There are millions of 50W halogen downlights installed across the world. Sooner or later, they’ll be replaced by LED if only because people will get fed up changing the lamps! LEDs typically last 10 to 20 times longer than halogen.
Changing from halogen to LED also saves a lot of energy. An 80 per cent reduction in power consumption is not unusual.
This review is about complete fittings and we have chosen ones that offer something a little bit different than just a white bezel on the ceiling.
A perceived disadvantage of LEDs is that their colour rendering is not as good as halogen. However, nowadays, good quality LEDs could be said to be even better in that they render blues better than a filament lamp.
You can also have LEDs that are just like halogen in that they become ‘warmer’ when you dim them. It’s worth remembering that a halogen lamp is about 2700K or 3000K.
In energy terms, there is no point in dimming a halogen lamp below about 2000K because so little light is emitted beyond this level. This is because the light output from halogen drops about three times ‘faster’ than the power reduction does. LEDs are much better in this respect.
If you are retrofitting the LED downlight, you do need to make sure it is compatible with the existing halogen dimming system. To be sure of a perfect result, consider replacing the dimming system as well. Good LEDs will dim to below 5 per cent.
Prices vary enormously. We asked all the suppliers what an end-user would pay for about 50 downlights and the highest cost was more than six times the lowest. Of course, at the top end you get beautiful colour rendering, uniform beams, smooth dimming and almost certainly longer life. However, you can get excellent quality products at a rock bottom price if you do a bit of research.
Our price ranges are: £ <£25, ££ 25 - £65, £££ >£65
Enlite is a brand of the Aurora Lighting group and the E6 PRO is aimed squarely at the wholesaler and contractor market.
The construction and design allows it to be very quickly installed by the electrical contractor. For example, the removable cable connector allows full resistance testing (a Megga test in the UK) without risking any damage to the downlight itself. Either solid or stranded mains cable can be used and you don’t need a screwdriver for the connection.
The E6 Pro is a solidly constructed downlight and larger than some of the others on the market. It is available with a CRI of 80 and a choice of colour temperatures of 3000K and 4000K. It has a 60 degree beam angle which is wider than most halogen downlights – however, it does mean you need fewer of them to achieve uniform lighting. The beam, itself, is reasonably uniform.
It is IP65 and suitable for fire rated ceilings. The maximum operating temperature is 45C.
Novus is a family of flat-edge architectural downlights. They’re slightly larger and more powerful than a 50W halogen but we have reviewed them because of the wide range which can suit almost any application.
We looked at the Novus Mini which produces a nominal 600 lm and is the smallest in the range. The reflector and bezel is one piece of semi-diffused, pure white, injection moulded polymer. This produces a smooth central beam which tapers at the edges. There are no striations or sharp changes in intensity. There is a good-sized finned heatsink on the back and this enables the Novus Mini to be operated in an ambient of 50C. This is a lot more than some of its competitors.
The Novus is available with a CRI of 80 or 90 and colour temperatures of 2700, 3000 and 4000K.
You may not have heard of ELR downlights but there is a good chance that you might have benefitted from their advanced NEST LED light engine used in someone else’s fixture.
Vasari is ELR’s own family of downlights which takes full advantage of the NEST engine. There are round, square and trimless versions. Colour temperatures from 2700 to 5000K are available, as is a tunable white. The CRI is available in 85 or 95 and beams spreads from 10 to 60 degrees.
There is a wide range of dimming options and ELR has designed its circuitry to have a logarithmic curve (to match the human eye) down to <1 per cent. It also switches on and off smoothly; there isn’t that sudden snap off/on that you get with some circuits.
We looked at their dim-to-warm version and it worked very smoothly across the whole range with the warmer colours gradually being introduced.
This is an attractive, value-for-money, low glare downlight. The 40 degree beam is really good; it has a sharp cut-off, no striations and is uniform across the whole width.
The LED source is high up inside and coupled with the internal matt black baffle means you achieve excellent beam control and low glare. Colour rendering is CRI 90.
