In a world striving for cleaner technologies, LED has an invaluable role to play. Its accelerated evolution in recent years has transformed it into a mature technology that can replace other light sources in almost all applications. One type of lighting used extensively in business premises and homes across the globe and ripe for replacement are downlights. With these work horses often burning for long hours, it’s fair to say that their ‘cleaner’ replacement, LED downlights, are extremely worthy of investigation.
What are LED downlights?
Downlights are recessed ceiling lights designed to be inconspicuous, and even before the LED revolution they were very commonly installed as low-key lighting solutions in bustling environments such as hotels, hospitals, stores, and shopping precincts. The tendency for businesses to install downlights in hard-working situations has made retro-fitting LEDs an increasingly attractive proposition, with dramatic reductions in annual energy costs being reported from early adopters. Some of the specific advantages of LED downlights over their predecessors are as follows:
- 80-90% energy savings against a halogen equivalent; 30-50% against CFL.
- Phenomenally long lifespan of up to 50,000 hours or more.
- Massively reduced maintenance costs.
- Relatively cool running with greatly reduced fire risk and no discernible increase in room temperature.
- Naturally directional output is perfectly suited to spotlighting – doesn’t wastefully disperse light in all directions.
- LED downlights are so long-lived that the LED chip and heat-sink can be integrated into the overall luminaire design to maximise output and efficiency; many LED fittings are all-in-one purchases that do away with the need to rummage for the best lamp.
Not so long ago LED struggled to match the famously bright halogen technology for its output. In the past three to four years, however, big-named LED manufacturers such as Cree and Nichia have been pushing lumen-per-watt output to exciting new levels, with the latest LED products reaping the benefit.
Types of LED downlight
LED downlights take on various forms and can be any or all of the following: emergency, fire-rated, or directional.
Emergency LED Downlights
Emergency LED downlights are available in maintained, non-maintained, or dual-purpose versions. They’re designed to function in the event of a loss of mains power supply, typically with a reserve battery lifespan of up to 3 hours. A maintained emergency light can be used as a regular light and simply stays illuminated in the event of a power cut, whereas a non-maintained emergency light stays switched off until there is a power cut. The maintained type is usually used in any premises where visitors may be unfamiliar with their surroundings, and is often mandatory, whereas a non-maintained light is more suitable in a workplace.
The Eterna 3W LED Compact Emergency Downlight is a small, discreet fitting, ideal as non-maintained emergency illumination and a good choice of escape route lighting, whilst the JCC Fireguard LED7 Emergency Downlight is a superb dual-purpose light fitting suitable for any environment and is fire-rated to boot! With an IP65 rating, the Fireguard is resistant to sprays of water and can be safely installed in most areas of a washroom or bathroom.
Fire-rated LED Downlights
Fire-rated LED downlights are designed to maintain the integrity of a ceiling in the event of a fire, which they usually do by use of heat-expanding intumescent materials in their construction. Fires take hold quicker if they can catch a ceiling’s edge or corner, so a light fitting that protects against that allows a ceiling to contain flames for longer. Lights are tested to 30, 60 and 90-minute standards.
Without a fire-rated light a ceiling can easily be breached by a fire within literally a few minutes. Building regulations in England and Wales under Approved Document B (Fire safety) require a minimum 30-minute fire rating for the ceiling of a two-storey house, by way of illustration, which has the obvious advantage of allowing upstairs occupants reasonable time to escape before the floor potentially collapses.
For lights that fully comply with building regulations part L & L2 in terms of efficiency and output, you could look at the outstanding JCC Fireguard range. The Fireguard LED6 Dimmable Spotlight and non-dimmable Fireguard LED6 Spotlight each incorporate 6 LED chips and a diffused lens design intended to match the output of a 50W halogen equivalent. Again, an IP65 rating allows installation in most areas of a bathroom, whilst a jaw-dropping 75,000 hour expected lifespan means you can ‘fit and forget’ Fireguard lights!
Directional LED downlights
Directional LED downlights capitalise on one of the intrinsic properties of LED lighting, which is directionality! These lights are the same as ordinary downlights, but with an adjustable or tiltable head. They provide the end-user with much of the versatility of a spotlight without any conspicuous presence. This natural LED trait also allows for more compact light fittings, since there’s no need for the traditional reflector design.
By way of example, the revered JCC Fireguard series includes a Fireguard LED6 Tiltable Downlight, with the usual sextuplet of bright LED chips and a 20° tilt with 360° rotating lens. Ideal for accent or display lighting, this 7W equivalent to a 50W halogen light is also fire-tested for 30, 60, and 90 minute ceilings.
A future-proof choice
The research and development of LED technology is beginning to peak now in its achievement and is expected to plateau within the next few years. Major manufacturers, top designers, popular vendors, businesses, and homeowners – they’re all turning their attention to one of the great technologies of the future. By installing or retro-fitting the humble LED downlight into a premises or abode, you can expect any initial investment to pay for itself within a few months. You’ll be astonished, and you’ll also be part of the bigger picture….
Take a look at our full range of LED Downlights
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