Restaurant lighting – ambience is key

Providing a good overall experience is key to running a successful restaurant, so it’s essential to look beyond food and service when evaluating your business. Cuisine will be the primary focus, but the role of restaurant lighting should be placed high on the priority list. Effective lighting helps to create a relaxing ambience, which will bring customers back as surely as tasty food. Whether you’re a restaurant owner, hotelier, or specifier, you’ll need to consider the purpose behind any lighting choices you make.

Informed lighting choices

The type of restaurant you’re shopping for and even the type of meal being served might inform your choices. For instance, breakfast lighting should be ample so that customers can enjoy their morning paper and ready themselves for the day ahead. Lunchtime lighting that is moderately bright reflects the bustling time of day and will often help to turn tables faster. Then in the evening a more intimate level of lighting is likely to be desirable. A family restaurant might be better served by a higher level of lighting than a fine dining restaurant. The influencing factors are many.

Meet, greet, and impress

First impressions last, as the old adage goes, and that’s certainly true of a restaurant. Impressive signage and an attractively lit exterior create a good first impression for pre-booked customers as well as passing trade. If your establishment looks warm, inviting, and well maintained, it will immediately inspire confidence and encourage custom.

Brass swan neck sign lightLyco have a couple of recommendations for restaurant exteriors. The first is the Searchlight Brass Swan Neck Sign Light , which provides an elegant answer to illuminating a restaurant sign. An IP43 rating certifies its rain resistance.Lucca black exterior floor lamp

Outdoor furnishings and luminaires with an indoor look are a modern, chic idea with a hint of sophistication. A Lucca Exterior Floor Lamp at either side of your restaurant entrance, for instance, would be sure to create an inviting feel and is ideal in a contemporary setting. With an IP44 rating, metal shade, and concrete base, these lights can easily withstand the elements.

Waiting for a table

When a restaurant is busy turning covers it’s useful to have a dedicated reception and seating area where guests may relax in anticipation. This is an early chance for you to put customers at ease, so the right choice of lighting can really help set the tone!

It’s good to remember the practical nature of a waiting area; you’ll need to be able to communicate with customers, so lighting needs to be more than adequate. There’s plenty of scope here for decorative pendant lights, chandeliers, wall lights, and accent lights to show off features and furnishings. Some track lighting may help to highlight a nearby bar, where extra revenue is possible.

For atmospheric lighting at floor level, the attractively priced Deltech LED Flexi Strip sold in 5m lengths adds a relaxing, contemporary effect. These easy-to-install light strips are available in colour-switching RGB (red, green, and blue), purple, blue, or daylight white.

Actual Table Lighting

Some people are naturally blessed with good looks, but as any canny portrait photographer will tell you, there are ways and means to light people well and make them feel comfortable. At a dinner table a soft, diffused light works well – perhaps a shaded table lamp, making sure no bulb is visible at the customer’s eyeline.

Low-hanging ceiling pendants are used in some restaurants to define space and give each table an intimate feel. A closed shade with diffuser helps to spread a soft light over the table whilst avoiding uncomfortable glare from bare bulbs. A product like the Arden Pendant might serve you well here.

Salad Bar / Buffet Lighting

With a buffet, salad bar or carvery, your lighting considerations are likely to be a blend of practicality and aesthetics. Here is a chance to simultaneously show off your food to its best advantage and create atmosphere, whilst also ensuring the safety and convenience of your customers. Again, the time of day might play a part; customers’ priorities are likely to shift from morning to evening, which you can accommodate in your choice of lighting.

The Fireguard LED6 Dimmable Spotlight allows you the best of both worlds – you can dim the lights a little for evening sittings. Note that these fire-rated downlights are available with either warm or cool white outputs, and this, too, might influence your choice.

A cool white light heightens human senses through its similarity to daylight and is a good choice for breakfast or lunch areas and any environment where speed of service is desirable. Cool white lights are ideal in a hotel breakfast buffet area, for instance. Conversely, warm white lighting is often suitable for fine-dining restaurants, where customers are looking to relax.

