REVIEWED Small downlights

‘What have you got to replace a 50W halogen downlight?’ was Lux’s question to suppliers. The only constraints we gave were that the downlights should be 3000K and physically similar in size and appearance to an MR16.

The responses were wide ranging and we received downlights that cost from £20 to almost £100. Wattages range from 6 to 20W. However, the bezel diameter (the visible part you see on the ceiling) of almost all of them was between 75 and 90mm. The height above the ceiling and void depth required varied a lot – partly because of fire resistance and insulation requirements.

What to look out for
There were some issues raised that you may not have thought of. For example, two manufacturers automatically sent me fire-resistant downlights because most of their sales are in the domestic sector. It is worth remembering that most kitchens are on the ground floor and have a fire-resistant ceiling. As such, the recessed downlight must also be fire-resistant.

Another issue is that just because your LED downlight is a much lower wattage than the halogen it replaces, you can’t lay the ceiling insulation straight on top of it. To their credit, all the manufacturers explain this clearly in their installation sheets. However, just about every sales rep I spoke to said installers who ignored this advice were the most common reason for failure.

It is not always clear from the manufacturers’ datasheets whether the wattage includes driver losses, nor whether the light output is from the LED module or complete luminaire. As such, the delivered lumens per watt value is approximate.

The prices shown in the table are indicative for a quantity of 50 and for the particular unit tested. Most of the downlights come in a range of sizes and configurations. Make sure you know what you are ordering.

ACDC Mini Pro Evolution

This looks great, with one of the nicest paint finishes we’ve seen. The matt white bezel coupled with the black, internal anti-glare snoot gives it a quality appearance. The downlight has a fairly shallow depth of about 75mm and it can be tilted 20 degrees either side of vertical. It’s a nice-looking unit. Less attractive is the beam, which has ‘woolly’ edges and is slightly uneven. This is most probably because of the nine individual LED chips inside. If you can accept a slightly larger diameter bezel, it is worth considering the Hurricane 35, which gives greater light output at lower cost.

  • Power 10W
  • Output 597lm
  • Efficacy 60lm/W
  • CRI 85
  • Quoted life to L70 50,000 hours
  • Price POA
  • Loads going for it, but a slightly uneven beam

 

Aurora M10

A great deal of effort has gone into making the LED source look like a conventional facetted dichroic lamp. It’s even 50mm in diameter. At first glance, even techies wouldn’t spot the difference. The M10 is IP65, fire rated and has a built-in driver, so you just connect it to the mains using a FastFix connector. This downlight is also great value, costing less than half of many of its competitors. You even get a choice of bezels with different finishes which can swapped over in situ. This product was commended in the interior luminaire category in the Lux Awards 2013.

  • Power 10W
  • Output 500lm
  • Efficacy 50lm/W
  • CRI 82
  • Quoted life to L70 40,000 hours
  • Price £32
  • The best value product we tested

 

Collingwood H2 Pro

This is one of the most efficient units we tested and pushes out a lot of light, especially in the 60-degree beam version. Although it is fire rated, it is also remarkably compact, measuring just 70mm high. You will need an extra 50mm clearance if there is any insulation material above it. The bezel is noticeably wider than similar downlights, making this unit 90mm overall. This is another great value IP65 fire-rated unit with an exceptionally long life.

  • Power 8.5W
  • Output 530lm
  • Efficacy 62lm/W
  • CRI 80
  • Quoted life to L70 70,000 hours
  • Price £32
  • Efficiency at a good price

 

EcoLED Zep 6

This is by far the smallest unit we tested at 55mm overall diameter with a light aperture of just 20mm (the driver is remote, so the whole thing actually takes up a bit more space than the size of the luminaire suggests). The stated output of 550lm makes the Zep 6 the most efficient unit we tested. An interesting feature is the tall, finned heatsink, with small air holes creating a chimney effect for better cooling. This much light from a small aperture makes the Zep 6 a bit more glary than other downlights, but where you are tight for space this may be the solution. That is, if the cost doesn’t put you off. Ouch!

  • Power 7W
  • Output 550lm
  • Efficacy 79lm/W
  • CRI 80
  • Quoted life to L70 50,000 hours
  • Price £99
  • Clever but pricey

 

Illuxtron Linea 75

Illuxtron is a Dutch company that is new to the UK market. The frosted cover over the LEDs sets the appearance apart from the other downlights. The Linea 75 is also quite wide with an inward curving bezel. Like more and more LED downlights, it uses a mains-voltage chip. This means there is no remote driver and the body of the downlight is comparatively small. Illuxtron says it is compatible with most dimmers, and there’s a list of suitable units in the company’s catalogue. The unit is well finished and has solid, matt black heatsink fins. Its appearance belies its modest price.

  • Power 11W
  • Output 600lm
  • Efficacy 55lm/W
  • CRI 82
  • Quoted life to L70 49,000 hours
  • Price £35
  • Compact and well made

 

Kosnic PowerLED

This is a comparatively low-powered and low-output unit, although the efficacy isn’t too bad. It has clearly been designed to sell on price. On the sample we received, the mains connection block twice fell away from its mounting clip. There was no danger, but it did rather highlight the build quality. It is fire rated but only IP40. The beam is fairly wide and uniform with soft edges but, coupled with the low output, should be compared to a 35W halogen downlight.

  • Power 7.5W
  • Output 420lm
  • Efficacy 56lm/W
  • CRI 80
  • Quoted life to L70 35,000 hours
  • Price £24
  • A budget option

 

LAP LED Downlight

This is a budget downlight from a major electrical chain. For £18, you get a compact-looking unit with remote driver. The reflector is quite attractive, but nothing like an MR16, and gives a nice uniform beam. In fact, the beam was better than some of the other units we tested. What’s missing is any technical information. There is no mention of CRI, and the appearance is described as ‘warm white’ (which is what it looks like), but the CCT is not quoted. One thing I didn’t like was the mains connector block, where the L and N text on the terminals is almost invisible.

  • Power 6W
  • Output 350lm
  • Efficacy 58lm/W
  • CRI Not quoted
  • Quoted life 'Up to 25 years'
  • Price £18 (inc VAT)
  • Could be a lot worse for the price, but the data's sketchy

 

Zumtobel Diamo

Zumtobel has a reputation for quality luminaires and this is no exception. It has by far the best quality beam of those we tested. It is uniform, fades softly from the centre and the edges are clean. It gives an excellent quality of light, which you can see, for instance, when lighting a glass of sparkling water. True enough, the bubbles look livelier and sharper than under other downlights – think diamonds rather than cubic zirconia. The quality of the light is aided by the CRI of 90. We reviewed the narrow beam version – wider beam versions are available, which achieve higher efficacy.

  • Power 21W
  • Output 950lm
  • Efficacy 45lm/W
  • CRI 90
  • Quoted life to L70 50,000 hours
  • Price £97
  • The best beam of all. Champagne lighting quality... for a champagne price