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Shine a light: low-energy LEDs

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Hattie Hartman looks at the latest low-energy, long-life LED lighting products

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are often cited as a revolutionary solution to low-energy long-life lighting. With the arrival of blue and now white colour ranges, their application is increasingly widespread, and the quality and quantity of LED luminaires on the market is evolving rapidly.

Mark Major of Speirs and Major Associates says that LEDs represent a step change in the way lighting is manufactured. Previously, light bulbs and fittings were supplied by different manufacturers. With LEDs, the light source is integral to the fitting, although not necessarily made by the same company, and the quality of the light source varies enormously. Major says that fittings may perform well when installed, but identical fittings may not emit the same light quality six months on.

Obsolescence is a major issue. George Sexton of George Sexton Associates says the LED market is analogous with the early days of personal computers. Products are discontinued as improved models appear on the market. Although manufacturers claim the higher initial costs of LEDs are justified by longer life and reduced maintenance, the lack of replacement parts can mean an entire fitting must be replaced.

Colour rendition (the colour accuracy of the lit object) of LEDs should be carefully considered. BDP Lighting’s Melissa Stears says that while a Tungsten light source can achieve 100 per cent true colour, the best LEDs are in the 85 per cent range. This may be appropriate for street luminaires where colour is not critical, but not for gallery or retail projects.

Improved quality of luminaire design, as shown in the models opposite, suggests LEDs are coming of age, but inconsistencies in performance mean product guarantees must be carefully examined when specifying.


Manufacturer Louis Poulsen
Type Pendant
Dimensions 550mm diameter x 35mm high
Output 1,950 lumen
Source 30 LEDs x 1.1W
Colour rendering >80
Colour temperature 3,000K
Efficiency 62-67 lumen/W
Lifetime 50,000 hours
Guarantee Two years
Made in Denmark
Start of UK distribution 2009

Designed with Norman Foster, this fitting has an opal glass diffuser, a matt anodised aluminium reflector, a light guide and an aluminium ring surrounding the LEDs. Light is directed downwards, and light reflected through the glass makes the fitting’s edge glow


Manufacturer FontanaArte 
Type Wall or ceiling
Dimensions 70mm, 140mm or 280mm
Output 280 lumen/0.3m
Source 6-7W/0.3m
Colour rendering 80
Colour temperature 6,000K or 4,200K on request
Efficiency 50 lumen/W
Lifetime approx 60,000-80,000 hours
Guarantee Two years
Made in Italy
Start of UK distribution 2008

This extruded aluminium fitting is available in three lengths. Designed to be integrated in to the ceiling or wall on which it is mounted, the fitting can also be finished to match the background surface. A T5 fluorescent option is also available

Universal Alpha 1

Manufacturer Projection Lighting
Type Downlight
Dimensions 108mm diameter (95mm-diameter cutout) x 178mm deep
Output 1135 lumen
Source 8 LEDs x 9W or 18W
Colour rendering 85  
Colour temperature 2,700, 3,000 or 4,000K
Efficiency 64 lumen/W
Lifetime 50,000 hours
Guarantee Five years
Made in UK
Start of UK distribution 2009

This diecast aluminium downlight is available in white, black or silver. The light source is passed through a cold phosphor coating to produce a stable white light. A high-efficiency reflector transmits 95 per cent of light


Manufacturer Siteco Limited
Type Street luminaire
Dimensions 655mm wide x 865mm high x 580mm front to back (head only – excluding column)
Output 6,700 lumen
Source 86 LEDs x 1W
Colour rendering 75
Colour temperature 4000K
Efficiency 77 lumen/W
Lifetime 50,000 hours
Guarantee One year
Made in Germany
Start of UK distribution 2008

This street luminaire uses white light for general illumination and the horizontal bands of coloured light can be varied or set to change with time. The fitting is made of diecast aluminium and the LED sources are enhanced by various lenses and reflectors

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