Sunbeam wire light systemOne way of really showing off a display of food effectively is to spotlight it with a versatile track or wire lighting system. The beam angle of your lamps should be given some thought, ensuring that you provide sufficient illumination around a buffet area in addition to showcasing your food. The low-voltage Sunbeam Wire Light System looks inconspicuous but delivers crisp, bright light from its five 20W halogen lamps. Depending on the type of food you’re lighting, you might also consider cool-running LED illumination, which avoids projected heat around cold buffets and salad bars.

Other useful tips

There are various other tips you might like to take on board, if you still have room. For instance, don’t be afraid to vary your lights. Of course you’re looking for a certain amount of cohesion in your choices, but you can still use various types of fitting and different colours to create the effect you want. Consistency in bulb types, however, makes it less likely that you’ll be caught without spares.

Don’t completely block out ambient light with blinds, particularly if it makes your restaurant look closed from the outside! By the same token, use some of that wonderful lighting effect at night to advertise yourself and draw people in. You might use translucent shades or tinted glass to preserve an element of privacy for your customers.

Remember to make the most of features and space through your restaurant lighting; use concealed uplights, downlights, or track lighting for accent purposes or to highlight plants, bookcases, ornaments and furnishings. Remember that areas of contrasting light and shade help create that all-important ambience.

Don’t skimp on your lighting. The right choice of lamp or luminaire in your restaurant will help make a dining experience memorable. It’ll etch itself into the memory of your customers, along with the service you provide and the food you serve. In fact it’s another of those fine ingredients you need to make a restaurant business a success!

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

LED replacement bulbs and their uses

When your existing bulbs expire it is now generally recommended that you invest in LED replacement bulbs. This is because they offer numerous benefits, the more attractive of which are vastly reduced energy consumption and lifespans that sometimes extend into decades.

In this article we look at thirteen different types of LED retrofit bulb: a baker’s dozen that should save you some serious dough. We also note areas where LED replacements may cause problems.

Phillips MasterLED Candle Bulb

Types of LED replacement bulb

LED Candle Bulbs are tricky for designers because the bulbs they replace were often intended for show. The clear incandescent candle was used with chandeliers and other decorative fittings and admired for its scintillating light. Clear LED candles are ornamented for this reason, with silver or ivory-effect bodies and, in some cases, special lenses.

Kosnic HaloLED GU10 BulbsLED GU10s need attention when installed in confined light fittings, with some manufacturers warning of reduced lifespan in this type of application. GU10s are also used with track lights, bar lights, wall lights and outdoor spotlights. Some use COB LEDs, which are densely packed LED chips that produce an exceptionally even light. Typically a COB LED is wide beamed and recessed into the lamp for an authentic halogen reflector effect (most LED spotlights are reflectors only by name).

Crompton LED GLS BulbLED GLS Bulbs replace the everyday pear-shaped bulbs we all know. Many have an opal finish, which conceals unappealing LED chips but also helps to smoothly disperse light. Manufacturers like Crompton and Megaman go to some trouble to replicate the look and feel of incandescent bulbs.

LED Globe BulbsLED Golf Balls and Globes are usually meant to be seen. Golf balls in particular are used with a clear glass finish in chandeliers and decorative pendants, so manufacturers try to make LED retrofits look attractive. Some golf balls and most globes have a translucent finish, which produces less sparkle but is good for soft, flattering light.

LED Low Voltage MR16 Spotlight BulbsLED Low Voltage Spotlights are natural replacements for dichroic cool-beam 12V halogen spotlights, since they don’t project IR heat. One thing to note about all LED spotlights is their available choice of colour temperatures, which is impossible in halogen lamps. You can use this to accentuate different colours in display items. The little MR11 comes in LED form, as does the popular MR16.

LED Double-D BulbsLED Double D Bulbs offer savings of up to 60% over their fluorescent equivalents, whilst also boosting lifespan. Lesser known LED advantages include zero warm-up time, superior cold temperature performance, negligible UV output, shock-proof, vibration-proof and no mercury content. Many of these characteristics are beneficial for the type of use these lamps will see.

LED Par Reflector BulbsLED PAR Reflectors are used in a diverse range of applications, from swimming pool lighting to retail display or task lighting. Far more energy efficient and longer lasting than filament rivals, the wide choice of form and colour in these lamps makes creative lighting easy.

