SHOULD I CHOOSE MAINS OR LOW VOLTAGE RECESSED DOWN LIGHTS?
There are a number of different choices here and each has it's own advantages and disadvantages:-
Low Voltage Halogen Down Lights - low voltage down lights run at 12 volts rather than the at the mains voltage of 240 volts. Low voltage bulbs give a crisper whiter light, tend to last longer, are safer and can use a lower wattage for the same light output.
On the down side you will need a transformer to reduce the voltage which adds initially to the cost and is an extra thing that could go wrong. If you choose low voltage down lights, we recommend using one 60 watt dimmable transformer for each 50 watt down light. If a problem does then occur it will be isolated and if a bulb goes you will not shorten the life of the other bulbs if you do not replace it immediately. If you want to dim your down lights ensure that your dimmer is compatible with your transformer.
The 12v spotlight bulbs used in down lights are generally MR16 (or GU5.3) bulbs which have 2 straight pins on the bottom. They are available in many brands, wattages and beam angles. These spotlight bulbs do generate a lot of heat.
The option to replace these bulbs with energy saving ones is a little limited at present.
Mains Voltage Halogen Down Lights - these down lights give a good quality of light and can be dimmed using a standard dimmer. Most mains voltage down lights generally use a GU10 halogen bulb (the twist and lock type with 2 small bolts on the bottom) that is either 35 or 50 watts. They are relatively cheap to buy and easy to install as they do not need transformers.
There are a variety of energy saving GU10 bulbs available. A word of caution here though as it can be a little complicated to find the best one for your down light. Not all low energy GU10 bulbs are equal in terms of size or light output and most are considerably longer and often fatter than a halogen GU10, so may not work with your down lights. Not many of the energy saving GU10 bulbs are capable of being dimmed. Low energy GU10 bulbs are available that are the same size as halogen bulbs and will fit into any light fitting that uses GU10 bulbs. Please take care to select bulbs that will work in your fitting and give you the light output you want.
A recent introduction is the LED GU10 bulbs. These have a number of advantages over halogen GU10 bulbs. They are cool to the touch, very low energy which gives you huge savings on your electricity costs and are very long lasting (over 35000 hours). A good quality 3 watt LED GU10 will roughly equate to between 35 to 50 watts of standard light output. The main drawback at present is the cost as the better quality LED bulbs will cost in the region of £20. Be careful if you find bulbs considerably cheaper than this as they may not give the light output you are expecting. If you want to dim your down lights you will also need to check that the LED bulbs you purchase can be dimmed.
Dedicated Low Energy Down Lights - these down lights are designed and manufactured to use low energy bulbs only. They are energy efficient and a good compromise between price and the amount of light produced. They use compact fluorescent bulbs which provide a good light and a wide beam angle which gives a better spread of light in the room. At the same time they will save you money on running costs. At present the majority of compact fluorescent bulbs cannot be dimmed.
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