Introduction To Downlights

Downlights can be a preferred option when renovating or building new homes and/or offices. They are recessed into the ceiling cavity and create a modern low profile look so that you can easily use several in any given room to fully light your home without the feel of ceiling overcrowding. It is easy to place downlights where you need them most without cluttering a room. Many are replacing existing downlights with LED downlights for their safety and energy efficiency, while new developments often choose them for their architectural look, energy rating and long life-span.

Pros Of LED Downlights

  • Long life energy saving technology – these LED lamps have a 50,000 hour average lifespan
  • Low profile / recessed into ceiling cavity for uncluttered ceilings
  • Safer option for lighting
  • Energy efficient with low wattage

Cons Of LED Downlights

  • Most downlights utilising LED technology are more expensive than other options (however you are saving on energy usage and the need to replace the lamps as often as alternatives)
  • Not really a short term money saving solution, more of a long-term investment

Downlight Term Definitions

Wattage

The wattage of a light generally is the indicator of how much energy the light will use. As energy saving lighting is all about reducing the wattage used in a light fitting, you can use the wattage of a light to check its energy efficiency. The wattage of a light does not necessarily accurately indicate the light output, the ‘Lumens’ will show this (see definition below). E.g. A low watt LED globe might maintain a similar light output as a higher watt halogen globe.

Lumens

Lumen is the standard unit for measuring the brightness of a light. In technical terms, the Lumen is equal to the amount of light hitting one square foot of surface one foot away from the light. In a nutshell, the lumen measurement indicates the brightness of the light. If you are after a brighter light, select a downlight with a higher lumen measurement.

Options for higher lumen downlights:

Options for moderately high lumen downlights:

 

Beam Spread / Beam Angle

The beam spread of a light refers to the angle of light from the fitting. The beam angle is a great feature of LED downlights as individual LED’s can be arranged to make the most of the light. Depending on the room and the use of the light, you can find a LED downlight with a specific beam angle to suit.

The greater the beam angle, the smaller the intensity of light will be at a set distance from the light source. If you are purchasing a LED downlight with one of the smallest wattages, then you will probably want to choose one with a smaller beam angle (under 30degrees) so you don’t get a dull light.

Small Beam Angle
As stated above, choosing a small beam angle is one that is 30degrees or lower. A great rule of thumb to use is if your LED downlight has a wattage of below 5w, a small beam angle will be best to maintain a good light intensity. These small beam angle lights are perfect for focusing a beam of light in a certain area e.g. when two or more are installed close together.

Large Beam Angle
Working to the opposite of the above statement, larger beam angles are generally those with an angle greater than 30 degrees. These lights are most suitable for downlights with a wattage of above 5w and work to your advantage when you have a suitable space between each light. Large beam angles are also good for lower than standard ceilings to help to maintain decent light throughout the room. LED downlights which have large beam angles such as the 120 degree selection, are designed to disperse the light as much as possible in the same manner as traditional incandescents and fluoroscents. These are perfect for lighting small rooms such as food pantries.

Choosing between small or large beam angles? It is really up to personal preference and how you would like your light to be focused. However you can use the above recommendations to help.

For standard ceiling heights (between 2.4-2.7m), a wider beam spread of 60 degrees or more is recommended. A narrower beam spread of less than 50 degrees is recommended for ceilings higher than 2.7 metres, and more lights will be needed.

Low to Standard Ceiling Height Downlight Recommendations
ceilings up to 2.7m

  • Shadowline Downlight Series – 120 degree beam angle
  • Umbra II Downlight Series – 100 degree beam angle
  • Orion Downlight Series – 100 degree beam angle
  • Delta Downlight Series – 80 degree beam angle

Standard to Higher Ceiling Height Downlight Recommendations

  • Illumina Downlight Series – 40 degree beam angle
  • Luxor Downlight Series – 50 degree beam angle
  • Cooper Downlight Series – 60 degree beam angle

Warm White vs Cool White

Although it is up to personal preference, it is common to use a cool white for task-orientated areas like kitchens, laundries and places of business such as offices. A cool light gives a more bright and professional feel to the space and gives good visibility for writing and reading tasks. Warm white for areas of relaxation such as bedrooms and living rooms. We recommend to use just one colour throughout an open plan area.

To assess the colour of an LED downlight, use the CCT measurement. A light with a CCT of 3000k is a warm white, one with a CCT of 5000k is a cool or neutral white. All of our downlights have the option of having a warm or cool/neutral light. See light title and specs to select.

 

Fixed vs Gimbal

Fixed downlights have a fixed centre. The lamp is usually fixed within the holder either by using a spring clip or by a twist lock mechanism.

A gimbal downlight has instead of a fixed centre, a centre fitting that can be tilted allowing adjustment of the spotlight beam. These can be an advantage if you want to direct the light slightly towards a certain area, painting or workspace.

 

Insulation Clearance – CA vs IC

As downlights are installed in the ceiling cavity they need to share space with your ceiling insulation. Because of this, each downlight has a clearance class that tells the installer whether the insulation can cover the downlight or if it needs to have an exposed gap.