AR111 LED BulbsLED AR111 Reflectors replace halogen equivalents, which are often used in retail display lighting and domestic fittings. You’ll see a variety of designs, including the Kosnic 15W LED COB ES111, which emulates halogen lighting with its sunken COB LED module. Note that the ES111 is a mains-powered version of the AR111. Lyco sells a selection of both.

LED T8 TubesLED T8 Tubes are a replacement for the popular T8 fluorescent tube, which itself replaced the phased-out T12. Our LED tubes use 40-60% less energy than fluorescent rivals, whilst also outlasting them. In some cases LED tubes are rotatable for precise illumination, which avoids wasted light. Other benefits include zero warm-up time, no mercury content and little or no UV output to attract insects or fade artworks and fabrics.

LED G4 Capsules
LED Capsules are useful for everyday applications like desk lamps and wardrobe lights. They tend to be bulkier than halogen equivalents, so the size of the lamp housing should be checked before purchase. High-powered halogen capsules for specialist projector and theatre applications are not replaceable by LED.

LED Colour GU10 BulbsLED Colour Lights are great for enlivening retail displays, social events, and swimming pools. The Deltech 6W Blue Dimmable LED GU10 Bulb delivers a stronger and smoother light for purposes such as retail window displays.

LED Double Ended LinearLED Double Ended Linear bulbs replace the powerful elongated halogen bulbs often used in floodlighting applications. Bulkier than the bulbs they replace, these offer astounding levels of luminous efficacy and are vastly more energy-efficient. For instance, the Value 10W LED Double Ended Linear delivers a 93 lumens-per-watt performance.

LED Pin Fitting BulbsLED Pin Fittings replace non-ballasted CFLs, saving about 50% in energy costs. You’ll typically have to bypass or remove the ballast from a fluorescent fitting during installation. Like LED tubes, one way these lamps save energy is by not wasting light. For example, the Goodlight 8W LED allows 180° of adjustment for perfectly aimed illumination. Note that most of our LED pin fittings are non-dimmable, which may affect a decision when replacing 4-pin CFLs.

Watts versus lumens

One cause of confusion when switching to LED lighting is the abrupt uselessness of watts as a means of comparison. You can use “equivalent watts” as a guide to replacing incandescent bulbs, but you can’t use watts to compare LED products.

Lyco encourages use of lumens as a measurement of light output. Lumens measure the total amount of light produced, regardless of direction, whereas candelas measure light intensity in a specific direction. The second are more relevant to spotlights.

Can you replace any bulb with an LED?

Not quite, is the answer. The compact size of LEDs allows them to replace most bulbs, but there are three particular areas you need to be aware where issues can arise:

Light Direction

LED’s naturally directional light isn’t always ideal. To emulate omnidirectional bulbs, LED chips are usually mounted in relatively stout 360° configurations, which is only a problem when replacing skinny light sources like halogen capsules or linear lamps. LED versions of these products are normally broader, and some specialist types are not reproduced.

Heat dissipation

Heat dissipation needs in LED bulbs are significant. If you install a retrofit LED bulb into a confined and sealed fitting such as a fire-rated downlight you run the risk of shortening its lifespan. In some instances, a dedicated LED luminaire may offer a superior long-term solution.

Dimming capabilities

Whether or not an LED bulb is dimmable depends on its driver, and even if it is dimmable you’ll still need an appropriate switch. We have an article to help navigate these choppy waters, here.

Embracing technology

We hope this article has conveyed some of what LED currently has to offer. LED replacement bulbs make more economical sense than ever before, with many options now available at under £10. Why not embrace one of the greatest technologies of our time?

For more inspiration, ideas and advice try our Lighting Advice section.

LED ceiling lights – our top 10

LED ceiling lights offer many benefits over fluorescent or incandescent alternatives. Aside from their incredible energy-efficiency and lifespan, the compact size of LEDs allows more flexibility in design. LED downlights and ceiling panels often fit into relatively shallow ceiling voids and are a cleaner, more hygienic lighting solution for hospitals, schools and offices. Surface-mounted fittings are also transformed in scope and performance by LED lamps.

