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Upgrade fittings in downlights

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Downlights in common areas of an apartment building are likely to be placed in hallways, foyers, indoor pool areas or gymnasiums. They often have halogen lamps installed.

If this is the case in your building then your recommended action is to upgrade the downlight fittings so that you can install Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

If you are going to the effort of replacing the light fittings then you might also want to think about installing motion sensors or timers at the same time. You can save even more energy by controlling lights to only come on if someone is in a common area. 

Upgrade fittings to install LEDs

LEDs are the most energy efficient option for downlights. A 50 Watt halogen lamp can be replaced with a 10 Watt LED can reduce the amount of energy consumed by 80 per cent. To achieve the highest energy saving and best quality of light it is recommended that you:

  • Replace the light fitting and power supply with brand new components designed to work together
  • Change from low voltage to 240V lamps to avoid the energy waste from transformers.

Most of the cheaper electronic transformers that power halogen globes will not run LEDs at all; a tell-tale sign that this is the case will be a noticeable flickering of light.

Benefits of LEDs:

  • Generate less heat which reduces the fire risk associated with halogens andreduces the heat load on air-conditioning systems
  • Can be dimmable and also come in a range of different changeable colours
  • Last between 30,000 and 50,000 hours
  • Are rapidly reducing in price
  • The payback period for replacing a light fitting is 1 – 3 years

Issues with LEDs:

LEDs for general lighting purposes are a relatively new technology that is still being developed. There is a wide range of claimed efficiency levels on the market for LEDs and no agreed standard on how to measure the efficiency and light quality at present. Find out more about buying LEDs. 

The main barrier is cost and slightly lower light output, but as the technology continues to improve and demand goes up, the cost is coming down. The long life of LEDs also helps to offset the high cost.

Why replace halogen lamps in downlights?

Low voltage halogen lamps are commonly used in downlights. They are often mistaken as energy efficient due to being low voltage lights however a lower globe voltage doesn't mean it is more efficient. It is low wattage globes that deliver energy savings. The least energy-efficient halogen lights are also going to be phased out over time along with incandescent bulbs.

Ceiling fires have increased significantly with the more common use of downlights that penetrate the ceiling. This is because they are usually fitted with halogen lamps and about 80 per cent of the electricity used to run halogen lamps ends up as heat. To avoid overheating, ensure that minimum clearances around downlights are maintained and that transformers are not underneath the insulation in the ceiling.

Tips 

  • Use a professional electrician to replace the light fittings, re-wire power supply or dimming functions, and confirm that adequate light levels will be maintained
  • Remember to include the cost of new fittings, new bulbs, and installation labour in your quotes and business case