There is a narrow, matt white bezel so it blends very well in a plaster ceiling.
The deep finned heatsink should ensure long life and I can easily believe it will operate at the 35C ambient quoted.
The Laser is a huge family of products and there were several models we could have chosen that meet this review’s title. This one is the warm-dimming wide flood and has a beam angle of 42 degrees, similar to a lot of halogen reflector lamps. It also has a similar light output.
We chose this version because it dims from 2700K to 1800K. It does so smoothly and the transition in appearance from full output to dimmer and warmer levels is very realistic – some dim-to-warm systems from other manufacturers have strange intermediate shades of orange.
The Laser downlight also has a better appearance in the ceiling than many downlights. The high gloss black trim adds a touch of quality and the multi-facetted reflector is low glare but with just a touch of sparkle.
This is different from the other LED downlights in that it doesn’t have a driver. You simply connect the downlight to the 230V mains. Another advantage is that the in-built circuitry is designed to work with halogen type dimmers.
The matt white bezel curves slowly inwards and upwards so there is no sharp change between ceiling and downlight. This is matched by the opal lens over the LEDs. When it’s switched off, the appearance is completely white without an 'egg yolk’ centre you get with some LED downlights.
The 60 degree beam on the Linea 75 is wide and smooth with a CRI >80.
Although it is mains voltage, it is IP44 and so you can use it in bathrooms subject to some zone restrictions. It will also operate at an ambient of 45C which is higher than most.
This is an interesting unit in that it has a switch on the front rim so that you can change from a warm 3000K to a cool 4000K appearance. The switch is then covered by a bezel, which is available in various finishes such as nickel, white etc.
The V50 is fire rated, dimmable, IP65 (from the front) and sells at a really competitive price. The 60 degree beam is a bit wide for some applications and it could be a bit smoother but at this price bracket I doubt anyone will mind.
It is not recommended for use above an ambient of 30C.
This looks just like the recessed halogen downlight it replaces. There is a facetted reflector and it is dimensionally very similar. The 36 degree beam has crisp edges, no striations and bright central area. It looks better than some budget MR16 halogen lamps we have seen.
The 8W version emits 670 lm, so, again, it is similar to the 50W halogen it replaces.
There is also a good chance that you could use the existing cut-out hole. The Spot Fix comes in two parts; the driver and the downlight itself. You simply insert the driver above the ceiling, connect it to the downlight with a twist and lock lead and then push the downlight in to place using spring clips.
The colour rendering index, CRI, is >80 which is easily good enough for most applications. There is chunky heatsink on the back and so the stated life of 50,000 hours and a maximum ambient of 45C are certainly credible.
Lumenalpha has a range of attractive downlights and we chose this one because the white reflector is designed to match the appearance of plaster. Recessed in the ceiling, the Discreet Nano almost looks trimless. The LEDs are set high up in the downlight body and invisible from most viewpoints. The whole appearance looks as if the ceiling simply curves upwards in to a warm glowing recess.
As well as a standard colour rendering of >80, the Discreet Nano is also available with a CRI of >95. There is a wide range of colour temperatures from 2200K to 4000K. Beam spreads are from a narrow 10 degree spot to a wide beam 60 degrees. Lumenalpha also has high output versions which can deliver up to 2,000 lumens.
Orluna is very popular with professional designers, not least for its exceptiona colour quality. The 3000K sample we saw has a colour rendering index of 98 with an R9 (the red component) of 93. The TM-30 test values give a fidelity, Rf, of 93 and gamut Index, Rg, of 100. The colour appearance, CCT, is exactly on the black body curve so it looks just like a halogen lamp.
Most probably the commonest beam angle on halogen lamps is 38 degrees and Orluna offers a 39 degree version. Angles of 10, 27 and 45 degrees are also available.
The build quality is excellent and the LED source is above a black baffle so the downlight is very low glare.
- See the latest LED downlights at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition. The show takes place at ExCeL London on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2019. Entry is free if you pre-register. For more info, click HERE