At Lyco we keep a watchful eye on lighting innovation and trends and select only the best products for our customers. Here are our top 10 LED ceiling lights:

Ten top LED ceiling lights

Robus LED Fire-Rated Downlight

This downlight offers a 25,000 hour lifespan and a 3-year manufacturer’s guarantee. Fire-rated, this downlight is tested for 90-minute ceilings, allowing crucial evacuation time for upper floors during a fire. Its impressive energy-efficiency easily surpasses the requirements of Part L Building Regulations.

Cavan 8W LED Downlight

Luceco 5W LED Downlight

To perfectly mimic the high quality light of a 50W low-voltage halogen equivalent, this superb downlight uses a special LED module with an 5W Sharp Cob LED chip. Its smooth, crisp light is delivered in a well-controlled beam with extremely low glare.

High Performance Downlight

There are two main differences between these two fittings. The first is longevity – the Sysion has a 50,000 hour lifespan against the 35,000 hours of the Cavan, so it’s ideal for long hours of use. The second is that it can be customised via interchangeable bezels and diffusers.

LED Light Panel

LED light panel - cool white

An improvement over old fluorescent modular ceiling fittings, this panel fits directly into existing ceiling grids. Its 50,000 hour lifespan and energy-efficient performance will significantly reduce maintenance and running costs. This is an ideal fitting for offices, schools, hospitals, and many other environments.

Rondure Pendant

Contemporary fittings like this Rondure pendant are often suspended low over dining tables or desks. This concentrates their light and creates a feeling of intimacy, even in a busy setting. A Decorative Filament Bulb is good for this purpose, as it’s attractive look complements the gold inner perfectly . The Rondure is ideal for restaurants, cafes, bars, or the home.

LED Batten

5ft Vulcan LED Twin Batten

LED lights offer a variety of extra benefits over even the best modern fluorescent tubes. This LED batten not only slices a third off the running costs of a T8 fluorescent tube, but it’s also longer-lasting, tougher, immune to multi-switching, contains no mercury and is suitable for exterior use. Need we say more?

Prodisc LED Flush Fitting with Microwave Motion Sensor

This excellent LED flush fitting automatically switches on when it detects movement. To add to its capabilities it can be wired to a series of slave fittings, so that multiple lights are switched on by the same sensor. With its cool white 5000K output, the Prodisc is ideal as a money-saving LED fitting in environments such as hospitals or schools.

Carina LED Flush with Microwave Sensor

The Carina is a great alternative to the Prodisc. With its IP65 rating, this dust-tight and water-resistant luminaire can be installed almost anywhere, including outdoors or in bathrooms and washrooms. The subtle warm white light of the Carina is ideal for hospitality settings and residential use.

Davida 3-light LED Spotlight

Tate 4-Light Spotlight

Modern spotlight fittings such as the Tate often come with integrated LEDs, so you’ll get years of service before any replacement is required. The Tate is a ceiling bar with fully adjustable light heads. Because the beam of an LED carries no IR heat and little or no UV, it is better suited for lighting sensitive objects such as artworks or textiles.

Acorn LED 3-Light and Track Kit

A track lighting system offers a little more versatility than a ceiling bar, as each light can be freely moved along a length of track as well as being angle-adjustable. The Acorn is ideal for lighting rooms and displays that are often altered. This light kit, which consists of 1-metre length of track and three spotlights, can be extended to a maximum 30 metres using separately available track lengths.

Investing in LED ceiling lights

Whether you’re an architect, interior designer, specifier, or end-user, LED ceiling lights deliver a new level of lighting performance whilst drastically reducing energy bills and the carbon footprint.

Why not take a look at our full range of LED ceiling lights?

Looking for more inspiration and advice? Take a look at our Lighting Advice section.

LED Lighting guide for dummies

Three decades ago, LEDs were only really known for being the power indicators on electronic devices, as they were too weak to be of much use elsewhere. Today, however, LED is leading the way in the fight to produce increasingly efficient lighting by dramatically reducing energy consumption.

