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Switch to LED Lighting - but beware of inferior products

There are many forms and types of LED lighting - and a lot of the heavily marketed LED globes will not meet your expectations in the long term.  Therefore, it is worth taking a minute to understand the basics of how LED works.  Then you will be more informed about what type of LED light source is best for you.

Most people now understand the key benefits of LED:

  • Large electricity savings vs traditional globes
  • Long lifetime
  • Greatly reduced fire risk

LED is short for Light Emitting Diode.  It is essentially a wafer thin electrical chip that is yellow in colour.  When the appropriate current is passed through the LED it will produce light.  In recent years manufacturers have perfected the quality and colour of light that is produced by the LED.  There are two very important requirements for an LED:

LED lighting requires a heat sinkA heat sink is required to dissipate heat away from the LED.  Even though LED lights operate at temperatures far lower than traditional halogen and incandescent luminaries, a few degrees cooler can add many years of lifespan to the LED.  Generally a larger better designed heat sink will offer significantly more lifespan.


LED down-light transformer

Correct power is essential for an LED light to perform properly and last.  LED is a low voltage chip so a transformer (also called a Driver) is required to convert household power to the correct volts and amps required.   Ideally, every LED light source requires a specific matched driver designed for its LED chip.


These two components of an LED light source are probably the most important to consider when assessing quality.  And when it comes to "power" it is also about compatibility - there is no  point plugging a high quality LED light into a high quality low-voltage driver unless they have been manufactured to match.  Incompatibility will cause performance problems  and reduction in life-span.  That is why "LED light kits" are recommended by electricians as they come as a matched kit.

The rest of the LED light is really style and design.  Considerations include its shape, size, beam angle, light colour, and the light frame it housed in.

The concept of the globe is becoming obsolete

When you understand that a properly designed LED house light should last 50,000+ hours (that is 25+ years at average use), there is no need to have a "replaceable" globe as the light is essentially permanent.  The problem with fitting LED technology into the shape of a globe is that it cannot dissipate heat effectively and therefore its LED chip cannot be big (bright) and and its durability will be severely compromised.   And the problems will probably start soon after the short warranty period is over!

A LED light is only as good as its weakest component, and the the heat-sink or power source are two areas worth close scrutiny.  Let's look at the at the type of LED light sources and consider how they rate for heat sinking and power, and overall performance:

MR16 LED globe

MR16 LED globeUse:  Used to replace MR16 halogen globes.  Simple retro-fit change of globe.  Heavily marketed as a LED solution.
Heat sink: Poor.  Heat-sink is integrated and restricted to the size of a globe.  Therefore LED gets too hot which reduces lifetime.
Power:  Poor. Does not come with matched driver so it is plugged into existing halogen driver
Performance:  Poor.  Low lifetime (can be as short as 6 months).  As it is plugged into an incompatible halogen driver it will lose performance quickly.  Low brightness.  Usually not dimmable.


GU10 LED globe

LED globe GU10Use:  Used to replace GU10 halogen globes.  Requires a 240V GU10 light fitting installed by electrician.
Heat sinkPoor.  Heat-sink restricted to the size of a globe.  Globe gets too hot which reduces lifetime.
Power:  Reasonable.  Has a driver built into globe (inside white casing).  This generates extra heat reducing lifetime.
Performance:  Reasonable.  Low lifetime due to extra heat and small heat-sink.  Higher risk as plugs into 240V power. Low brightness. Usually not dimmable.


 Integrated LED light kit

LED downlight kit for AustraliaUse:  Replaces the entire light fitting and fascia.   Separate LED driver and power plug.  Can be purchased in any size / brightness.
Heat sinkGood.  Large heat sink size to keep the light running at low temperatures.  Protects the performance and lifespan of the LED chip.
Power:  Good.  Includes a driver matched to the LED chip (exact voltage and amps).  As it is separate the heat of the driver does not affect the LED.
Performance:  Good.  Very long lifetime due to low heat.  LED driver designed for Australian power and dimmers.

Semi-Integrated LED light kit

Retrofit semi-integrated LED downlightUse:  Replaces the entire light fitting other than fascia.   Separate LED driver and power plug.  Size is set to fit into typical halogen fascia.
Heat sink:  Reasonable.  Elongated heat sink size to lower operating temperature.  Protects the performance and lifespan of the LED chip.
Power:  Good.  Includes a driver matched to the LED chip (exact voltage and amps).  As it is separate the heat of the driver does not affect the LED.
Performance:  Reasonable.  Reasonable lifetime due to low heat.  LED driver designed for Australian power and dimmers.

LED down-light kit with driver



Clearly the integrated LED light kits with their larger heat-sinks and separate matched drivers are the far better choice.  Their performance is un-matchable by LED globes.

Only with an integrated LED light will you get ALL the promised benefits of LED: the power savings, the high brightness, and the longevity.

When you switch to LED it is far better to do it properly and enjoy the benefits for the long term.  Quality integrated LED down-lights usually pay for themselves in less than 2 years (see our separate article on this) and are not expensive to get an electrician to install (about $5 to $8 per light - see our separate video article on this).

Many electricians are reporting that LED globes, even the premium ones, are losing their luminosity (brightness) at a rapid rate.  Then again, when you plug a 4 watt globe into a halogen driver designed to deliver 50 watts you can expect issues.

