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Replace downlights like halogen lamps


If your building uses halogen lamps in downlight fittings then your best alternative is to replace them with more efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights and reduce the energy consumption of your downlights by 70 to 80 per cent.

You could also save energy with IRC halogen lamps or CFLs but these options have some limitations.

Replace with LEDs

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are an ideal replacement for halogen lamps in downlights.

In in some cases, like with MR16 LEDs, they can be a direct replacement for low voltage halogen downlight fittings without needing any wiring changes - but you will need to check the compatibility with your downlight transformers.

  • Replacing a 50 Watt halogen lamp with a 10 Watt LED can reduce the amount of energy consumed by as much as 80 per cent
  • LEDs generate much less heat and reduce the fire risk associated with halogens
  • They last between 20,000 and 40,000 hours
  • A good quality lamp will cost between $20 and $30
  • The payback period is between one and three years

LEDs will function even better if you opt to replace the light fitting and power supply with brand new components that are designed to work together. Changing the fitting will also give you the opportunity to change from low voltage to 240V lamps and avoid the energy waste from transformers. Find out more about buying good quality LEDs.

Replace with CFLs

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) typically produce a more diffuse light than a halogen thus may provide a poor light quality when used as a direct replacement.

  • Some CFLs are designed to be used in recessed downlight fittings but most are not
  • Some CFLs can be used run on 230V so you will need an electrician to install them

Replace with IRC halogen lamps

50 Watt halogen lamps can also be replaced with 35 Watt Infrared Coating (IRC) halogen lamps. The fire risk associated with halogen down lights will remain the same with this option so it is not recommended.

  • This will provide the same light distribution for about 40 per cent less energy
  • They last around 6,000 hours
  • A bulb will cost about $12
  • The payback period is less than a year 

The trouble with halogen lamps…

Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent lamp. There are two kinds:

  • Mains voltage bulbs (240V – GU10) 
  • Low voltage bulbs (MR16 - requiring a transformer)

Halogen lights are not very energy efficient and the least efficient types are going to be phased out by the Australian Government, along with incandescent bulbs. Because halogen lamps rely on high temperatures they can increase the potential risk of ceiling fires if covered by insulation.

Low voltage halogen lamps, commonly used in downlights, are not low energy lamps but are often mistaken as energy-efficient due to being low voltage lights. Remember that lower voltage doesn't mean more efficient to run or cost effective. It is low wattage bulbs that make the biggest savings.

Download the Energy Saver, Energy Efficient Lighting; Technology Report for more detailed information about halogen lamps, low voltage dichroic halogen lamps and parabolic aluminised reflector (PAR) lamps. 

Should you be using a downlight fitting? 

The term ’downlight’ refers to the light fitting, not the actual light bulb or lamp.

Most downlights use halogen lamps but these are not the most efficient option for general room illumination or use in large spaces because they are actually designed to be spotlights in situations like highlighting artwork in galleries.

Downlights provide more focused pools of light rather than general illumination so as many as six downlights may be required to light the same area as one surface mounted or pendant light. If you are lighting a large area then you might want to think about other ways of doing so, such as using linear fluorescent tubes

Downlights can also cause heat loss because they create holes in the ceiling and gaps in the insulation. This can then lead to higher energy use for heating.

Each downlight also requires a transformer which can consume an extra 10 to 15 Watts on top of the bulb energy.