Saturday, 9 April 2011

Replacing 12v Halogen Lamps with Led Energy Saving Spotlights

Household Halogen Lighting and Energy Saving LED Replacements
Energy saving LED home lighting is without doubt the future of domestic lighting (check out today's most wished for lighting products and see for yourself how plenty of are LED based). Though some critics still harp on about cost and comparison with conventional domestic lighting solutions, they miss the point as as comparing an abacus with an electronic calculator. Led lighting will be the future of domestic and public ligthing.

And, as ever, it is the money that talks. A typical 50w GU10 halogen lamp costs about £3 GBP in the United Kingdom and lasts (lets be generous) 6000 hours. A top quality LED spot light (or indeed normal bulb formed LED light bulb) that can perform the same job as its incandescent equivalent will at present set you back 7 times that but will last 25 times longer; so on true like-for-like purchase costs you actually save £54.

It may not appear like much but if you are like most folk your lighting usage is  definitely is excess of bulb for hours per day. In the event you crank the maths you start to see typical savings for an average household that start at £400-£500 per year (or £11,000-£15,000 over the typical lifespan of an LED) and go up from there.

Who wishes to leave that kind of money on the table?

But that is not even close to being the finish of the matter; assuming modest domestic usage of four hours per day, the electricity savings from LED bulb compared to the equivalent brightness halogen lamp work out at £19.83 per year and £543.21 over the full lifespan of that light bulb.

Replacement options often include GU10 LED bulbs for mains voltage, MR16 LED for 12v lighting and the new GU24 base introduced for low power consumption light bulbs (this was originally intended to delineate CFL bulbs before LED know-how started parking its tanks on the low energy lighting lawn).

The critics are right on point though LED lighting is not the same. Low energy domestic LED lighting ought to be installed, used and thought about differently because the new generation of home LED lights makes feasible a whole new world of innovative, adjustable and cost-efficient designs seldom before dreamed of.

One of the most straightforward ways to begin your move to energy saving LED home lighting know-how is by replacing your halogen lamps, since retrofit LED spotlights are fully compatible with the various types of existing halogen fittings (GU10, MR16, ES) and provide a similar kind of light i.e. bright and directional.

A Small History of Light Bulb Types

Note: Originally all light bulb fittings were designated ES (Edison Screw), sometimes abbreviated to E i.e. E27 or ES27 (ES26 in the USA). The numbers designate the size of the lamp fitting i.e. the base diameter in millimeters. Later developments include the Bayonet Mount i.e. B22 or BC22 common in Europe. Rival manufacturer Westinghouse, invented the bi-pin fitting to get past Edisons patent and this is prefixed by G or GU. However, the popular GU5.3 standard for low-voltage fittings has become often known as MR16.

So what actually is an MR16 lamp? The prefix MR stands for Multifaceted Reflector and the suffix 16 is the diameter expressed in eights of an inch, so 16/8 is two inches across at its maximum width. The MR11 format is thus fundamentally the same but a bit smaller.

The reflector is what controls the beam angle and color of the light from the lamp, and a multifaceted reflector has small dimples (facets) which lead to a much softer light and reduces harsh contrasts. Note however that it is feasible to get MR16 and MR11 lamps that have smooth (non-faceted) reflectors.

Most people associate MR16 spotlights with 12v low voltage lighting, but plenty of MR16 lamps are suitable for use with unmodified mains voltage. The difference is in the type of base. What most people refer to as MR16 spotlights use the two pin GU5.3 base whereas main powered MR16 spots use the twist lock GU10 base and have thus come to be often termed GU10 lamps.

So there you have it; MR16 denotes the type and size of the bulb and strictly speaking the low voltage variants ought to be described as GU5.3 MR16 and the mains powered types as GU10 MR16. The picture below shows from left to right GU10, MR16 (GU5.3) and MR11 light bulbs.

Choosing Between Low-Voltage(12V) Versus Mains (or Line 240V) Voltage
As a generalisation it is common to find that for recessed spotlights (which these days much means halogen lamps) most people opt for MR16 GU5.3 low-voltage lamps and for track mounted lighting they choose in lieu GU10 line voltage (mains) lamps. The main reason for this split is probably basically to do with the practicalities of fitting the light bulbs. Also, plenty of table lamps use low voltage because with 12v lighting you can make significantly smaller bulbs such as the popular G4 halogen capsule.

