Updating Your Lights
8 Factors to Consider When Updating your Lights
Updating your old lights to LED is a fast way to reduce your electricity bill, while dramatically improving the look and functionality of your home. Is it hard to do? No. But there are a few things you need to consider in order to make it a smooth transition, without wasting time and money, and of course getting the best result!
1. Fitting Type
step is to inventory the type and number of fittings you have. For example do you have downlights that are
flush with the ceiling or oysters that are surface mounted? For a quick and simple upgrade, downlights
will need to be replaced by fittings of the same diameter, as there is a hole
in the ceiling we want to avoid patching or enlarging. Oysters or surface mount fittings can often
be upgraded to downlights or panel lights (if there is a cavity), or to a
completely different style of surface mount, that is of course LED, for
reducing energy consumption.
Here are the most common lighting upgrades people do around their homes:
Of course you may have other fittings around your house not mentioned above. If you're not sure of the best way to upgrade them, send a pic to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to make a suggestion for you.
well as the style of the fitting, there are a few other factors to
consider. The colour of the fitting is
obviously a pure aesthetic choice, white, chrome, black for eg. Another choice, particularly with downlights,
is reflector or diffused. Reflector
style lights are usually more efficient, as they make better use of the light
they generate, but for some people, introduce too much glare. Alternatively diffused fittings are a softer
light, but need a little more power to achieve the same result.
2. Adding Dimmers
A factor that has a massive effect on lighting for your home is adding dimmers. Ask anyone who has lived with dimmers on their key lighting circuits and they will tell you they could no longer live without them, and would at minimum, replicate them if they moved to a new home.
Having the ability to dim the lights gives you exponentially more control over the look and feel, or mood of a room. With dimming, and a few varying lighting circuits, a room can be dark and moody, romantic, intimate, cozy, or bright and cheery. All by pushing a few buttons or dials. Or even simpler, by the press of a single button on a lighting control system (what's a lighting control system you ask? Read more here).
There's a few ways you can add dimming to your lights. The simplest and least expensive way is to have an electrician install a dimmer in the wall switch when you upgrade your lights. Each circuit you want to make dimmable has a rotary dial added to the wall switch. Some dimmers on the market still require you to have a switch as well as the dimmer control, or some of the better ones have the on/off switch built in to the dimmer dial.
The most important thing about successful dimming is matching the right dimmer with the right lights. There are 2 or 3 styles of dimmers and most light fittings will likely be great on one type of dimmer, but not so great, or downright terrible, on another dimmer. There are many LED lights out there that say they are dimmable on the box, but do not dim well. They can flicker, pulse, or only dim down to 30%. On the moodLED web page each and every light fitting is 'best of breed' for dimming, and has extensive information and test results for each type of dimmer, as well as a recommendation of the best dimmer for the best performance.
Another type of dimmer is a 'lighting control' dimmer. These can usually be installed behind the light switch, behind the light, or rewired back to a distribution board. A smart dimmer or lighting control system can bring you some amazing features like; automatic dimming based on the time of night, automatic dimming based on room occupancy, and lighting scenes where you can save snapshots of all different dimming levels, then recall them at the press of a light switch. Read more on lighting control here.
If you need more advice on dimmers, want to assess what style your current dimmers are, or have any other questions regarding dimming, contact us at email@example.com
If you've grown up with incandescent lights, you'll remember a 60 watt bulb is normal, a 40 watt if you don't want it too bright, and a 100 watt for a super bright spotlight. With LED technology that scale has totally changed. Therefore to pick the right wattage in your LED's, you may need a point of reference (see below). Wattage measures the amount of power a light uses, not what it emits. Therefore LED wattage ratings are much lower as they use less power. The bottom line is Lumens, this is the measurement of the light output.
To make things a little murkier, LED's may specify their lumens are slightly different between different colour temperatures. Don't worry too much, a 10 watt LED that's warm white (3000K), will be very similar in light output to a cool white (6000K) variety.
Referring again to dimming, it's better to have a light that's too bright but with the ability to dim it down, than to have a light that's not bright enough for some purposes and too bright for others.
For most scenarios in a home, 10 - 13 watts in an LED is ideal.
