A downlight or downlighter is a luminaire (light fitting) that emits light in a downward direction with an accurate but relatively narrow beam angle. The beam of light is focused and intense, providing an unparalleled, clear, bright lighting effect to the area or objects directly beneath them. The main problem associated with downlights is that you need to install a large amount of them to illuminate a room effectively.
Recessed downlights have become very popular over the last ten years. Not only do they provide an exceptional light output but also because they blend unnoticeably into the ceiling. This allows a neater, minimal lighting design. The sleek, contemporary design allows for a modern approach to lighting.
As a result of increased demand, many choices of downlights are available, many of which you will find in our downlights category. This article will provide an overview of the main types of downlights available, including the pros and cons of each one.
Halogen downlights have been the number one choice of downlight over the last decade, offering a crystal clear, super bright lighting effect. Halogen light is produced by heat and around 90% of the energy generated is wasted in unwanted heat. Halogens have a short life cycle of around 1000 hours and it is expected that by 2016 they will banned along with incandescent light bulbs, mainly because they are not energy efficient.
CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) downlights are a cheaper low energy option to halogen but contain mercury and are not good for the environment. CFL’s last for around 10,000 hours but can take up to 2 minutes to achieve full brightness as they have to warm up in stages.
LED (lighting emitting diode) downlights are now the preferred choice of downlight. They provide the greater energy savings and can last for up to 75,000 hours. LED downlights cost considerably more than halogen and CFL but when you consider the money you will save in energy, they actually pay for themselves in less than 2 years. Combining this with the fact that they last for around 20 years means they are the new number one choice of downlight.
These three lighting options are available in many varieties. The things you should consider are; do you want fire rated or none fire rated downlights? Fire rated downlights maintain the ceiling’s natural ability to act as a fire barrier. Fire rated downlights cost more but are safer and comply with Part B of the Building Regulations.
The second consideration is if you want dimmable or none dimmable downlights? All halogens can be dimmed but low energy downlights such as CFL or LED require more thought as the dimming technology works differently with them. Dimmable LEDs in-particularly are more expensive than none dimmable LEDs. By choosing dimmable downlights you have the option to create lighting scenes that complement the function of the room or the mood of the occupant. Dimmable LED downlights sometimes require special dimmer switches such as leading edge or trailing edge depending on the design of LED. A full range of dimmers switches
are also available and we can provide technical support and advice in selecting the most suitable one.
Spotlights operate in a similar way to downlights, but are usually surface mounted. Spotlights are ideal for directing light onto specific objects such as cabinets or picture frames and can be used when recess mounting is not an option. Spotlights can be supplied any many variations and designs, ranging from individuals to twin, triple or quad spotlights mounted on a matching plate track. Triple or quad spotlights are often used as the sole source of light in living rooms or kitchens etc.
When a larger amount of spotlights are required, or for commercial purposes like shops, a track lighting system can be used. This allows a row of spotlights to be positioned along a length of lighting track, the spotlights can be moved around at anytime to suite the environment.
If you are struggling to find the best downlights for your needs, try considering the following questions first and your selection process will be made much easier:
1. Low energy downlights or halogen?
Low energy downlights such as LED or CFL pay for themselves in the energy they save. The payback period is around 1-2 years, this does depend on how many hours per day they are in use for. They also last twenty to forty times longer, meaning no more lamp replacements. LEDs are designed to last for around 20 years!
2. Fire rated or non fire rated?
Fire rated downlights are safer and are recommended for all domestic installations by the ESC (Electrical Safety Council). CLICK HERE to find out more. We stock a large range of fire rated LED downlights such as the EcoLED ZEP1, Halers H2 and Aurora I9. Click on the images below to be taken directly to them:
3. Dimmable or non dimmable?
Many LEDs are becoming dimmable as standard such as the Philips Master LED range, but some dimmable options cost slightly more. If you plan to dim LEDs then you may also need to upgrade your dimmer switch. We are able to advise you on this and stock a selection of LED compatible dimmer switches.