The high-brightness blue LED was introduced in 1993. Twenty times brighter than its green or red predecessors, this was the long-awaited enabler of white LED light. Then, as now, white LED light was produced by blending red, green, and blue light or by using a blue LED with a yellow phosphor. From this point on LED bulbs started their journey to take over the world of lighting.

All very well, but what is an LED?

The real science bit…

A Light Emitting Diode (LED) is a device that allows electrical current to flow in only one direction. It includes two conductive materials, placed in contact with each other. Electricity is applied to the diode so that atoms in one material are excited to a higher energy level. That energy is then released in the form of electrons into the second material, and this release of energy creates light.

How does this differ from traditional lighting?

Traditional incandescent lighting produces light directly by heat. A thin tungsten filament is warmed to about 2500°C by an electric current. Filament bulbs use 90% of their energy in maintaining this extreme temperature.

LED benefits

LED lighting boasts numerous benefits over rival technologies:

  • Energy-efficiency: LED lighting offers energy savings of 80-90% over incandescent or halogen technologies and up to 50% over fluorescent lamps.
  • Longer life: with typical lifespans of up to 50,000 hours, LED lasts 2 or 3 times longer than fluorescent lighting, and up to 50 times longer than incandescent. Maintenance costs are vastly reduced as a result.
  • Instant light: unlike many fluorescent lights, LEDs require no warm-up time to reach full brightness.
  • Eco-friendly: LED lighting has potential to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Around 20% of the world’s electricity is used on lighting. Unlike fluorescent lamps, LEDs contain no mercury, making disposal easier and cleaner. Longer lifespan relieves pressure on landfill sites.
  • Reduced heat output: LED lighting has significant heat dissipation needs. However, unlike filament bulbs, an LED lamp does not project infrared heat in its beam. This increases suitability for lighting heat-sensitive items like artworks or food.
  • Added durability: LEDs are a solid state form of lighting, resistant to vibration and shock. They are less delicate than incandescent or fluorescent lamps, and outperform competing technologies in cold temperatures.

Retrofit LED bulbs such as this 5W GLS look almost identical to traditional bulbs

Can I replace existing lights with LEDs?

Retrofit LED bulbs (ones that fit into existing bulb holders) are suitable in most situations. Close attention should be paid to heat dissipation needs, especially when replacing halogen reflectors in enclosed light fittings (e.g. recessed ceiling light). Advanced heat sink design in modern LED lamps overcomes the reliability problems seen in early models. Manufacturer’s guarantees are often supplied to back this.

A few words about dimming

Take a look at our useful LED v Incandescent infographicLED lighting is excellent for dimming, maintaining energy efficiency at all light levels. However, not all LED lamps or fittings are dimmable. Dimmability is a property of the LED driver, so you need to shop specifically for it. Shop for dimmable LED bulbs

Many modern LED lamps are compatible with old dimmer switches, but the minimum load of a switch (often 60W) is a potential problem if you only want to dim a few lights. It is sometimes easier to install a new dimmer switch, with modern ‘trailing-edge’ dimmers being suitable for LED loads.

Dedicated LED fittings

LED light fittings are increasingly designed with non-replaceable LEDs, mainly due to their long LED lifespan. In this instance, the whole luminaire is replaced at the end of its useful life. One of the advantages is that designers can build light fittings that are fine-tuned for efficiency, with very little light being wasted.

Does the light from an LED reduce over time?

Yes, it’s a process called lumen depreciation, which affects LED and fluorescent lighting. Incandescent bulbs produce the same amount of light throughout their lifespan.

LED lifespan is usually measured to a point where it has lost 30% of original lumen output (known as 70% lumen maintenance, or L70). Lumens are used to measure the total amount of light produced, regardless of direction or beam angle.

Reducing carbon emissions

It is argued by scientists worldwide that we are heading towards potentially disastrous climate change due to excessive carbon emissions. The way we create and use our energy is all part of this equation and regardless of your stance, reducing your carbon footprint is definitely a positive way of doing your bit for the environment. You’ll be saving money at the same time!

A switch to LED – savings in a UK household

The average UK household effectively creates 10 tonnes (10,000 kg) of carbon dioxide per year. Electricity usage accounts for roughly a third of it.

