LED downlights – a cooler direction

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

3W LED Compact Emergency DownlightEmergency 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

Fireguard LED7 Emergency Downlight - White - Warm WhiteFire-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

Fireguard LED7 Tilt Dimmable Downlight - Polished Chrome - Cool WhiteDirectional 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

For more advice, inspiration and news take a look at our Lighting Advice section.

Top 10 Conservatory lights

Whether you’re investing in a conservatory for your own home or installing one for a customer, lighting is a key factor. It’s easy to enjoy this naturally lit space when bathed by the sun, but with the right lighting it’ll become a room to relax in night and day, the whole year round.

Direction is important

One important aspect of conservatory lighting is direction of light. In most rooms of a house, light reflects off walls and ceilings to create widespread diffused illumination. This is not the case in a conservatory, where misdirected light will simply escape, and might cause glare.

The hallmark of successful conservatory lighting is that it seamlessly connects the house to the garden, with a multi-layered lighting scheme that is both visually stimulating and welcoming. Ideally, this should extend to the garden itself rather than ending abruptly with a dark void.

Our top 10

To help you plan your lighting scheme, we’ve put together a list of our 10 most popular lights, chosen for conservatories:
Sunbeam Wire Light System

  1. Sunbeam Wire Light System

Ideal for uneven ceilings, the Sunbeam Wire Light System allows you to easily introduce overhead lighting in a conservatory. Each of the unobtrusive lights can be positioned anywhere along the wire, so this is a flexible way of highlighting display items or room features, and looks great when layered with a softer, overall light.

Davida 4 Light Spotlight Bar

  1. Edit Eye 3 Light Spotlitght Bar

The Eye 3 Light Spotlight Bar is another way of providing directional light in a conservatory, and being wall mountable it is installable onto the wall that was previously on the exterior the house prior to the conservatory being built, if necessary.

Lamina Plaster Floor Uplighter

  1. Limina Plaster Floor Uplighter

Uplighters provide dramatic accent lighting to emphasise texture and form, and can be used to provide a feeling of extra space by lighting walls and corners. The Limina Plaster Floor Uplighter is an excellent choice for a contemporary conservatory, and can be painted to match any environment.

Kalu Twin Spotlight

  1. Kalu Twin Spotlight

The modern-looking Kalu Twin Spotlight is a versatile fitting with exceptional adjustability in each light head. This is a low-voltage fitting that can optionally be used with halogen spotlights for a particularly crisp, high quality light.

  1. Friend LED Floor Lamp with USB Charging Port

A nice feature of the Friend Floor Lamp is its built-in dimmability. The ability to control light is useful in a conservatory, as it enables you to balance artificial and natural lighting according to outside conditions. The Montana offers a reading lamp as well as an uplighter plus a handy USB charging port and shelf – perfect for charging your phone.

  1. Edit Berkley Table Lamp

Soprana Solid Table LampTable lamps provide a great final touch in a conservatory, emitting a warm, soft glow of light to help make it a comfortable space, our top pick is this large statement lamp, the Berkley Table Lamp.

A pendant is virtually a must-have if the conservatory is to be used as a dining area, so the structure of the conservatory may need to be chosen or adapted accordingly.

 

  1. Lucide Soft Pendant

No pendant could be more befitting to a conservatory than one derived from nature. The Lucide Goosy Soft Pendant  fits directly into an existing lamp-holder and makes a stunning centrepiece for dining areas.

  1. Edit Hint

Another shade-only lighting solution is the beautiful Hint Easy-fit Shade by Edit. Manufactured in a soothing smoked finish, this shade can be accompanied by a large globe bulb to produce a beautifully diffuse, widespread light.

Dynamo Pendant - Cream

  1. Dynamo Pendant Light

For a retro look that will adorn many conservatories there’s the Dynamo Pendant. This fitting is available in a choice of coloured and metal finishes. A halogen bulb delivers bright overall lighting from this pendant, though a decorative-filament bulb has more visual appeal and typically emits a warmer glow of light. Remember that all filament bulbs are dimmable with the appropriate switch.