Australia has been flooded with inferior LED globes

As MR16 LED globes are low voltage products, they technically do not need to meet the strict Australian Standards for electrical products.  This means the Australian market has been flooded with cheap LED globes that have not had any testing for Australian conditions or safety.  They can be purchased cheaply (as low as A$4 each on ebay!)  but when they are plugged into your power system they often do not exhibit the luminosity promised, their performance can be highly variable, their heat output can be high, their durability is difficult to judge, and at worst they can be unsafe.  So beware of claims of high brightness and longevity with LED globes - their size restricts their brightness and the longevity substantively.

Check out how to replace Halogen down lights with LED Downlights

11 thoughts on “Switch to LED Lighting - but beware of inferior products”
  • John Wyllie

    I am interested in changing our 12 V halogen down lights with LED lights we need to change 21 existing lights and may be put another 6 in.
    I have read your in formation on LED lights and certainly know a lot more than I did before.
    The halogen 12 V lights are rated at 460 looms I would cost on lights at similar light value.
    Would like a cost per light and an electrician that Could give me an estimation

  • Ken

    Hi Scott,

    I have reading this website for days now and have obtained fantastic information regarding installation of downlights. I am in the process of building and wanted to know exactly what provisions I need to have in place for installation of downlights after handover. Thanks to your site and 'Sparky google' I have understood a bit about the various globes plus surface sockets and conduits in the light switches. Are you able to direct me on exactly what I need to have and where? Thanks

    • Scott Pendlebury

      Thanks for the feedback Ken - we are passionate about our customers and followers getting properly informed before they make the investment in LED lights. It should be a permanent change and therefore it should be done properly. The preparation is really something to discuss with your electrician. For a new house I personally recommend that your electrician run the cable for the lights in the ceiling. They can then clamp on a Clipsal Quickconnect (code 413QC) socket plug for each light (see our blog on this) in a matter of minutes. Remember the LED downlight kits also have a circa 1 metre lead and plug, so there is usually no issue in generally positioning the cable for the lights. Light switches are really a decor decision for you, but if you want dimmers on your LED down lights I recommend Lumex LED dimmers - they are designed for LED rather than being "universal" and therefore they seem to give the best dimming range and cause no flicker (like some other dimmers can). They cost about $45 each. Let me know if that answers your questions. Renovator Store can arrange the installation for you - just click "Get it installed" on the LED light product page and fill out the form. A local independent electrician will then call you to discuss. And we currently offer $50 cash back and all installation work is guaranteed!

  • Darryn

    Hi Scott, I notice on the installation video that the sparky just feeds the plug, the transformer and wiring back into the roof cavity. My ceiling has wool type insulation. Is this not dangerous given the heat the lights emit?
    Or is this perfectly safe?

    • Scott Pendlebury

      Darryn - thanks for your question. It is very important to ensure the installation is safe. The manufacturer recommendation for LimeLight LED down lights is to leave a minimum distance of 25mm between the luminary fixture and the insulation material. This is very different to the typical halogen minimum distance of 250mm. This is because halogen light operate at up to 300 degrees, whilst quality LED down lights operate at up to about 40 degrees - one of the main benefits of an LED own light is the greatly reduced risk of fire danger. I have my light on for many hours and they are onlywarm to touch. I am not an electrician, but I see electricians regularly leave the flexi-cord and plug on top of the insulation. Also, I understand the main reason for the minimum distance between the light and the insulation is primarily to prolong the life of the LED chip rather than to protect against fire danger. LED cups need a large heat sink to keep them cool - a few degrees difference can support years of extra life (and that is why many small LED globes with small heat sinks only last a year or 2). Hope that helps! Email us at if you want more info and check out the down light installation instructions at

  • Aaron

    Hi Scott,

    I am very interested in the way of installing LED that you introduced. And I am thinking of installing new LED using that way in my new house.

    But the thing I also noticed was this type of LED seems to be not so popular on the market (at lease online), I have browsed several online shops, there are plenty of MR16 and GU10, but I didn't find many LED kits with the plug that you introduced (using Clispal quick connector).

    Even on your website, the option is still limited.

    That kind of limits my selection, I won't have many options to choose from.

    Could you please advise?

    Thank you!

    • Scott Pendlebury

      HI Aaron. If you are comparing LED Lights to LED globes, yes you will find that LED globes are more "popular". We do not really recommend LED globes for a house as they are not bright enough. LED technology needs a heat sink to dissipate the heat from the LED chip. When the heat sink can only be the size of a globe the LED chip cannot be very big, and therefore the light cannot be very bright. If you buy an MR16 LED globe then you have to plug it into a transformer and plugging into a transformer made for a 50W halogen light can cause performance problems over time. There is a glut of LED globes on the market being sold by "energy saving" companies. Most of our customers are people that have bought LED globes and are not happy so are upgrading to LED light kits with their own transformers. Talk to your electrician, and read my article on "The myth about LED globes" and "Switch to LED Lighting but beware of inferior products"

  • Harinder Singh Kalsi
    Harinder Singh Kalsi November 17, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Hi ! I have bought a 4 year old Simmonds house. Its all great except that it does not have downlights. I want to install Intergrated led diwnlights in existing ceiling.

    Please advise

    • Scott Pendlebury

      We have a huge range of LED downlights at . Go to the lighting section and see - The integrated LED lights are the way to go if you want quality light, performance, and for them to last 25 years plus. We offer free shipping Australia-wide if you sign up. If you need them installed we can do that too - just press the "Get it installed" button on the product page.

  • […] LED lights are all the buzz these days and there’s good reason for it. LED lighting provides a safer, cost efficient alternative to regular lighting set-ups and is designed to last for decades. Understanding LED lights and globes is important in the switch to LED. Scott from, introduces us to LED lights and globes with his expert tips. […]

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