Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bear In Mind When Installing LED Lights

When fitting LED lighting consider that it is usually very bright but also very focused, in other words the light tends to illuminate a confined area which can lead to a spotted effect if you are not cautious.

The simplest solutions are to:
a) think about the beam angle of the LED bulb you are fitting (a wider angle will spread the light out and avoid spotting) and
b) install more lights but with a lower brightness level and/or softer color.
This last solution is often the best if your spotlights are fitted on a track or some other non recessed fitting. It is a lovely excuse to update the room a bit and frankly the cost involved is trivial compared to what it will continue to cost you by using halogen spotlights.

As a rule Cool White LEDs tend to appear brighter and, well, cooler though modern quality LEDs avoid the blue hues often associated with under powered first generation LEDs. The effect is more akin to natural daylight, but most people find it a bit off putting except when used for specific purposes such as display lighting or to generate a very modern look or where lovely color reproduction is necessary.

For some people, a problem with modern LEDs is that they are in fact bright, or that they are not for the most part dimmable. This is not necessarily so these days as the positive reviews for these Philips Dimmable Master LEDs indicate, but in general you will find that dimmable LED bulbs tend to be offered more in the GU10 mains format than 12v MR16 possibly because with low voltage you need both the bulb and the transformer to be able to dimming so it's all a small bit of a palava. A straightforward solution of coursework is to ditch the transformers and connect GU10 holders with pre-wired tails direct to the mains cable (you may need to get an electrician involved though, in the event you live somewhere that has regulations governing home wiring the United Kingdom for example).

Most contemporary Warm White LEDs provide a close facsimile to standard halogen lamps in terms of light color, but most are still slightly cooler since there is a performance benefit to be gained that way. Perhaps the best approximation of halogen warm white is currently the Exergi Hyperbright that is near indistiguishable from a regular 35W halogen lamp in every respect bar jogging costs (and possibly slightly brighter though brightness appears to be a subjective measure).

When replacing halogen lights recessed in to the ceiling void check to see whether or not the existing fittings are fire rated. In the event you remove the halogen lamp and look up there will be a domed metal can enclosing the aperture if the fitting is fire rated, otherwise there will basically be a void. Plenty of LED replacement bulbs will basically slot in to fire rated halogen downlight fittings, but some are slightly large. Either identify the correct size lamp for the fitting or replace the fittings since unlike halogen lamps, LED spotlights run icy and do not therefore pose a serious fire risk. If using a straightforward void in the ceiling where the lamp is held in place by a metal retaining clip then this is basically not an issue anyway.

The reason incidentally that some LED GU10s are slightly larger than normal is to house the integrated transformer. very all LEDs use 12 volts input the issue is whether the step down from 240 volts (or whatever your mains supply provides) is completed by an outside transformer/driver or on-board electronics.

In most cases, in the event you are installing or replacing existing down lights (usually in kitchens, bathrooms and hall ways) you ought to aim for an equivalent brightness to about a 35 watt incandescent halogen lamp. This is plenty bright for a working area such as a kitchen, if your kitchen is also equipped with supplementary lighting in the type of under shelf strip lights and cabinet display lighting that already illuminates worktop areas. Some people though do prefer the much brighter look that 50 watt lamps give.

As noted above, to increase the general level of light it is often more effective to add more light bulbs than replace existing ones with brighter versions. For example a smallish bathroom lit by a fitting that has six x 50 watt halogen lamps can be perfectly adequately lit by six x two watt LEDs but in the event you were to renew the fitting with that took three lamps you could receive a much closer approximation to the hotter appearance created by halogen lamps by using very warm white LEDs and compensating for the slight reduction in brightness (as compared to the cool white or day light versions) by adding in that additional bulb. It is still only going to consume 20w compared to 150w, so not the full order of magnitude difference in jogging costs, but a healthy 7 to 8 times cheaper.

The comparison photographs incidentally are of the utility room at Kat Towers lit (on the left) by 3 x 50W halogen spots and (to the right) 3 x 6W Edison LED GU10 spots. The obvious difference is 150 watts total power consumption before versus 18 watts after, but other than appearing slightly cooler (which can look nicer in positive rooms) there is not much in it. Both shots were taken at night and the camera flash was off so everything is lit by the track on the ceiling. It's about as lovely an indication as you can get from a picture and in the flesh they genuinely do light the place up much the same as the 50W halogen lamps did, and the color rendering is much better (the walls are in fact a pale yellow shade of white but the halogens tend to add a pink hue).

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