Offering Australian householders and business, services and products to make your environment more energy efficient and sustainable

The 'Low Voltage' Halogen Downlight

Have you got those energy guzzling halogen downlights in your ceiling?  Get rid of them - quick!  
If you have existing downlights, then we have some options to help you save money, reduce fire risk, save water, and reduce your carbon emissions.  Just remember, whichever option you choose, 'Every Little Bit Matters'.
Save water?  How?  Well its not just with Halogen downlights – its with all lighting, and all electricity use for that matter. The less electricity we consume, the less water is required for the cooling towers in power stations.  Did you know in Victoria that our drinking water is used in the cooling towers.  So turn off that light or appliance when not in use.
We all know that electricity prices are going to rise - by how much who knows but it's not going down.  Reducing electricity consumption is the key and there are ways to do it without a lot of thought or effort.  

The problems

The following is based on the majority of households with low-voltage downlights:
  • Consume a total of 60 watts of power – the 50 watt downlight plus the ironcore transformer
  • Produce very high temperatures - around 300C
  • Are a fire risk in older homes particularly, due to dust, type of insulation, and other factors.
  • Generally have a 32 to 38 degree beam of light
  • Compromise insulation - most houses have very large gaps around downlights or insulation dangerously close
  • 'low voltage' halogen lights are NOT low energy consumers
  • Around 90% of electricity used is lost as heat, 10% is left for light - so they are very inefficient
  • Cause shadows on the ceiling due to being recessed
  • You need a lot of halogens in a room to produce anywhere near the same light as a standard surface mount light
  • Swivel downlights (gimbles) are vented so these types of downlights are mini chimneys creating heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.

The following table will give you some options to consider.  Costs vary and cost of purchasing light fittings, electricians, etc will need to be determined to see which is the most cost effective overall.  Note that changing to the reduced watt halogen downlights will save you labour costs with regard to electricians and others but there is the cost of replacing the globes, placing downlight covers over them in the roof cavity, and then filling up the voids around the downlights to consider.  Sometimes spending a bit more up front will end up being cheaper in the long-run if you take the energy (cost) savings into account.

All the options have payback periods - how long depends on how many you have and how you currently them.

And yes, compact fluro lights can take a little getting used to. The light might not be as ‘nice’ as a halogen to some and the “look” of downlights is important to others – but at the end of the day, how many times do you or your visitors look up at the ceiling and at your lights?  There are CFL replacements for almost all types of household lights and the technology for these is getting better so 'ON' delay time is now becoming 'INSTANT ON'.

And don’t forget LEDs – these are the future of lighting and there are some pretty good halogen downlight replacements available.

TERMINOLOGY

CFL Compact Fluroescent Light (energy saving) - most non dimmable
Gimble Downlight a downlight fitting that can be swivelled with a plaster hole size of approx 90mm
Downlight Cover a must have and highly recommended for all jobs to reduce the fire risk of halogen downlights and prevent insulation holes.
Iron-core Transformer Common black ‘old style’ 12 volt transformers which consume around 10-12 Watts - thus making each 50 watt halogen globe consume 60 watts in power.  If replacing halogens with LEDs then these transformers can be resused.
Electronic Transformer Newer type 12V transformers which consume less watts and run cooler than old style transformers - recommended to change iron-core transformers to these.
LED Light Emitting Diode - the future of lighting - highly efficient lighting alternative to halogens and CFLs.