5 fibs & the truth about LEDs


One of the greatest challenges in taking on the lighting for your home is deciphering the vast amount of conflicting lighting advice available online.

In many cases, information portrayed as fact is simply not.

To be fair, often, this is the result of those writing online content - be it marketing or blogs - knowing ‘just enough to be dangerous’ and not a result of an active desire to mislead or misinform.

Image: MINT Lighting

Image: MINT Lighting

I strongly believe that knowledge and understanding is the key, so here we have the first five common fibs I've found online - with simple explanations of the truth.

#1: Upgrading your halogen downlights will save you up to 80%, 70% or 90% off your lighting energy bill.

Kind of - but, no, not really.

This one’s very popular - and untangling the truth from the fiction requires an understanding of how energy is converted to light.

Basically, the truth behind this popular claim is this: To achieve such a significant saving, you must change your 50W halogen lamps to 4W or 5W LED replacements. Which is fine on the energy front, BIG saving - problem is - you'll also end up with HALF or less of the light in your home. So, you'll be saving energy...and needing a torch.

Image: MINT Lighting

Image: MINT Lighting

The truth: Upgrading downlights to LED is a great way to save money for minimum investment - and you can even improve the light in your home. The reality is, now with LED technology, you need AT LEAST 9W of energy to generate enough lumens from the luminaire (light fixture: in this case, a downlight) to maintain your current light levels (from 50W MR16 halogen).

#2: 'Our LED downlights are glare free.'

Unlikely.

The problem here is the general understanding of what glare is.

Glare is the result of too great a contrast between a source of light and the surrounding appearance of brightness (luminance: is how bright you perceive a surface to be) and it's the result of a poorly designed luminaire pointing light directly into your eyes.

darklighter.png

When using downlights - unless you use what is commonly known as a ‘darklighter’ (yeah - the lighting industry has some crazy jargon) like the one shown above, you'll have visible brightness in your ceiling from every downlight (I like to call this very special effect Gloom and Glare - dark ceiling, bright lights = nasty).

Technically, when we speak of glare from a luminaire, we're talking about the discomfort caused by light coming from the luminaire at an angle which means it hits you straight in the eye. We all know what that sort of glare looks like - and we all hate it. In fairness, these LED downlight suppliers are not outright lying - their fittings won't cause you true discomfort and they likely comply with the maximum glare ratings set by Australian Standards, but if you want the best from your downlights, and as minimal glare as possible - without losing light (which you do with the fitting shown above as it's lost inside the black casing) you need a downlight with a DEEP RECESS.

The truth: A downlight can be ‘low glare’ or ‘glare free’ and still be awful in your home. You need to use downlights that have the light source (in this case, the LEDs) set BACK into the fitting: an image shows it best...

Those shown are neither the best nor the worst I've seen, the image is provided to explain the concept.

#3: Importing your own luminaires saves money and gets the same outcome.

Admittedly this is not something promoted by lighting supply companies, but it's still a commonly held belief but the answer is...NO NO NO.

There is a good reason why you should buy your lighting from known registered businesses: there are tests and compliance requirements on all luminaires sold in this country to ensure they don't interfere with other electronics in your home, with the electrical supply to your home and that they are electrically safe. A registered business has it in their best interest to supply fully functional, tested and compliant luminaires.

Aside from the fact when you buy from a reputable company you get warranty and customer service - if you don't, how can you be sure that the luminaire you buy is safe? Unfortunately, tests can be faked, documentation can be copied, for the safety of your home and family, you need to know that anything electrical fitted off in your home will both work, and more importantly, not cause damage or danger.

Image: MINT Lighting

Image: MINT Lighting

Truth: If you buy your luminaires from reputable local businesses, you can be sure they comply with Australian Standards, will work on our electricity system and be backed up by a warranty and customer service should something fail.

#4: Our LEDs are from XYZ high end chip company, so they're awesome.

Well - maybe.

The way that LED chips are made, there are grades of quality produced by every manufacturer. These are sorted into bins based on performance, colour and many other factors. So, whilst the high-quality manufacturers (such as CREE, Philips, Tridonic, OSRAM, Seol etc.) make excellent LED chips and technology, just because a chip is from a major manufacturer, doesn't necessarily mean it's top bin, and doesn't mean it's great quality.

Cheaper chips from any supplier tend to be less efficient (so, less light made for the energy going in), have reduced colour rendering and have a wider difference in colour appearance.

Image: MINT Lighting

Image: MINT Lighting

The truth: Some companies use branded chips that are excellent quality - and so can rightfully claim the associated benefits. Some do not. How can you tell? Well - if one mob has branded chips for $20 and one have branded chips for $80 - chances are the $80 will be higher quality. But, because price isn't always a great indicator, for a technical analysis you need to start with a check of the CRI value (colour rendering), the SDCM value (the variation in colour appearance) and the efficacy.

#5: 'Quality LEDs', 'highest quality', 'expertly built', 'lighting specialist' etc.

Based on what? Compared to what? Who says?

My father used to tell me a story about quality control...there was factory that made canoes, and they had the best quality control out of all the businesses that made canoes. The first one they made sank - and so did all the rest.  

Quality is a subjective word. What I think of as quality lighting is not the same as what others think of as quality lighting. So, a company that has the best quality - compared to who? Compared to the bloke down the road soldering his own LED downlights from chips purchased for 50 cents online? or compared to the ERCO's and Flos's of the world?

The other one that is tricky is ‘Lighting Specialist’. It's a challenge to establish the grounds upon which people claim this. That said - The Lighting Society of Australia and New Zealand (IESANZ) is the best place to find true Lighting Professionals. Those who have undertaken a minimum of two years of lighting education and proved their skills in the industry over a minimum of four years are given the Post Nominals MIES and are deemed lighting professionals in their field. Companies who meet the requirements of the society to supply compliant luminaires can have Corporate Memberships. Beyond this, we have to take people at their word.  

Image: MINT Lighting

Image: MINT Lighting

The truth: Lighting Specialists should have comprehensive understanding of light, both the science and the art, and should be able to give you honest free advice. The final test unfortunately is - Does your home look great with your new lighting...or not. An expensive way to find out. Quality must be seen to be believed - check the luminaires in a dark space and see for yourself if they work - or if they don't.

It's sad to say there are many more fibs out there... and I will do my best to find them all to help you make great choices about lighting in your home. Feel free to leave a comment with any that you've spotted, and I'll be sure to cover them next time.

For your independent professional advice on how to design beautiful, functional and sustainable lighting for your home contact MINT Lighting.

Author bio:

Adele Locke is the owner/director of MINT Lighting. Her background spans from luminaire manufacturing and bespoke lighting design in the 90s to large scale commercial projects, management and architectural lighting design. She is the current President of the Illuminating Engineers Society of Australia and New Zealand, and is also a member of the International Association of Lighting Designers

MINT Lighting was established in 2012 by Adele Locke, to service home owners who wanted more from their lighting than a standard layout of downlights or bare globes on the ceiling. MINT provides accessible design advice that fits your budget and brings beauty to the light in your home. 

Hundreds of homes have been lit by MINT Lighting since 2012. As well, Adele works on small and large commercial projects, from retail to public spaces. Some of her commercial work includes AAMI Park Stadium, University of Newcastle’s’ Great Hall and Melbourne Airport. Regardless of the size of your project, we'd love to hear from you and talk about what great lighting design can do for you.

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