Update: Down Lights are still bad. But since this page was posted, I have replaced all the CFL Down Lights with LED’s. The important thing was also to get surface mount power outlets added to each down light location. This permits the replacement of lights without removing power by simply removing the plug from the outlet.
Down Lights Are Bad
I don’t know if I need to repeat this, but I will anyway. Down Lights are bad. Take a standard 50W Low Voltage Halogen Down Light. Just because it says Low Voltage does not mean Low Power. It is almost the oposite. In terms of light output, Halogen Down Lights are not that great. Look at the standard kitchen where Halogen Down Lights are installed. There might be 10 of them. And another 15 in the lounge and dining area. You need to multiply the Watts by the number, meaning that this becomes 500W in the kitchen and 750W in the lounge room. At the time of writing, electricity is about $0.20 / kWh. This means in the example above, each hour the lights are switched on costs $0.10 and $0.15 respectively.
This might not sound much, but let’s just assume the kitchen lights are on for 8 hours per day. This is $0.80/day. Or over $200/year. And people wonder how come their bills are so high!
Some Down Lights are not so Bad
Whilst Halogen Down Lights are bad, not all down lights are as bad. you can get 35W halogens, which consume 30% less energy. But to be honest, this is still too much. One of the things that I love is Compact Fluorescent Down Lights with Warm White globes. They have several advantages over halogens. The first is the energy consumption. Rather than the 50W for a Halogen, a CFL will consume between 5W and 13W. This is a massive saving. Also, no external transformers are needed, and the lights run direct on mains power. They are not suitable everywhere, but are quite amazing. In fact I show people my house and they think I have installed Halogen’s!
You can see the CFL down light here on the left and the Halogen on the right. The major physical difference is their depth. The halogens are much shorter. This is not a big concern in most cases.
Since there is no transformer, wiring the down light is fairly simple, with the connections made under the cover on the far left.