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Choosing The Correct Downlights - Liquid Lighting

Posted on: September 17 2021

Choosing the correct downlights:

Whilst the cost of Downlights can vary, there are some key points that should be noted when choosing the correct downlights for your home or office:

  • Australian certification, ensure that the Down lights you choose have the SAA and N tick certification stamp
  • Preferably the downlight has the IC -FCovered and abutted. This means the Lamp head can be placed under Insulation and abutted close to Timber beams. The driver should always sit above the Insulation
  • LM 70 or 80 reports, most downlights will have a life expectancy rating of either 30, 40, 50 or Longer thousand hours. This figure is when the Downlight is expected to reduce its Lumen output to the nominated figure. I.e. a life expectancy of 30,00 hours is when the light will reach 70% of its original Brightness
  • Warranty period, most quality downlights, now have a 5 year warranty period, with some providers offering 7 years. In most cases the Warranty will only cover return to place of purchase for a replacement.
  • The key to the longevity of a downlight is its heat sink. Predominately, quality downlights will have a substantial heat sink, usually made of Aluminium with flutes to disperse the heat generated by the LED. LED’s do generate heat, the heat sink absorbs the heat from the Led chip; if the heat isn’t dispersed, the lifetime of the Led chip is reduced, in some cases by up to 30-50% in the first year.

Having found a good quality downlight that meets your budget; other factors need to be looked at:

  • The face of the downlight, it will either be flat or recessed. Flat face downlights usually have a higher beam angle, usually around 100 degree, but do provide a bit more glare than a slightly recessed  downlight which will have a beam angle of around 90 degrees
  • The ceiling height is one of the key measurements in selecting the Power and Lumens to be provided by the downlight. In a standard 2.7 metre ceiling a 10-12 watt downlight producing 700-900 Lumens is sufficient. The higher the ceiling the higher the Wattage and Lumen output is required. As a general rule the higher the Wattage and Lumens the less the beam angle becomes.
  • Colour Temperature (kelvin): Most downlights will either have a kelvin of between 2700K and 6000K, otherwise known as Warm White or Cool White. Most suppliers now only offer 3000K warm white or 4000K Natural white, the other colour temperatures are available for some suppliers or manufacturers. From our experience 70 % + of downlight installations will be 3000K. With the most negative feedback about the Natural or Cool white light is that it appears too clinical. That being said, the increase in clients wanting Natural White 4000K is increasing, particularly with older customers, or for areas where the natural white looks cleaner, such as Laundry’s, Bathrooms, and at times even kitchen preparation areas.
  • Dimming, one of the prime mistakes you can make is purchasing Downlights that are not dimmable. Most quality Downlights come standard as dimmable. Whist you may not think at the time that you will want to dim the downlights, if they are non-Dimmable the only way to make them dimmable is to replace them. Certain areas such as cupboards, garages, and Storage areas will not necessarily need to be dimmed, that is where you can save money by purchasing non dimmable downlights.


Probably one of the most questions I am asked is, how far apart should I be spacing my downlights. Some general rules of thumb:

  • If you are replacing existing downlights, unless you want to cut new holes and patch the ceiling, swap them out one for one, you will generally find a significant increase in light compared to your old ones
  • For new builds, there are wattage limitations per type of room, as an example for general areas you have a limit of 5 watts per square metre. Using LED Downlights you should expect to easily achieve that figure, normally (60-80 %) of your allowance
  • Most lighting designers have software tools that can calculate reasonably accurately the quantity and placement of the downlights
  • Otherwise depending on the room size and the type of downlight you are installing, 1-1.5 metres in from the wall and 1.5 – 2 metres apart, however, this can vary based on the use of the room you are lighting

In closing:

As with most things in life you get what you pay for. If a Downlight only has a 1, 2 or 3 year warranty, there is a reason for it. A good quality downlight should have a minimum 5 year warranty or longer. So whilst the initial cost of a good quality downlight may be a little more than you expected, it will be more cost effective than having to replace them every 2 or 3 years, or live with reduced lumen output