But fitting and replacing bulbs aside, what are the essential advantages and disadvantages of using either mains or low voltage lighting?

The twist and lock mechanism on a GU10 bulb means that you need to maintain a firm grip on it, which is near impossible if the darn thing is recessed inside a hole. Some manufacturers supply a rubber suction cup that attaches to the face of the bulb and makes this slightly simpler, but by and giant most folk solve this issue by using push fit bi-pin GU5.3 MR16 bulbs in lieu.

Low voltage lamps are noticeably brighter, the reason being that they burn at a higher temperature and use shorter, thicker filaments (to cope with the higher current step down transformers invariably offset the reduction in voltage with a corresponding increase in current) which means a more intense light is produced from a smaller area and thus appears sharper and brighter. However there is an obvious downside to this, namely that they get very hot and, depending on where and how they have been installed, can pose a fire risk. This can be offset by using aluminium (or aluminum if you are American) backed lamps to project the heat forward than back in to the recess, and also by fitting fire resistant hoods.

Low voltage bulbs actually consume slightly more electricity since although the lamps may use a low-voltage input, the transformers definitely dot, and in combination they draw more power than mains equivalents. On the and side though, low voltage halogen lamps usually last longer than mains versions. A typical line voltage bulb will last about 1000 hours in contrast to a low voltage equivalent that can last six to four times longer. Needless to say, neither compares to LED lifespans which average about 50 times longer than a stand mains voltage lamp.

Both types tend to be basically dimmable, but low-voltage halogen lamps are well suited to dimming, assuming you have suitable transformers. On the subject of which, it is normal practice to configure transformer per lamp since it makes the wiring much simpler and the overhead cost is not that giant a deal. It is worth noting however that low voltage transformers can emit a distinctly audible buzz which is made worse by using them together with dimmers. The best solution is usually nothing more complicated than ensuring you fit lovely quality electronic transformers and suitable low voltage capable dimmers.

Another notable benefit with low voltage lamps is the massive range of styles, wattages and beam angles whereas line voltage lamps offer much less choice.

When it comes to LED lighting, the same broadly applies except that there's no issues with heat or differences in luminosity. What is not so straightforward however is the topic of LEDs and dimmers.

The Issue with Halogen Light Bulbs
Halogen lamps in general, and halogen spotlights and down lighters in particular, are very popular and have become very common in plenty of households. Used in lighting clusters in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways they can bring a space to life with excellent light coverage that creates a uniform and neat, bright look.

To put bulb life figures in to context, in case you use a lamp for about four hours each evening you would use very 1500 hours each year.

But like most conventional forms of domestic lighting, halogen spot lamps are terribly inefficient and use far more power than is necessary since very all the energy is wasted as heat, which brings with it the further issue that they run astoundingly hot and often need fire-rated covers. They also do not last that well with bulb replacement necessary after about 6000 hours of use.

Overall then , the jogging costs (or total cost of possession) for halogen lamps are definitely nowhere near as terrible as for normal incandescent lighting, but with rising fuel bills and creeping legislation targeted at energy efficiency this is still Not A Lovely Place To Be.

But there is a very simple solution. Although LED energy saving lighting has yet to fully penetrate the domestic market, it does already provide a simple and very effective substitute for domestic halogen lighting, in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and hallways.

Energy saving retrofit LED lamps roughly equal to 50w halogen lamps are now often available ( GU10 LED lamps) but with output jogging at 4w  7w in lieu and very all those watts producing light with very none lost as heat. The cost comparison for LED is basically staggering in terms of overall financial savings.

A fast trip to any lovely lighting store and0 minutes replacing bulbs is all it takes to put in mains or 12v LED kitchen lighting that is equivalent in brightness to elderly 35w halogen lamps; and in an area such as a kitchen that usually gets plenty of use in most homes, that can add up to significant electricity savings by itself.

Of coursework, in case you do not already have halogen lighting installed somewhere in your home then you aren't constrained by retrofit issues and could switch directly to an energy saving domestic LED lighting installation and gain all the benefits of a great look with tremendous low energy consumption and jogging costs and the smug satisfaction that at least you're not wasting precious energy (and paying for it)!