40 years ago most rooms had 1 light bulb. Well you certainly don't need me to tell you how much technology has changed our world in 40 years, so upgrading your existing lighting might be the perfect time to add a few more circuits. Doing so will give you far more scope to make your room more dynamic and multi-purpose. Splitting multiple lights into different circuits and 'zoning' a room will make a difference, but adding different lighting types, fittings, and even colour temperatures will redefine your space in ways you never thought possible.
Imagine turning a bedroom from a single oyster light fitting, to some sunset dimming downlights, 2 narrow beam pendants that are warm white over each bedside table, and some dimmed cool white wall sconces highlighting a feature wall. This scenario would give you amazing flexibility to create mood and ambience in the room. Whether you are dressing, reading before bed, watching TV, or engaging in romantic activities; there will be a lighting scene to perfectly suit.
Adding lighting circuits will require extra cabling, extra light fittings, and most probably a change to the switches/dimmers. Not all houses will allow for further wiring, but if yours does, talk to your electrician about what would be involved.
5. Colour Temperature
CCT or Colour temperature refers to the colour of the light emitted from a light fitting. It can range from a really warm 'yellowish' colour like candlelight, up to brilliant or cool white that edges toward blue on the spectrum.
In the past with Halogen, Incandescent, and fluorescent light fittings, we chose them on style but had few to no options of colour temperature. Therefore in general, most fluorescents or compact fluorescents were cool white, and nearly all halogen or dichroic downlights were warm white.
Enter LED technology and we find not only do they cost much less to run, we also have a choice around colour temperature. This essentially becomes another design element or tool. For example if you are updating downlights right throughout your house and want the style all the same, you can buy the 3000K warm white version for the Lounge room, the 4500K natural white for the Kitchen, and 6000K in the Laundry and bathrooms. To find out more about colour temperature and it's impact on décor, read this. For lighting tips on your key rooms and how to choose the right colour temperature read this, this, and this.
There are 2 other trends emerging in the area of CCT (colour temperature) that have us pretty excited. The first is the development of LED downlights that can be switched between 3 different colour temperatures. Some have a physical dipswitch on the back while others have a complex pattern of turning them on and off to change mode. Either way you have the ability to change the colour temperature on a whim without having to the replace the fitting. This technology adds a little to the price but not much. So for maybe around 20% more cost, you can buy a downlight that can be changed from warm white, to natural, to cool white.
The second emerging trend is a downlight that when turned on at 100% it is natural white, but then slides towards warm as it is dimmed down to 0%. These are simply fantastic and I predict will be very popular over the coming years for Lounge rooms and Bedrooms. Some manufacturers call this 'Sunset' dimming, and I look forward to see how this technology will develop and evolve.
6. Smart Technology
The age of the iPhone is rapidly converging on the lighting industry, which other than the revolution of LED luminaires, has remained very simple and barely changed for decades. Harnessing WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and other wired technologies; lighting has definitely become 'smart'. There are a few ways to incorporate the barrage of benefits of smart lighting into your home, starting from inexpensive DIY options, to full home specialised lighting control.
DIY Smart Bulbs
There is a lot to choose from here with features abound and varying prices. Some are simple bulbs that connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allow you to turn them on and off and perhaps dim them, right through to incredibly smart bulbs that can boost your wifi, have a built-in security camera, and can colour change to create any mood. Many of them can be grouped for simpler control, can run on schedules or rules, and can be operated when you're not even home.
Some of the favourites are:
Sengled - Probably the leader in the higher end range of DIY Smart Bulbs. These are not what you'd call inexpensive, but are absolutely sensational in what they offer. Your light bulb can double up as a bluetooth speaker, a wifi extender, or a security camera. See the range here.
Elgato - These guys have a small range of bluetooth smart lights that are affordable and feature rich. The 'Avea', is a smart bulb that has dimming and colour changing. It is made with mood lighting in mind, and can dramatically change the feel of a room with different presets. They are not super bright, so more suited to a lamp than the primary light for a room. Absolutely great for kids rooms! See more on the Avea here.
Some others worth considering are; Philips Hue, LIFX, WIZ, and Belkin Wemo.
Retro-fit Lighting Control
This is the next step from DIY smart bulbs, and may require an electrician and system programmer, but will create a much smoother experience if you want to control many or all of your lighting circuits. With a lighting control system you can introduce schedules, lighting scenes, and if - then events. You can also integrate lighting to other technologies in the home.
