Downlight Buying Guide - A few Handy Points to Think About Before you Hunt Around

LED Downlights are currently available in many sizes, wattages, colour temperatures and beam angles, as well as different options depending on ceiling type. Therefore it is important to narrow down the wide range and find the product that suits your application.

First, start by ceiling installation:

1. Do you require a recessed or surface mounted downlight?

Recessed downlights are most common, typically installed in plasterboard ceilings with a minimum clearance for driver and ventilation. Surface mounted downlights are installed where recessing holes in the ceiling structure is not possible, but, commonly used as feature lighting as decorative downlights.

Surface mounted downlights

2. What downlight is required to produce the right amount of light, or too much light?

We recommend a downlight with a power consumption of 10-13W for ambient lighting in homes with ceiling heights of 2.4M to 3.2M. In light output terms (lumens and lux), these downlights will generally have a range of lumen output from around 700 lumens to 1100 lumens. As a guide, the traditional halogen dichroic lamp would produce around 750 lumens, so be careful not to put too many downlights in your room. For retrofit cases, where you are replacing an old halogen downlight to LED, we recommend a 10W downlight, however, this is a personal choice as many prefer and are used to living under brighter light levels than others.

3. What colour temperature do I choose?

Based on sales history for LED downlights, Warm White (ranges from 3000K to 3600K generally) is by far the most popular choice. If you have warm colours in your home, for example beige walls, Warm White tends to “render” these colours better, or in other words, makes the warm colours appear warmer and more natural in colour. Obviously, choose a Cooler White colour 5000K – 6000K for cool colours at home, such as grey walls. However, many prefer a certain colour temperature that they have been used to living under, regardless of the colour of their interiors. If you can’t decide, look for a downlight that offers a TRI-COLOUR, or TRIO, or colour switchable option. Check out our blog where we further explain colour temperature here.

4. What size do I choose?

The most common downlight cut-out size is 90mm. The smaller size cut-out of 70-75mm will offer a more sleek appearance, however it is harder to install, as your electrician will struggle to get his/her hand through the hole to make the connection. More importantly, most electricians will do their installations nowadays with the use a surface socket, so that the downlight can be connected easier than hard-wiring, and easier to service if the downlight fails prematurely. The smaller cut-out size hole will cause delays in installing the socket, and many sockets on the market are too big to install in this size hole.

5. What is the best Beam Angle to have?

The most common LED downlights will have an opal diffuser, which will through a wide spread of light. These downlights spread light between 90-120 degrees, which is ideal for most installations up to around 3.3M. For a look and feel of the traditional halogen downlights, look for downlights that have an optical lens, and spread light at 36-60 degrees.

6. Will I be dimming the LED Downlight?

Unless absolutely necessary, I would advise against using dimmers, as you may experience some unforeseen dimming results, due to many factors including compatibility, ripple effect, and dimming range issues just to name a few. Dimming difficulties is discussed in detail in a post specific to dimming. Most downlights are dimmable, and in many cases, your selected downlights will dim, but in many known cases, flickering and range issues can occur. Therefore, take caution when deciding to dim, and it may be a matter of trial and error with different brands of dimmers until you get the dimming function to an acceptable level.

There are other things that need to be considered such as what Downlight Barrier Regulation Mark is suitable for my application (classification is required to install in the desired application, such as IC-4), but this is generally investigated by the installing electrician. Determining these handy considerations will make your choice quicker and easier. The only thing left is to choose the look that you like.

Good luck and don't forget to have a look at our massive range of downlights!