Ironically, where energy saving LED home lighting does not yet fully compete (in the area of non-directional table lamps and the like) the increased availability of halogen equivalents for regular GSL bulbs provides a chance to replace ordinary household bulbs with halogen lamps while simultaneously replacing halogen mains powered and 12v lights with ultra low power LED lamps.
LED Spot Lights - Low Energy Lighting Replacement for Halogen Lamps

Halogen lamps cannot be basically replaced with standard low-energy CFL bulbs. Not only are the fittings unsuitable, CFL bulbs are bulky and frankly ugly with a poor light quality. They are also with rare exceptions not dimmable. In fact, there's so lots of issues with CFL light bulbs that they are realistically a non-starter as retrofit substitutes for halogen spotlights,

However, both low-voltage and mains halogen bulbs can be very basically replaced with equivalent GU10 LED bulbs (for mains) or MR16 LEDs (for 12v lighting) and the benefits are considerable.

For a start, although the preliminary costs for LED low energy light bulbs are a bit higher than for regular halogen fittings, they last a great deal longer; somewhere in the order of 50,000 hours compared to a measly three,000 for a standard halogen (some mains GU10 LED bulbs now claim in excess of 90,000 hours). That is a staggering 30 to 50 years from bulb!! Most conventional bulbs currently obtainable last only slightly over one year.

But that is the capital cost. You also need to factor in the fact that domestic LED lighting (whether mains AC or 12 volt DC) makes use of a fraction of the energy necessary to power conventional lighting. And also think about that whereas regular lamps can, in extreme cases, waste up to 98% of their input energy as heat (not light), LED light bulbs output very no heat with all the energy converted to pure light.

Put another way, regardless of the preliminary cost for purchasing your domestic LED spotlights, divide by 25 (50,000 hours compared to 3000 gives a ratio of 25:1) to arrive at the true purchase cost compared to an ordinary light fitting, as this then accounts for the very low power consumption and replacement frequency of energy saving LED home lighting.

So the actual capital cost of switching to LED home lighting is actually a fraction of the upfront figure and you can look forward to years and even decades before you ever must change another bulb. All the while costing peanuts to run, as fuel and electricity prices continue to ramp up, making those conventional light bulbs ever more pricey to both run and continually replace.

Things To Think about Before Purchasing LED Lights
There's a few key points to think about prior to installing home LED lighting systems.

First, the low power consumption of LED lamps means they use small amounts of electricity a replacement for a very bright dichroic MR16 12v light bulb rated at 35 watts would be less than three watt so become familiar with the ratings for LED lamps. Update: Less than three months on and the common replacement for a 35w halogen lamp is now a 3w LED. To keep pace with the fast rate of development in this area check out this review of LED replacements for halogen lamps.

It is vital that any LED lights you think about are bright for the intended purpose. In case you wish for example to replace 50w halogen lamps then you need to be thinking about at least 5w LED equivalents. In other words, work on a rough ratio of0 to. You would not expect to replace a 50w bulb with a 15w and get a satisfactory result, yet that appears to be exactly what lots of of those complaining in forums and review sites appear to have done by opting for cheap 1w to 2w LEDs that will match a night-light (or perform perfectly well as hand-crafted garden lighting) but not much else. There is no avoiding the fact that quality, high power LED lights cost, but you do get what you pay for.

Note: you might have noticed the term Dichroic Halogen used a fair bit to report some halogen bulbs in case you don't know what it means, it basically refers to the special reflective coating used on MR16 halogen lamps that reflects more heat and light and helps keep the lamp body chilled.

This very low power consumption means you also need to think about transformers (for low-voltage 12v LED lights) and dimmer switches. Regular dimmer units and 12 volt light transformers need a maximum load and unless you are driving lots of 12v LED spotlights there won't be sufficient load and you will need to replace existing transformers and dimmers with special 12v constant voltage LED drivers (as LED transformers are termed) and LED dimmer switches if dimmability is an issue.

Second, check the beam angle. Usually speaking these ought to match up basically with halogen spotlight angles which are often in the 36 - 40 degree range, but it is worth confirming. A common cause of confusion is misunderstanding between luminous intensity and luminous flux, or in plain English brightness and total light output. A narrow beam angle focuses all the light in to a tiny but very bright area whereas a wider angle disperses the light more evenly but less brightly.

