REVIEWED LED bulkheads

It's over 25 years since the launch of the 2D compact fluorescent lamp. One of its biggest markets was large housing and industrial estates. A square bulkhead with an opal polycarbonate diffuser was the default luminaire for external corridors, walkways and stairwells.

Presence detectors will save energy in corridors

However, time has moved on. The 2D lamp was a real innovation when it was launched but the higher efficacy and controllability of LEDs means the time has come to replace the old compact fluorescent lamp and its ageing luminaire.

It is possible to buy a simple LED gear tray to fit inside an old luminaire. Some manufacturers make specially designed trays to fit their own luminaires. Or you can get a whole new fitting.

Apart from their lower cost, the big advantage of a retrofit gear tray over the original unit is that many of them have built-in movement sensors. This is especially useful for infrequently used corridors and stairwells. However, you should consider whether the particular area requires constant light for reasons of security and safety.

 

Step into the light

A useful feature to look for is ‘corridor function’. This dims to a low level, say 10 per cent, and then increases to 100 per cent whenever movement is detected. It can save a lot of energy in infrequently used passageways and means people won’t feel insecure about entering a completely dark space.

Most users will want to replace the complete luminaire. There are obvious advantages to buying a new luminaire with a guarantee. Seals, gaskets and glands all degrade over time and it is likely that an older luminaire will suffer from the ingress of dirt and damp.

Polycarbonate lenses tend to yellow over the years and other plastics can craze or become cloudy. Either way, you get less light out than when the luminaire was new.

A new luminaire resolves all these issues and, in principle, all you have to do is remove the existing unit, swap over the mains supply and fix the new unit in place.

If you want to maximise the energy saving, it’s worth checking that the new luminaire has a similar output to the one it is replacing. Typically, a 16W 2D luminaire emits 1,100 lm and a 28W, about 2,000 lm. Be aware that some suppliers quote the light output of theLEDs rather than the luminaire.

 

The rough and the smooth

Build quality varied enormously. Some luminaires comprised a couple of plastic mouldings with an ill-fitting gear tray. Others had robust die-cast aluminium bodies, a gear tray (with quality driver) designed to match the diffuser, and a properly vandal-resistant design. If you want a long-life installation, the more expensive luminaires could well be the best value.

The data given here is based on manufacturers’ literature. The price bands are based on an end user price for 50 or more fittings. The ranges are: £ = <£50, ££ = £50-80, £££ = £80-120, ££££ = >£120.

 

Whitecroft Kolo

This is a luminaire of two halves. The injection-moulded plastic body houses the terminal block, branded driver and optional sensors or emergency batteries. Attached to this is the ‘optical chamber’. It consists of a 40mm cast aluminium ring in which the LED circuit board (on aluminium heatsink) and opal polycarbonate diffuser are fixed. In effect, the ring is a single piece that attaches to the body beneath. The lit appearance of the diffuser is about the most uniform we have seen. The latest Kolo has the highest delivered luminaire lumens per circuit watt of the bulkheads reviewed here.

  • Body White plastic
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 300mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 12W
  • Luminaire lumens 1,100 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price £££
  • Uniform light and super efficient

Contact Whitecroft >>>

Designplan QuadEvo

The family of tough bulkheads from Designplan, with a die-cast aluminium body, powder coat finish and a polycarbonate lens. It’s got no edges or ledges where a vandal could insert a screwdriver or lever. It is IP65 and rated at IK15 impact resistance, a whopping 125 joules. The LEDs are set well back from the lens so the sides and front are lit. A central pin in the fixing screws prevents the insertion of Allen keys or screwdrivers. The fixing holes are the same as the older Designplan luminaire so you can swap them over. The new one is slightly bigger to cover any old paint lines. Designplan sells a retrofit LED gear tray for its 2D Quadrant range.

  • Body Aluminium
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 310mm square
  • Nominal wattage 11.5W
  • Luminaire lumens 1,400 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price £££
  • The toughest of the lot

Contact Designplan >>>

Dextra

This is a nice-looking, good quality luminaire. It is clearly aimed at the specification market and would be ideal for regeneration schemes and new build. The body is finely textured die-cast aluminium with a power coat finish. The slightly domed polycarbonate diffuser fits snugly under the rim. There’s a decent quality gasket between the body and diffuser and the joint is inaccessible from the outside. Removing the hex-head screws reveals a gear tray with a branded driver. It’s also good to see that the LEDs are mounted in concentric circles so the diffuser is almost totally uniformly lit across its surface.

  • Body Die-cast aluminium
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 360mm diameter
  • Nominal wattage 11W
  • Luminaire lumens 950 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price ££
  • A well-manufactured unit for a good price

Contact Dextra >>>

Fern Howard EdgeLED P5

The P5 is one of a range of luminaires that use Rambus optical technology. The LEDs are arranged around the perimeter of a slim luminaire. The P5 is only 65 mm deep, much less than the others. The polycarbonate cover lens is crystal clear and when switched off, the luminaire appears to have a plain white sheet behind it. When switched on, the sheet emits a uniform intense glow. There is a solid die-cast aluminium body and the whole unit feels robust. For retrofitting, you can purchasea combined light guide and gear tray that is designed to fit existing 2D Fern Howard luminaires.

