the primary advantages of a Fireguard LED6 model is its amazing 75,000 hour lifespan. The quality of all Fireguard products is backed by a generous manufacturer’s guarantee.

Fire-Rated Downlights – which should I choose?

Buy halogen for its superb quality of light and up-front affordability. Choose LED for its incredible energy-efficiency and longevity. If you’re buying fire-rated downlights, Lyco has a solution to precisely meet your needs. Why not take a look at our full range of fire-rated downlights today?

Looking for more news, information or inspiration? Try our Lighting Advice section.

Ideal retail lighting

Choosing the right lighting for a retail or commercial outlet is just as important as choosing the right colour for the walls, or the right displays for your products. Making the right lighting choice is all about matching the style and size of your store with the correct type of light fitting. Should the light stand out or blend in? Do you need a warm or cool effect? How much lighting power is required? All these questions need to be asked, and each answer will point you to a different type of light.

Lighting for larger stores

The basic retail light is there to provide light across a wide area, a marriage of form and function. Part of our high bay range, the Clear / Black High Bay fitting is a perfect example. This low-cost light has a traditional domed shade design, but with 100W of power at its disposal, it will light-up a large area of any shop. As it is a pendant fitting, it’s also more flexible than flush or recessed lighting.

This Retail & Display High Bay fitting is tough, too. It’s certified to IP44, protecting it from stray wires, screws and water splashes.

These sorts of light are best-suited to larger retail stores, but you may find that the fittings themselves are a little too conspicuous. The solution is a light that sits flush with the wall or ceiling, creating light for your shop in the simplest, and least conspicuous way.

Less conspicuous shop lighting

In-use, an LED Panel appears an innocuous, glowing ceiling panel. With fairly consistent output throughout the panel, some are designed to fit in with existing ceiling grids, at 600mm by 600mm in size.

One of the biggest benefits of this light is that as it uses LEDs, its expected lifespan is huge. Lasting an average of 40,000 hours, it’ll soldier on providing your premises with all-day, even white light for years.

The diffuser model is of most interest for retail spaces, softening and dispersing the light output. If you also want lights for backroom offices, the anti-glare model is your perfect solution. It features a light opening designed to reduce glare on computer screens – much easier on the eyes in office spaces.

These lights primarily for larger spaces tend to value practicality over a specific look or effect – not every commercial-grade light is like this though. Plenty of boutique lights can provide a much more distinctive effect.

Lighting for smaller shops

For smaller shops, the Scope Low Voltage Wire Light System provides style, warmth and an intimate vibe in equal measure. It features a rail of five adjustable spotlights, lined-up in a row along a 5m span of cable. With classy polished chrome housings, these spotlights offer a much more eye-catching approach than any other we’ve covered so far.

Recessed Downlights bring a similarly impressive sense of style to any shop. It’s a fairly small housing designed to give you careful control over the lighting in any premises. Downlights either come with integrated LEDs or take a GU1o bulb, which allows you to choose the bulb yourself.

Why not take a look at our full commercial lighting range?

Looking for more news, inspiration and advice? Try our Lighting Advice section.