If a household burns 6 x 60W filament bulbs for 4 hours a day, that amounts to 319 kg of carbon emissions a year. The annual energy cost will be around £70.

By comparison, 6 x 10W LED retrofits produce 54 kg of carbon dioxide per year and cost £11.50 in electricity. In one year, you’ve recovered most of the bulb costs and still have years of light ahead.

Since lighting accounts for 15% of the average home’s electricity bill, an LED conversion significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

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LED in summary

LED lighting is energy efficient, long-lived, eco-friendly, robust, and all-round cool (except around its heat sink). In addition, it produces little or no UV, is unaffected by frequent switching, is naturally directional for precise control, and it’s compact. LED is the future of lighting.

Why not start saving money (and the planet) today and take a look at our full range of LED lighting.

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

Plug and Play lighting – the ideal outdoor lighting solution

Plug and Play lighting – the benefits

Plug and play lighting allows end-users to easily design and install a tailored outdoor lighting scheme, without the need for an electrician. This modular low-voltage system is ideal for a garden, patio, poolside, or car park, and dramatically reduces the cost normally associated with a bespoke lighting solution.

Plug and Play lighting – getting started

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Click here to see how to select your plug & play lighting systemThere are three steps to a basic Plug and Play set up:

  1. Choose your combination of lights
  2. Choose the right transformer
  3. Choose cables and accessories

The lights and their 2-metre connecting cables hook up to the main cable with waterproof 2-pin plugged sockets. A 3-way connector is also available, which lets you attach up to three lights to each socket.

Expansion of your lighting scheme is simple with this modular approach. The main thing to remember is that the total wattage of the circuit should not exceed the maximum load of the transformer. We offer a choice of 22W, 60W, and 150W transformers, designed to supply power across at least 35m of cable.

Main power cables are sold in 10m lengths with four connecting sockets, or 15m lengths with six sockets. Extension cables are also available, allowing lights to be positioned further from the main cable. None of the cables theoretically need to be concealed, although a light covering of soil is recommended to avoid needless damage. Because the system is low voltage, there is no threat to life if the cables are accidentally sliced.

For a visual explanation of how to set up a Plug & Play system simply click here or on our infographic above.

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Plug and Play lighting – in use

Our Plug and Play lighting products are designed to withstand the elements, and intended for year-round outdoor use. All power connections are watertight and suitable for siting in and around swimming pools or drainage areas. Included in the collection are bollards, post lights, spotlights, walkover lights, and wall lights.

There are various ways of controlling a Plug and Play lighting scheme. A dusk-to-dawn sensor automatically triggers lights at nightfall, and switches them off again after your specified duration. The sensor can control all of your lighting, or a single section of it, as you wish. Also available is a weatherproof wireless remote control, which can operate up to nine separate groups of lights at a maximum 40m range.

LED lights are incredibly energy efficient and last up to 20 times longer than halogen alternatives. However, halogen lights, which also feature in this range, offer superior colour rendering. They make a particularly strong choice for lighting red-coloured grasses, shrubs, trees, and decorations, with their naturally warm bias.

Safe and simple outdoor lighting

The inherent safety of a Plug and Play lighting scheme makes it a reassuring choice for the protection of children or pets. In many instances you won’t even need tools for installation, though a screwdriver may be required with some light fittings.

For businesses looking to renovate and update the look of their exteriors, our Plug and Play lighting range offers a solution that’s cost-effective, easy to install and flexible. Homeowners can reap the nocturnal rewards of their own property for minimal outlay.

Are you looking for more lighting news, inspiration, or information? Check out our Lighting Advice section.

Power Factor: Avoiding the surcharge

Power factor is a lesser known specification in the world of lighting. It measures how efficiently power is used in an AC circuit, and is a closely scrutinised area of LED and fluorescent lighting. Despite being vastly more energy efficient than filament lighting, these newer technologies have a naturally low power factor. This may seem trivial when compared to their substantial benefits, but has, regardless, been subject to EU regulations in recent years.

Energy suppliers surcharge commercial customers for use of low power factor equipment. This is openly itemised as either a power factor charge or reactive power charge, and billed in units of kVAr. Large, complex buildings with numerous luminaires will plainly be more affected. Low power factor also reduces the number of fittings installable on a lighting circuit.