Nexus 20 Pendant Light

  1. Nexus 20 Pendant

Another mood-inducing light is the Nexus 20 Pendant, which uses a unique laser-cut diffuser to deliver an attractively patterned light. This fitting is perfect for low suspension over a dining table, where it will excel at defining space and creating intimacy.

Self-sufficient garden lighting

You might think a conservatory is a prime candidate for solar powered lights. Unfortunately, window glass greatly reduces a solar panel’s ability to gather power, so any indoor lighting would have to be driven by an outdoor solar panel. Removable solar panels are very occasionally used in small indoor light fittings, but for the time being this idea remains impractical and largely untapped. We’ll let you know when this changes.

For more advice, inspiration and news take a look at our Lighting Advice section.

Light bulb technology – a basic guide

In the past, light bulb technology was far simpler than it is today. The only bulb-buying decision most of us made was choice of wattage, and even that was usually pre-decided by our light fitting. So there was nothing to consider.

Nowadays, things are a little more complicated as the number of types of light bulbs has increased. Several technologies now compete for our attention: incandescent, halogen, energy-saving halogen, fluorescent, and LED.

Each technology has its own particular set of advantages. The following paragraphs briefly outline them, helping you to invest in precisely the bulb(s) you need.

Incandescent

Take a look at our range of incandescent bulbsAn incandescent bulb produces light when an electric current passes through its filament, causing it to glow. Only around 10% of the energy consumed by an incandescent bulb is converted into visible light, with the rest being used to generate heat. Many previously available incandescent bulbs have been phased out by EU legislation, due to their inefficiency, but a few specialist products still remain.

Despite its failings, incandescent technology has some inherent advantages:

  • Inexpensive
  • Dimmable by default
  • Maximum CRI 100 score for reliable colour rendering
  • Amount of light (measured in lumens) remains consistent throughout lifespan
  • Instant light

Halogen / energy-saving halogen

Take a look at our range of halogen bulbsHalogen technology is a form of incandescent lighting, the main difference being that the filament is tightly enclosed by a heat-resistant quartz or hard glass envelope. Inside this envelope is a halogen gas, whose purpose is mainly to return evaporated tungsten onto the filament, thus extending the lifespan of the bulb. It does this through a chemically reactive process known as ‘the halogen cycle’.

Energy-saving halogen bulbs use either an IR reflective coating or a less conductive premium-fill gas (i.e. krypton or xenon) to reduce heat loss and increase efficiency.

Halogen advantages include:

  • Inexpensive
  • Very crisp, bright-looking light (especially low voltage)
  • Dimmable by default
  • Maximum CRI 100 score for colour rendering, with slightly less red bias than original incandescent bulbs (i.e. better balanced for colour-critical applications)
  • Amount of light (in lumens) remains consistent throughout lifespan
  • Double the lifespan of original incandescent bulbs
  • Available in ‘capsule’ form for use in space-confined applications
  • Energy-saving versions use 20-30% fewer watts than original incandescent or regular halogen technology
  • Instant light

Fluorescent

Take a look at our range of CFL BulbsFluorescent lighting comes in tube or CFL form. The latter (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) includes spirals, sticks, 2D, Biax, and retrofit low-energy bulbs. Regardless of shape, fluorescent lighting works by exciting mercury atoms with an electric current. In turn, this produces a UV light that stimulates the interior phosphor coating, causing it to fluoresce and emit visible light.

Fluorescent light sources require a ‘ballast’ to regulate current and deliver sufficient voltage to start the lamp. Most CFLs include this in their base, allowing use as direct replacements for regular bulbs. Fluorescent tubes and some lamps require an external ballast, which is usually integral to the light fitting.