A typical unregulated 12 volt transformer is designed to push out 12v when attached to a normal load such as 6 x 25w; in case you decrease the load down to the small amounts that LEDs soak up, the output voltage is likely to increase. This can basically and quickly lead to premature failure of your pricey 12v MR16 LED light bulbs, so be aware and make definite that you are using regulated transformers or drivers that won't exceed the expected voltage. A solution that lots of adopt is to basically leave halogen bulb in the circuit as this will normally increase the load sufficiently. Find out more here about LED drivers and dimmers.

Third, the light emitted from LED light bulbs is pure in color. Unlike traditional light bulbs which give off a wide spectrum of light, LEDs emit a single color so you ought to check the color (or more specifically, color temperature) will be suitable for your intended purpose. This characteristic incidentally is why LED grow lights are catching on so quickly because LEDs can be tuned to emit light at the very specific wavelengths suitable for plant photosynthesis. For general lighting though it can make it tricky to get a nice white light match with incandescent bulbs, and usually a special phosphor coating is used to accomplish the more yellow effect people have become accustomed to.

The point is that a narrow beam LED can appear brighter yet deliver less overall light than using a wider angle. If in doubt check the rated luminous flux measured in lumens or better still ask for the Standard Wattage Equivalent in other words the way it compares against a traditional incandescent lamp of known brightness.

White light can vary between cool white and warm white (hence the term color -either a closer approximation to daylight or to a traditional incandescent light source. The bulbs themselves contains a cluster of about twenty individual tiny LED units and can thus be manufactured to produce any given mix of color by varying the colors of the individual LED units.

The best match with halogen lamps is produced by warm white LEDs in the range 2700 - 3500 Kelvins; temperatures higher than about 4000 K start to look bluish and stark, thought they can be used to nice effect in some circumstances (modern kitchen lighting for example).

The best advice is to try and see your intended purchase in use, or at least in a photograph, before you buy. These bulbs are not (yet) cheap and do last for potentially decades. A nice place to start is LED kitchen lighting, as discussed more fully below.

Finally query what is meant by expected lifespan. LED luminosity decreases slowly over time and the universally agreed point at which an LED reaches the finish of its usable life is when its luminous flux (total light output) hits 50% of its original luminosity.

In case you already have mains powered GU10 halogen lamps anywhere in your home then you can experiment right now with energy saving LED replacements, since retrofitting halogen lamps with GU10 LED bulbs is a matter of unscrewing your elderly halogen lamps and replacing with retrofit GU10 LED equivalent fittings.

Most manufacturers do state the correct usable lifespan but some less scrupulous (or ignorant) suppliers will bandy about total lifespan figures. Most LEDs obtainable today last effectively for up to 50,000 hours (i.e. they've lost 50% brightness at that point) so you can usually take claims of 100,000 hours with a large pinch of salt. If in doubt, base your calculations on half what the manufacturer claims you'll still be making sizable savings even then.
How to Replace Halogen Spotlight Lamps with LED Light Equivalents

For MR16 12v lighting a transformer is already necessary to run each conventional low-voltage halogen bulb and these may need to get replaced with an LED driver(the term used to report an LED transformer, confusingly also sometimes called a constant voltage controller) in order to power 12v LED lights.

Three times all the transformers have been replaced with or more LED drivers then again it is basically a matter of pulling out the elderly halogen bulbs and substituting equivalent 12v LED replacement spotlights in their place since the actual fittings are identical for the specific purpose of ensuring LEDs can be basically retrofitted.

As noted above, LED spotlights are ideal for kitchen lighting. Lots of people already incorporate halogen downlights in their kitchen design exactly because it provides a neat crisp light quality with excellent CRI (Color Rendering Index how vibrant and true to life things look under artificial lighting) properties that CFL light bulbs can only dream of.

Philips, an established global leader in lighting know-how are betting the farm on the new generation of home LED lighting that is only now beginning to become obtainable to consumers, with for example the Philips Color Kinetics Essential White (and lots of other) lighting products. This series includes the (already obsolete it now seems) MR16 12v 5w replacement spot lamp that works with an existing non-electronic 12v AC transformers.

