Lately I have noticed there are some excellent LED light fittings available for homes. In particular for bathrooms, wall lights and outside lights. The advantages are obvious as they use less energy and importantly do not need lamps (bulbs) changing. The first generation of low energy light fittings were often fiddly to install, fiddly meaning time consuming. But lately there are a few available, if carefully selected, that are well designed from an installation perspective.
If choosing recessed LED downlighters then I would recommend a type that has plug in connectors to the supply cables. The reason being they are easy for electricians to disconnect for testing and fault finding purposes, which would save the home owner labour costs if a wiring fault developed in the future or a formal Inspection and Test was required.
I recently had the pleasure of a job to replace two sets of wire suspended lighting fittings in a barn conversion home. The result was excellent and ideal for an exposed beam ceiling. It is has similarities to a track lighting system but instead has a pair of exposed wires strung across the room ceiling with the adjustable light fittings suspended from the wires at points required. These systems have had in the past a bad name due to poor reliability of some systems and installation design complications. But with the availability of quality reliable LED 12V lamps this poor reputation has now changed. These new quality LED lamped systems are overall (including any plastering, redecoration and floors up/carpets lifted for downlighters) are probably about the same price as down lighters install. The main stream wholesalers appear to be wary of supplying the wire suspended equipment possibly due to warranty risks they may have experienced with the similar older halogen lamps systems The halogen lamped systems I personally would avoid.
This kind of stylish system could suit your home if you have a room that needs new or improved lighting but have requirements such as: very high ceilings, orangery or conservatory style, exposed beams, building conservation requirements, no access to ceiling void through floor above, fire Compartment building regulation complications, no ceiling void, need a flexible lighting scheme or simply like the look of a wire suspended lighting system. Here is an example bought from National Lighting in Chichester http://www.nationallighting.co.uk/branches/nw39 :-
It could have its uses in a Retail display environment as well.
If you are interested in one of these systems then I suggest care is taken with the selection of your electrician to design, select the products and install it. Reasons being, there is a specific section in the UK Electrical regulations that covers these systems, matching the various components in the systems is important for reliability and finally but important to the resulting effect there are choices to be made on the colour and brightness of the light from the LED lamps.
There are still a fair few lighting fittings in use where changing to LED or CFL lamps (bulbs) is impractical, for example track or suspended lighting systems. If replacing halogen lamps in these fittings then take care to install the correct wattage lamp. For example many smaller light fittings have a maximum incandescent/halogen rating of 40 Watts. Some of the ceiling lights arrays used in kitchens only take 35 watt lamps. Fitting an brighter higher wattage lamp will very likely result in the light fitting to overheat resulting in damage to the fitting, early failure of the fitting, possibly an electrical fault and in a worse case a fire.
Checking the maximum rating of replacement lamps that can be fitted is an important safety measure.
It used to be fairly simple to select and install a dimmer for home lighting but it is now a little more complicated with the very common use of LED and Compact Fluorescent lighting. Making the wrong compatibility choices can result in flickering lights or/and a poor dimming range of adjustment Under sizing a dimmer mean it will not last long. Trying to dim lamps that are not designed to be dimmed will simply not work. There are also complications to consider with any two way switching of the lights.
Careful planning is also needed if you have a dimmer already installed on filament/Halogen lamps but wish to change to LED lamps. Typically this would be a swap from Halogen GU10 to GU10 LED direct replacement lamps in kitchen down lighters. Not only will the LED lamps need to be of a dimmable type but the dimmer needs to be compatible with the new lamps.
A good electrician will be able to design and install a reliable solution that best suits the requirement and budget.
I visited a home yesterday to do a few unrelated repairs and happened to notice the lighting was dreadful. The home was an apartment with no natural in the hall or bathrooms. Most of the lighting in these rooms was downlighters using GU10 type lamps where over half of them had been converted to “low energy LED”. But the choice of LED lamps was the worst I have seen. The lamps were the type with three LEDs in each lamp which in itself was not the main problem. It was the colour of the light and the spread of light that was awful. The colour was clearly a blue tinge and of a very narrow bandwidth wavelength. The result was a very depressing atmosphere in the hall. In the other rooms the downlighters were a mix of lamps being halogen, cheap LED and a couple of quality LEDs. It looked very odd with all the different shades of “white” light.
I found in the home a stack of six more of these GU10 LED replacement lamps ready to fitted at sometime in the future. I suggested to the owner they should get rid of those spares without using them.
I carry in my van demonstrators for quality lamps LED GU10 lamps to show customers why it is worth changing to LED downlighter lamps and to encourage spending a little more to get quality lamps. I tried one of my demonstrator cool whites in a bathroom and a warm white in the hall. What a difference, a vast improvement to the lighting! The owner immediately asked me to replace the lot with my chosen quality lamps.
Moral – Be wary of unbranded cheap LED replacement LED downlighter lamps. If you are doing it yourself and are not sure then buy one first and try it before replacing all of them. Or find an electrician with some experience in these matters to chose the most suitable lighting for your situation.
I have replaced a few of these lights replacement in kitchens. Often it is the 230V fluorescent tube “link” types that have failed where I simply replace with fairly inexpensive KSR manufactured units. But the halogen 20 watt 12V units with broken push in lamp connectors or broken lenses may as well be scrapped and replaced with LED lamped models. Sure you can buy direct replacement 20 watt Halogen fittings for £10, but why bother with all that hassle of changing those fiddly lamps and it is a waste of energy. The replacement LED versions only use 3 watts of energy and produce 150 lumens of light which is similar to a 15 watt Halogen lamp. Again KSR make a nice one, and KSR are a company local to my business in Horndean See http://www.ksrlighting.com/lighting/Kitchen-Undershelf.html.