Perhaps the greatest disadvantage in fluorescent lighting is a generally inferior dimming capability (often non-existent), but there are various advantages:

  • Inexpensive by comparison to LED
  • High energy efficiency—typically 70-80% more efficient than incandescent or halogen
  • Very long lifespan compared to filament bulbs, reducing maintenance costs
  • Strong omnidirectional diffuse light that is especially useful as a main light source
  • Broad choice of colour temperatures
  • Low running temperature

LED

Take a look at our range of LED BulbsThe LED, or Light Emitting Diode, has been intensely developed in recent years to become one of the greatest clean technologies of the early 21st century. LEDs can produce a white light in a couple of ways, either by blending red, green and blue primary colours, or by use of a blue LED and yellow phosphor. The latter is a cheaper and easier way of producing bright white LEDs, and is behind most LED design.

Most modern LED bulbs use High Power LEDs, which can be surface-mounted to produce a bright omnidirectional light. A second type of LED is the COB (Chip-on-Board), which consists of LED chips packaged extremely densely into a single LED module. Allowing a fantastically smooth and intense light, COB LEDs are often used to closely replicate halogen spotlights.

LED bulbs generally require a greater initial investment than other technologies, but the expense is always likely to be recovered, and usually within a few months in commercial environments. Here are some of the numerous advantages:

  • Exceptional energy efficiency, usually superior to fluorescent and converting about 80% of used energy to light
  • Long lifespan that greatly reduces maintenance costs (up to 50,000 hours)
  • Negligible IR or UV radiation reduces degradation when lighting sensitive items (e.g. artworks, food)
  • Shock and vibration resistant (solid-state form of lighting)
  • Reliable cold-temperature performance
  • Extremely compact for design flexibility
  • Broad choice of colour temperatures
  • Very good dimming performance with compliant drivers and switches. Colour remains constant even when dimmed to low levels.
  • Directional form of light with very little spilled light outside of its specified beam
  • Unaffected by frequent switching
  • Instant light

Feel free to browse our full range of light bulbs.

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

Top 10 LED light fittings – the market leaders

Anyone who is faced with the task of updating the lighting in a building, whether it involves the entire premises or just certain parts, need to be looking seriously at LED lighting. LED is far superior to any of its predecessors in so many ways. Whether you are an architect, designer or electrician the message is still the same.

Designers of offices can now provide work places that are not only more people friendly because of the modern lighting but, thanks to the availability of LED fittings, are far more economical to run. LED probably represents the greatest advance in lighting technology since the fluorescent tube.

LED is the number one choice

For any new installation LED lights are the number one choice for a number of reasons. First there’s the economy in operation. LED units have a life expectancy of up to 100,000 hours, that’s 11 years if left on continuously or 22 years if only on half of the day every day. Because LEDs are 80 to 90% efficient compared to traditional incandescent bulbs’ 20%, 80% plus of the electricity used produces light. That means LEDs use far less energy to produce an equivalent level of light. LEDs work well on low voltage systems too, which brings benefits for safety as well as economy.

Less is more

The environment benefits from the absence of any toxic materials in LED units and of course their long life means that less energy is consumed producing them. Virtually no UV light is produced by LEDs and very little infra red which means practically no radiated heat which is much kinder to pictures or ancient artefacts. It’s better for people too!

Hardy lighting animals

LEDs are extremely robust with no glass used in their construction which makes them ideal for situations where lights can lead a tough life. Their compactness gives designers unprecedented flexibility in positioning lights where they can be most effective. LEDs can focus light for best effect and are not troubled by extremes of temperature. They switch on and off instantly too.

The market leading LED lights

Now the case for LED has been proven let’s take a look at the market leaders in LED lighting….

Indoor LED light fittings

Slimline LED Emergency BulkheadLyco’s top ten LED light fittings, start indoor with the neat, LED Emergency Bulkhead light. Its slim and compact design means it needs very little space and its robust polycarbonate construction will withstand the inevitable knocks. It can also be used with remote switching.