  • Body Die-cast aluminium
  • Diffuser Clear polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 250mm (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 20W
  • Luminaire lumens 1,600 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price ££££
  • Tough, compact and with a unique appearance

Contact Fern Howard >>>

JCC RadiaLED

The RadiaLED has the LEDs arranged around the perimeter shining inwards. As a result, you cannot see images of the LEDs through the opal cover. Inside, the LED strip is bonded to a finned aluminium heatsink. The effect is to give a uniform appearance to the opal polycarbonate diffuser. This applies both to the front face and also the deep (35mm) sides. A thoughtful touch is that the cover screws are captive. This is pretty much an essential feature for any vandal-resistant ceiling-mounted luminaire, but you would be amazed at how many don’t. The screws are also deeply recessed.

  • Body White polycarbonate
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 280mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 25W
  • Luminaire lumens 915 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price £
  • This luminaire distributes the light cleverly

Contact JCC >>>

Kingfisher Alfresco

The Alfresco is a hooded unit and Kingfisher has cleverly positioned the radially mounted LED gear tray below dead centre so as much light as possible is emitted through the diffuser. The hooded unit ensures that no light is emitted upward. A non-hooded fitting is available for the CFL versions. The polycarbonate diffuser is semi-opalised. When switched off, the diffuser looks like any other, however, when switched on, the LED chips can be seen as a decorative pattern of glowing dots. The body and hood are made of die-cast aluminium and the whole unit feels well-made and solid.

  • Body Die-cast aluminium
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 360mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 16W
  • Luminaire lumens 710 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price £££
  • Good where you don’t want any upward light

Contact Kingfisher >>>

Kosnic

This is one of a huge range of LED gear trays fitted inside a simple polycarbonate body and diffuser. Inside, everything is well labelled and the wiring is neat and tidy. It’s double insulated so only two wires are required. The gear tray has a central module fitted with Dip switches. This enables you to set various functions such as microwave detection range, corridor function, time on etc. Although the module is easily accessible, being so close to the diffuser means that it produces a small shadow in the centre. One small niggle is that the diffuser screws aren’t captive. It would hardly add to the cost even on a budget range unit such as this.

  • Body White polycarbonate
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 280mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 12W
  • Luminaire lumens 890 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price ££
  • Budget range

Contact Kosnic >>>

NVC Daytona

This can be used indoors or out and is a simple, budget range unit. The cross head, captive fixing screws are deeply recessed in the polycarbonate diffuser. This fits quite snugly to the body so there isn’t much space in which a vandal could insert a screwdriver or lever. Inside, it’s good to see that the LEDs are arranged in concentric rings so you get an even spread of light across the diffuser – some suppliers put square trays in round bodies.

  • Body Polycarbonate
  • Diffuser Internally prismed polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 400mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 18W
  • Luminaire lumens 1,310 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price ££
  • A simple mid-range product

Contact NVC >>>

Thorn Leopard

An optically efficient LED bulkhead that matches its 2D equivalent in the same range. The lumen output of the LED version is the same as that of the original 2D lamp – you can achieve the same 1,200 lm output but with 12W instead of the original 18W. There is also a 1,950 lm 21W version to replace the 28W 2D CFL unit. Inside, there is a driverless gear tray with the LEDs arranged radially. Unfortunately, these are only half the diameter of the diffuser so the light is concentrated in the middle. Although it is said to be IP65, you have to fit the 470mm long silicon gasket yourself.

  • Body White polycarbonate
  • Diffuser Opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 300mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 12W
  • Luminaire lumens 1,200 lm NW
  • IP rating 65
  • Price ££
  • LED version from the people who gave you the original

Contact Thorn >>>

Bri-Tek Technologies

Unlike most of the fittings we looked at, this is described as an indoor unit, although it is rated at IP54 (there is also an IP65 version, which is somewhat more expensive). The body and diffuser are both made of polycarbonate and are smooth so they are unlikely to collect grime. That said, the paper label is on the outside and doesn’t look particularly durable. The diffuser is held in place by a ‘twist on’ motion. There are no vandal-resistant fixing screws. Inside, there’s an aluminium gear tray with a driver on the back.A large, square array of 6000K LEDs which ensure a uniform appearance.

  • Body White polycarbonate
  • Diffuser Smooth opal polycarbonate
  • Main dimension 320mm diameter (approx)
  • Nominal wattage 12.5W
  • Luminaire lumens 650 lm/W
  • IP rating 54
  • Price £
  • Best suited for indoor use

Contact Bri-Tek Technologies >>>