LED Kitchen Lighting

And yet it is so brilliantly simple to pull out existing halogen lamps and in their place push in LED spotlights. Sharp, for example, offer the Zenigata LED Series that can rival a traditional 60w spotlight but consuming 6.7 watts in other words costing 1/10th as much to run. That of coursework is bright, even for kitchen lighting, and lots of would opt for seven to three watt LED bulbs which are equivalent power to 35w halogen lamps.

Modern LED bulbs provides the same excellent light quality as halogen spotlights but without the tremendous high temperatures and at a fraction of the walking cost. If there is room in the house that gets most use and where the lights are of necessity switched on for long periods, it is the kitchen.

Kitchen lighting is obtainable in both GU10 LED mains format and as low voltage 12v MR16 LED bulbs, and the savings are such that it actually makes sound financial sense to pull out and throw away existing halogen lamps even if they're are still fully functional. In fact, leaving halogen spotlights in situ and waiting for them to fail could cost more in unnecessarily high costs (compared to LED lighting) than dumping perfectly nice bulbs.

LED Cabinet Lights

A common way to illuminate display cabinets, kitchen dressers, open shelves & the like has up till now been with 12v low-voltage slim-line halogen downlighters, usually using the small 10w G4 halogen capsule bulbs. These definitely provide excellent crisp lighting but suffer from the issue that halogen bulbs get hot. There's now lots of slim-line LED downlights that provide comparable light quality but generate negligible heat.

These slim-line LED cabinet lights are widely available for both mains & low-voltage fittings & provide lots of choice in power, ranging from 1w thru to an ultra bright 8w, with fixtures covering surface mounted (6mm depth is common), recessed, round, square & rectangular in a variety of sizes. Each unit usually contains 12 to twenty SMDs (surface mounted diodes a cluster of individual LEDs) & offer a choice of colors, including color changing.

Best of all, cabinet & other forms of display lighting tend by nature to be awkward to get at for changing bulbs, but with the high lifespan of LED cabinet lights you can more or less fit & forget.

Replace Halogen Lamps with LED Energy Saving Lighting
Basically replacing those halogen spotlights you've got in the kitchen & bathroom (& wherever else you have these ubiquitous tiny devices installed around your home) with low power consumption LED spotlights (either mains GU10 LED bulbs or 12v low voltage MR16 (GU5.3) or GU24, dichroic or non-dichroic) will save you huge funds down the line as energy prices keep on climbing.

Anyway, that's it. Job done. Now switch the lights on without worrying about what it's costing you or the harm it's doing to the environment. How simple was that?

Not only that, home LED lighting opens up a new world of lighting ideas that were until recently basically impossible.

You must not make immense sacrifices to save on household energy bills or to reduce your carbon footprint. Energy saving LED lights have low power consumption, low heat output & a long life. Replacing halogen lamps with energy saving LED lighting will save you funds & help save the environment.

Furthermore, you must not switch to LED low energy light bulbs all in go. You can basically merge a combination of LED low energy light bulbs & halogen spotlights in order to reduce the preliminary expenditure & also blend the light levels. Or tackle area at a time, for example install LED kitchen lighting then possibly move onto bathroom lighting later.

With 12v low voltage MR16 LED fixtures, you would be best advised at present to make use of separate circuits (unless it clearly said that both types of lamp fitting can be attached to the same circuit as is often the case with for example 12v LED garden lighting). Although it might appear to be additional hard work to make use of dedicated wiring for your 12v LED lights this does set things up nicely for further down the line in the event you pick to go the next step & generate your own electricity & run solar powered lighting.

This is straightforward with GU10 LED mains powered lamp fittings since you can mix & match halogen & LED lamps at will to fit your requirements.

Even be prepared to accept that you won't always get it right first time. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED versions is still a tiny bit of an art & it takes a tiny bit of getting used to the differences. But in the event you do, for example, buy some LED G4 or MR11 compatible lamps & find they're not what you wanted for inside, then think about reusing them elsewhere. They can be put to lovely use as garden lighting or used around the house as night lights perhaps. Some folk rig up indoor PIR sensors that switch on low level LED lights at night so that people can move around safely without having to switch on a blaze of lights.

You require low cost, energy saving, funds saving, minimal environmental impact & highly reliable? LED home lighting is the future.

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