Halogen (Di-chroic) Downlights: Quick Replacements

1. Energy Efficiency

This short guide assumes you know about energy efficiency, and the benefits it can bring to your family (or business) whilst simultaneously reducing environmental impact and reducing infrastructure costs. If not, you can see a short guide we have produced or a broader introduction at Wikipedia’s Energy Efficiency page.

2. The high running costs of halogen downlights, and the opportunity for you

With the average standard light bulb (sometimes known as compact fluoros, CFLs or energy efficient bulbs) now down to 15 watts consumption, the 50 watt (50W) consumption of each halogen downlight is wasteful by comparison – and that is before you count the number of them in the average room where they have been used, consider the in-ceiling transformer, or think about the fire risks. So, it’s possible to make at least 70% saving in running costs if the fitting is changed.

In an average designer home, a room will have at least 5 halogen downlight fittings – that’s 5 fittings x (50W lamp + 10W transformer) = 300W! To get a sense of how wasteful that is, typically that’s enough power to light a convenience store filled with fluorescent tubes (10 x 28W T5 lamps).  Assuming electricity prices of 22c/kWh, these lights on for 4-5 hours in the evening could cost as much $108 per year per room (365 x 4.5 x 0.3 x .22 = $108/year). And, the cheap 50W ones from the supermarket typically have very short operational lifetimes.

When thinking about your particular situation, you should also note that most people underestimate the amount of time that lights are turned on. For example sunset might be at 6pm, and you’d like to be in bed by 10pm – the reality maybe that the room gets dim around 5pm (lights come on) and bedtime happens sometime after 11pm (6 hours on total).

3. What can be done?

There are five main ways that we can move away from costly 50W halogen lamps, and these are:

  1. Switch from 50W bulbs to an efficient type of halogen called IRC halogen bulbs (these are usually 30W, but put out the same light as 50W standard units. . Note that there are also 20W standard halogen lamps for small lamps – if you select those you’ll get less light. IRC bulbs typically also have significantly enhanced lifetimes and operate at slightly cooler temperatures.(EASIEST – 40% savings per bulb)
  2. Replace with existing 12V halogen fittings with GU10 socket/fitting for specialised compact fluorescent / cold cathode lamps. This method requires pulling out the transformer (saves power) and possibly replacing the fitting, but the replacement lamps are very similar in size to halogen 50W bulbs – so no ceiling cutting. Disadvantages seem to be that for many models, the ‘warm up’ time is longer than for standard energy efficient lamps. (MEDIUM DIFFICULTY – 70% savings per bulb)
  3. Replace each halogen fitting with recessed standard energy efficient lamps, such as the GE 15W warm white tornado. Some cutting or minor enlargement may be required to the hole in the ceiling, and the actual lamp face/diameter is a little larger. (MEDIUM DIFFICULTY – 70% savings per bulb)
  4. Change fittings for LED based units (5W per bulb). A 90% energy saving is achieved per fitting, but the initial investment is much higher than the alternatives discussed above.  Also, it is more important to show around to ensure you obtain a lamp colour that you are happy with.
  5. Install completely different light fittings that reduce the number of lamps needed in the space. The difficulty is enhanced because in this scenario, you may need to patch holes in the ceiling – this can require painting the entire ceiling. However, don’t let that put you off – focus on the medium and long term savings. You’ll find many attractive fittings are available with one or two lamp sockets, to be fitted in the centre of the room. (HARDEST – 80% to 90% saving per room)