The Truth about your Home Lighting
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 times, 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.
I strongly believe that Knowledge and Understanding are the key, so here we have the first 5 fibs furphy's and fakes I've found online - with simple explanations of the truth.
#1: Upgrading your halogen downlights will save you 80%/70%/90% on your lighting energy bill
Kinda - 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.
Here's a quick YouTube clip that explains the science behind lamps and light
Basically the truth behind this popular claim is this: In order to achieve such a significant saving, you have to 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.
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, at this point in time 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"
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 is the result of a poorly designed luminaire pointing light directly into your eyes.
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 here, you will 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 a 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
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, don't interfere 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.
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 will 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 a 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.
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 1 mob have 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, Highest Quality, Expertly Built, Lighting Specialist etc. 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 of ebay? 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 2 years of lighting education and proved their skills in the industry over a minimum of 4 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.
The Truth: Lighting Specialists should have comprehensive understanding of light, both the science and the art, and should be able to give you BS 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 has to be seen to be believed - check the luminaires in a dark space and see for yourself if they work - or if they don't.
Sad to say - there are many many more fibs, furphy's and fakes out there... and I will do my best to find them all to help you make great choices about light in your home . Feel free to leave a comment with any that you've spotted, and I'll be sure to cover them off next time.
For independent professional advice on the lighting for your home, send your questions through and I'll happily answer them for you. I want to see great lighting in every home.
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Please note, some images are sourced from third parties to highlight design options, MINT Lighting does not claim ownership of these images and have simply chosen these as an example .
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