For example, Control4 is a full control4 system for AV and home automation, but have some great lighting control products that slip in behind the existing light switch. The main benefit here is that turning off the light switch doesn't render the 'smarts' unusable, in fact the switch can still be used to control the light at a simple level, then the Control4 app can handle the more sophisticated control and features.
There are other brands that make retro-fittable lighting control products, but Control4 is hands down the best value, most features, most upgradable, and best quality. Read more here. Talk to a highly rated Control4 dealer here.
New build Lighting Control
If you're building a new home, you have the perfect opportunity to dramatically improve the functionality and décor by installing a lighting control system. Such systems as C-Bus from Clipsal, and Dynalite from Philips, can be wired in to a new home construction and introduce a whole new world of simplicity and lifestyle enhancement. All the features above plus many more. In fact, there are 27 and 1/2 reasons to consider lighting control, read them here.
7. Electrician or DIY
We've already touched on this but let's make it nice and clear. If you are updating a bulb, either bayonet (B22) or screw in (E27), you can do this yourself. Well maybe… this action has spawned a million jokes about who and how many people can change one. If you are upgrading to a smart bulb, installing it is DIY and in most cases, so is the configuration. It's usually a case of installing an app on your smartphone, scanning for installed devices, then making some simple settings for each.
If you are changing a downlight, oyster, or any other hard-wired fitting, you will need the assistance of an electrician. Although it's a simple task for a sparky and not likely to take very long, you should not attempt to do this yourself. 240V is not DIY, it's IKY (It Kills You).
Changing the light switch to a smart switch, adding a dimmer to a switch, or adding lighting control behind a switch, will all obviously need an electrician. And of course if you are building and taking the enviable step of installing a wired lighting control system, an electrician will be required to cable and install the system, and a programmer to configure it.
8. Where to buy lights from?
Now that we've so eloquently convinced you to upgrade your lighting, and given you all the tips on how to do it successfully while adding awesome value to your home, the next question I hear you ask is where do I buy them from? Here are some of your main options.
Electrician - Your electrician will have access to lights through his wholesaler and will gladly on-sell them to you at a small margin. This is not a bad option, however the sparky will probably have a few favourites that he likes to use, probably for good reason, so you may not have a lot to choose from. I've also witnessed first hand when a light the electrician supplied didn't dim well, he suggested the client upgrade all their dimmers instead of change to a compatible fitting. More costs that could probably have been avoided.
Bunnings - We all know and love Bunnings and they have quite a large range to choose from in their lighting section. In my experience their brands and quality are pretty good but their prices are not that competitive in this field. You will usually find them on par with a dedicated lighting store. Also a significant portion of their lights will be listed as 'Dimmable - Yes'. However, as with most off the shelf lighting products, this by no means guarantees you a great dimming experience. I have heard from many clients who say they bought 5 or 10 different fittings to find them all a 'less than stellar' dimming performance. In most cases a retailer will be quick to refund your money rather than assist with finding a product that suits your needs.
Lighting Store - There are many lighting store franchises to choose from as well as some successful independents. Wander into a store and you will find a myriad of styles and types to choose from. This is not a bad place to source your light fittings, however as above with Bunnings you will usually pay top dollar and they will often not know if their 'dimmable' products actually perform well or not.
eBay/Aliexpress - The thrifty amongst you might be tempted to look at eBay or Aliexpress for a bargain. You may well find a diamond in the rough in these virtual aisles, but you may also find trouble. Some eBayers and international sellers may be more concerned with selling you a light than abiding by the Australian code of safety certification. In many cases you will not have many avenues of recourse if the fittings don't live up to the hype, or are not correctly certified. Our advice is do not purchase a light fitting that is not certified to be used in Australia. To do so could land you in hot water and an insurance/liability nightmare.
moodLED - I guess you might expect a bit of self promotion right about now… well I won't let you down. moodLED was created on the premise that amongst the millions of options of LED light fittings, there must be some that meet the following criteria:
- Good quality performance and build
- Exceptional dimming performance
- Great value for money
- Smart, elegant, and relevant
- Australian certified SAA, RCM, C-Tick
Therefore we have been on a quest to find fittings that meet this criteria and are 'best of breed'. Find the results of our search here.
This is the sole reason moodLED exists, to promote the amazing transformation dimmable and mood lighting can make to your home, guide you on how to achieve it, and provide the products you need to do it.
Good luck, and good light.