CA – means fixed insulation material can be abutted to the sides of the light
IC – means insulation material can completely cover the light both on the sides and above

Downlight Insulation

 

IP Ratings

An IP rating classifies and rates the degree of protection provided against the intrusion of solid objects and liquid ingress. An IP rating will look like this: IP _ _ (with two numbers following) e.g. IP65. The first digit rates its degree of protection against solid objects, and the second digit rates its degree of protection against liquids/water. See the chart below. Downlights for an outdoor area or bathroom should always have a high IP rating such as IP65 (see the Xtreme Downlight Series).

Downlights By Room

What Downlights Are Best For What Room?

This is hugely dependent on the design of the room, whether it has high ceilings, low ceilings, lots of natural light, little natural light etc. However, here is a general direction to look:

Outdoor Areas (undercover outdoor patio / alfresco area): The Xtreme Downlight Series is perfect for outdoor areas, and areas exposed to the elements including coastal areas. The Xtreme is designed with weatherproof materials such as full anodised aluminium and sealed IP65 (higher rated than stainless steel) round frame.

Bedrooms: Downlights are commonly used in bedrooms throughout Australia – warm light downlights are quite often the most popular choice for bedrooms (3000k option). Most of the downlights we sell will have the option of purchasing a warm white or cool white light option. A good place to start is looking at options with a wide beam angle such as the Umbra, Delta or Orion downlights.

Bathrooms: Care needs to be taken when choosing down lights for a bathroom as moisture can be a big factor in choosing the correct lights. Generally bathroom downlights will need to be IP rated to protect against the ingress of water. The Martec Xtreme Downlight is a great option as it is designed to be weatherproof including a sealed IP65 frame meaning it won’t be negatively affected by the moisture.

Hallways: The Illumina downlights are great for hallways and long areas as their recessed design will help hide the direct brightness from view when walking down a corridor or hallway.

Downlight Placement

How To Spread Downlights In A Room

It is rather difficult to give an exact formula to work out how many downlights you will need and where to place them in your home. However a practical ‘rule of thumb’ is to make sure the downlights that are going to be closest to your walls are placed no more than 60cm into the room. The reason behind this is that 60cm is the standard measurement for the depth of floor cupboards and allows for shelving and bookcases etc that usually stand against your walls. This will mean that once your downlights are fitted, no shadows will be created through the room.

Next you should work out the position of the inner lights by spacing them at intervals of approximately between 90cm and 120cm. From these figures you should now be able to calculate how many fitting will be in a row and how many rows you will need. Remember that these recommendations are a general guide only as it is up to personal preference on how many you install depending on how much light you need and the space you have. For example in a kitchen you may like to have two sets of lights, one set that illuminates your working area (over your work bench) and another set for general lighting. Therefore these lights may not be in a perfect grid.

View All LED Downlight Products

Downlight Safety

Fire Danger
240 volt incandescent globes and 12 volt halogen (dichroic) globes that in the past have been highly used in downlights have some important disadvantages when it comes to safety. One of the major hazards being the possibility of fire. These lights produce heat while converting the electricity to light which if installed incorrectly can be a cause of fire within the insulation of the roof cavity. As downlights are primarily mounted on the roof, they are exposed to combustible material. While halogen lights can heat up to 150 degrees, the new LED technology produces very little heat by a whopping 5x less than a halogen globe, making it a much safer globe for downlight use.

The Government of Western Australia Department of Fire & Emergency Services recommends replacing 12 volt halogen (dichroic) globes with Light Emitting Diodes (LED) as they produce considerably less heat therefore significantly (if not eliminating) the danger of your lights causing a fire in your home.

Shock Proof
LED lights are vibration resistant and sudden movements do not cause breakages like they would with glass components.

Mercury Free
Unlike CFL / fluorescent lights, LED lights do not contain any mercury or harmful substances. This makes LED lighting a very safe choice for use around your homes or in areas prone to events such as earthquakes. The mercury in CFLs is highly poisonous which means if one is broken, the occupants of the room will need to leave for an amount of time before re-entering. LEDs are a much safer option.

Ultra Violet and Infra-Red Radiation Free
LEDs convert almost all its electricity into light and therefore produces very little invisible UV or IR radiation.

Downlight Product Overview

Name Umbra II Illumina Delta Luxor Orion Stride Cooper Xtreme
Installation Location: Ceiling Ceiling Ceiling Ceiling Ceiling Ceiling/Stairs Ceiling Ceiling
Cutout: 90mm 90mm 90mm 75-93mm 90mm 73mm TBC 70mm
Light Output: Warm or Cool Warm or Cool Changeable Warm Warm or Cool Warm Warm or Cool Warm
Beam Angle: 100° 40° 80° 50° 100° 93° 60° 60°
LED Wattage: 11w 13w 8w 12w 8w 6w 10w 10w
Lumens: 780-800lm 950-1000lm 780-820 lm 800 lm 780-800 lm 400 lm 710-750 lm 900 lm