By choosing energy efficient lighting with a high power factor, energy savings are truly maximised, meaning you should not be hit with such a surcharge. To go straight to our high power factor products click here. Alterntively, read on to really understand what the power factor is all about…


The power factor calculation

Power factor is calculated by dividing the active power used (in watts) by the apparent power drawn from the power grid (in volt-amps, or VA). A unitless number between 0.0 and 1.0 is used, with 1.0 representing 100% unity (i.e. 1 volt-amp = 1 watt).

Circuits containing only heating elements have a 1.0 power factor. This includes the resistive circuit of an incandescent lamp, where current increases and decreases proportionately with voltage (meaning the current and voltage are ‘in phase’).

LED and fluorescent circuits have inductive or capacitive elements, and never have a 1.0 power factor. Voltage and current are always out of phase to some degree, with only the in-phase portions producing real work. Power factor correction (PFC) can be installed to bring voltage and current more closely into phase. Any unused power is called reactive power.

Power factor charges

Commercial customers are surcharged for reactive power in units of kVAr. Suppliers apply a power factor threshold of between 0.85 and 0.95, above which there is no charge. Domestic users are never billed for reactive power.


  • A 60W incandescent lamp draws 60 volt-amps (VA) from the power grid, thus has a 1.0 power factor. All of its supplied power produces work.
  • A 5W LED lamp with a 0.5 power factor will draw 10 volt-amps (VA) from the grid. It is hugely more energy-efficient than the incandescent lamp, but only converts 50% of its drawn power into work (watts).

This does not mean the LED lamp uses 10W of power, since reactive power is returned rather than consumed. However, low power factor increases power transmission losses, voltage dips, distribution costs, and carbon emissions. The grid is forced to supply a higher power level than is required at the load.

Standards and the future

From September 1st 2013, EU regulation 1194/2012 came into force:

  • LED lamps between 2W and 5W require a minimum 0.4 power factor.
  • LED lamps over 5W and up to 25W require a minimum 0.5 power factor.
  • LED lamps over 25W require a minimum 0.9 power factor.
  • CFLs with integrated ballasts (retrofit CFLs) require a minimum 0.5 power factor up to 25W, and 0.9 above.

Arguments against power factor correction in lamps include: increases in cost, materials, weight, heat, as well as a minor decrease in efficiency.

In 2010, Once Innovations revealed the SCD conditioning circuit for AC LEDs, improving power factor, distortion, and luminous efficacy, whilst adding less weight, volume, and parts than existing solutions. Such technology is likely to be more viable as LED prices decrease.


HPF Products

If you’re billed for reactive power, high power factor (HPF) lamps and luminaires may help reduce these charges. Lyco sells a variety of HPF products, including:

The Carina LED Semi Flush has a 0.93 power factor. An IP65 rating means you can install this light almost anywhere, including outdoors or in bathrooms. This versatile luminaire is useful in many commercial or residential applications.

A great recessed fitting for many commercial uses is the Eternity LED Downlight, which has a 0.95 power factor. Long-lasting Samsung LEDs are integrated, with an expected 50,000 hour lifespan.

Offering numerous advantages over fluorescent counterparts, the Robus Vulcan LED Batten has a 0.95 power factor. This tough fitting is ideal for industrial applications, including car parks, corridors, factories, farm buildings, sheds, and garages.

For offices, schools, and hospitals, the LED Light Panel offers many benefits. It is neat, hygienic, and superbly energy efficient. This top-quality luminaire has a minimum 0.9 power factor.

Fluorescent fittings with high-frequency electronic ballasts offer improved energy efficiency and extended lamp lifespan. Lyco sell Tridonic Ballasts for single and double fluorescent battens, with a high 0.97 power factor.

Carina LED Flush ChromeEternity LED Downlight - 18W StandardVulcan 5ft Twin LED Batten45W LED Light Panel - Cool WhiteTridonic 36W Single Ballast

Hopefully the above products and information will help you avoid any future power factor surcharges. If you jumped straight to the products and now want to see how the power factor is calculated and the subsequent charges click here.

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