Next, another emergency light, this time the 3W LED Compact Emergency Downlight which comes pre-wired for easy installation in a ceiling. This light needs no maintenance and is available in white or satin silver finishes to suit. It’s LED glows a discreet green when on standby then, in the event of failure of the mains lighting, it comes on automatically giving a bright white light.

Prodisc LED Flush Light Fitting with Motion SensorThe Carina LED fitting can be what you want it to be! It can be a standard LED flush fitting ceiling light operated by a normal switch or it can incorporate a microwave movement sensor to come on when movement is detected. The microwave sensor can even see through doors and turn on the light in a room as someone approaches the closed door. The Carina can also be installed as a maintained or non-maintained emergency light. Both microwave sensor and emergency facility can be combined in one lamp. One such unit can be linked to as many as four standard basic lamps and allowing you to control all of them together.

Acorn LED Track Lighting Kit (includes 3 lights) - White
For track mounted lights Lyco offers the Acorn LED 3 Light and Track Kit in a white finish . You get a metre of track and three spotlights fitted with LED bulbs. You can have Halogen GU10 bulbs if you prefer. If one metre of track is not enough for your project you can extend the kit with extra tracks and spotlights right up to 30 metres of track. The maximum number of spotlights per metre of track is four. An inline connector is needed for each track connection. Each spotlight head can rotate through 360˚ to point where you want it to and can tilt through 90˚.

For the bedside table, Edit Hotel Reading Light  not only looks elegant but combines a bedside lamp with an LED snake neck reading light with separate switches for each. Style is neatly combined with convenience.

Top Outdoor LED fittings

Stainless Steel LED Post Light - Short Moving outdoors LEDs are very much in their element with their robust construction. IP44 rated, the Short Stainless Steel Post Light with 24 LEDs is protected against both dust and splashing water to accommodate the vagaries of our British weather. It is 450mm tall, made from stainless steel with a transparent diffuser. You get a 3 year guarantee against corrosion so it is ideal for outdoor installation more than ten miles inland from the coast. Nearer to the coast than that and you really should choose copper or galvanised steel products rather than stainless steel (see our coastal lighting article for more information).

Take a closer look at the Ground or Wall-mountable - GL7- LED Spotlight - Warm-WhiteStill in the great outdoors, another great light fitting for the garden is this Garden Spotlight. It can be fitted to a vertical surface or on the ground. Its IP65 rating means it is well protected against heavy rain and dust. It is great for lighting up a water feature but should not be submergedn. The tough lacquered aluminium casing makes this a very durable outdoor light.

Guardcam LED Security Flood LightOutdoor lighting includes security lighting and for this purpose you can’t do better than the Guard-Cam LED as it has all you need… PIR controlled floodlight, security camera with speaker and associated DVR system. When the PIR is activated the camera takes clear images, recorded straight to the DVR and the light is bright enough to ensure that even at night the images are clear and in true colours. All the settings are fully adjustable and all the sensitive parts are fully protected against the elements. The system is mains powered with battery backup and can even be set to give audible warnings to deter trespassers from proceeding further.

Nighthawk Security Flood Light
If the camera and recording facilities are not required, a lower cost alternative would be the Nighthawk LED. One of Lyco’s most popular security lights, its superb quality Nichia LEDs are renowned for their high output, reliability and amazingly long life. The PIR movement sensor is combined with a photo-electric cell which can be set to activate the system from dusk to dawn.

The number one LED light fitting is…

Fireguard LED6 Dimmable SpotlightFinally the top selling LED light fitting which really is lighting the way to LED dominance in the lighting market is the EvoFire Downlight. We’re back indoors for this one, it’s a ceiling fitted flush downlight. It meets part B of current building regulations being fully tested and fire rated for 30, 60 and 90 minute ceilings. It is equally suitable for commercial applications of all kinds as well as domestic use.

The IP65 rating of the Evofire Downlighters means they are suitable for use in bathroom zone 1. The fire resistant bezel ensures that they are ideal for retro fitting as replacements for other, older downlighters.

For more advice, inspiration and news take a look at our Lighting Advice section.