After I attended a briefing and update session today by the NICEIC I can report on some of the main points of interest to property owners:-
- Between January and July 2015 electrical installations work undertaken can comply with either the old or the new regulations. From July 2015 the new regulations will apply except in one regard in respect of replacement or new Consumer Units. Any electrical contractor engaged should by January be conversant with the new regulations.
- Not unexpectedly the changes to regulations are there mainly to improve safety to persons and property. A few of the changes are to better align our regulations alongside common European regulations.
- For home owners, from January 2016 at the latest, the main change will be a slightly different construction for Consumer Units (aka Fuse Box) for any new or replacement installations. Consumer Units will need to be of a fire resistance construction, in other words steel. They may not be quite so pretty and the method for the cables entering the Consumer Unit may not be so flexible or pretty either. We shall have to wait and see what the manufacturing industry comes up with over time as they accommodate this new requirements. I would forecast that prices for these new steel Consumer Units will be more expensive to manufacture and will take a little longer to install. It also means that from mid 2014 there could be a flood of 3rd Amendment Regulation non compliant Consumer Units available at knock down prices.
- For commercial businesses, schools, colleges and government buildings there will be stricter requirements for additional protection against electric shock on socket outlet circuits by increasing the use of safety devices called RCDs. It will be a useful change in increasing safety but it does mean perhaps increased costs and in some cases a different approach to design circuits for computer equipment in offices and education establishments.
- The will be more focus of design, inspection and testing of control circuits such as those used for central heating systems. This could present some challenges for Gas/Oil heating system engineers who may in the future have to call in an electrician whereas previously they could have completed the wiring to control valves, controllers and thermostats themselves. This too will have cost implications on home owners.
- The regulations for formal Inspection are changing a little as well. Enough require all new stationary and reference material for electrical contractors. Also new methods and adjustments to learn how to use for recording results.
- Interestingly there is a new regulation that when Periodic Inspections and Tests are being undertaken in Homes and Business Premises then inspection to some degree or another in accessible loft spaces is now required unless recorded as a reasonable non compliance. Previously the inspection of wiring in loft spaces was a reasonably accepted omission. This is certainly a safety improvement as I personally have found a fair number of safety issues with wiring in lofts.
- Another change is the need to ensure cables that run above or across safe exit routes but be secured with supports that will resist heat/fire. This is to avoid fire fighters and escapees being tangled up in drooping wire when try to get out of fire damaged building. Apparently the Fire Fighters requested this changes because there had been several deaths because of this problem. To installing electricians this is a fairly easy requirement to meet by using metal type buckle clips or purpose designed cable retainers for use inside trunking.
- In the new Regulations there will now be approximately 1500 individual regulations, and increase of several hundred compared to the current issue.
- As is usual for these electrical regulation updates they are not intended to be applied retrospectively. So for example if your home has an Consumer Unit (Fuse Box) with a plastic case then it does not mean you have to change it just for that reason alone. But if it had to be changed for any other reason then it would have to be a steel cased model to be compliant.
If your home or business premises has the GU10 type halogen downlighters and spot lights then it is seriously worth considering changing all of them to low energy LED lamps instead of the halogen type. Often the halogen GU10s have a 50 Watt energy use whereas an LED type could between 5-7 Watts. Not only is the energy use wasteful but it can create heat in the home when you don’t need it. As an example a kitchen with 8 of these halogen GU10 lamps in downlighters would be producing 400 Watts of heat output into the kitchen.
Not all replacement GU10 LEDs are the same. For example I looked at the two specifications of two GU10 LED lamps that a home owner had recent bought that were both 5 watts energy rated, I noticed the initial Lumens output was 450 on one and 250 on the other. This in effect is 44% less light produced for the same energy use!
Reliability should be considered as well. Halogens lamps may last 2 years or less (1,500 hours) where as an LED could last 5 years (30,000 hours). If the occupant of a home can change the lamps themselves then the cost to replace is small. But if the home is rented or is occupied by persons unable to replace ceiling lamps, then the cost to change lamps is high.
When choosing LED lamps be sure to select the correct colour of “white” light. Many manufacturers offer a “warm” white which is similar to the old style incandescent lamps or a bright “cool” white which is popular in kitchens. But be careful because I have seen “unbranded” “cool white” described lamps that look a distinctly bluish white.
Similar to the low energy compact fluorescents the LED type of lamps also very slowly reduce their light outputs of the say 30,000 hours of use. Manufacturers indicate that a 30% reduction in light over a service life would be acceptable to the users. This means homes owners might enjoy slightly too bright light levels when first installed, then just about acceptable after 30,000 hours of use. It is worth noting that an excessive build up of heat in the light fitting can accelerate this light reduction over time. Once more the electrician specifying a lighting solution will choose lamps suitable for exact location/fittings installed and will ensure the installations are appropriate for the lamps.
Take care to avoid poor quality LED lamps as they could have a high initial failure rate. Quality “branded” products are an assurance for reliability.
A good electrician will be able to advise to ensure replacement low energy lamps are reliable, good service life performance, are of suitable colour, an appropriate level of brightness (lumens), and have the correct beam width for the installation.