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January 2018

LED recessed downlights: too much of a good thing?

Written by David Nathaniel, CEO at STANDARD. Original posted on LinkedIn

There are typically many benefits associated with technology advances. This is certainly the case for LED lighting — and now LED recessed downlights — because the compactness of the light source gives luminaire designers tremendous possibilities.

Low Profile Downlight

Picture a revolutionary LED recessed downlight. It is very thin and quick to install. It is so thin that you can install it even if the ceiling stud is in the way! Users who have concrete ceilings can build a drop ceiling that will accommodate these fixtures without losing much height. Installation is very fast as these fixtures do not require pre-installed housing. Thus, they mitigate the complexities associated with vapour barriers, smash plates, etc. These recessed downlights are great for new construction or remodelling: punch out a lot of light, take very little power, have a long life rating, and don’t cost much.

Awesome, great, amazing… Right? You got it! Of course, right!

So right, in fact, that in a couple of years, this thin little downlight has taken over the market. It has become the contractor’s choice and has almost completely displaced the traditional housing / trim / lamp recessed downlight system that had previously been the mainstay of the industry.

All good… Right? Well… Maybe too good!

Why would that be too good, you ask? Well, it might be that, on the road to progress, we have lost many features of the traditional recessed downlight. By championing this LED recessed downlight fixture to the extent that we have, we have sacrificed the ability to provide a concentrated high CRI light with multiple trim, beam and aiming options. Instead, we have promoted a universal looking trim that spreads a very wide beam and produces a lot of glare.

Why? Why would we do that? Is it because it’s cheap, easy, and effective? What about light quality? What about the creativity of the look and design?

As business and lighting professionals, whether manufacturer, distributor or contractor, it is our responsibility to introduce and promote innovations that provide a tailored solution for the given application. Manufacturers made tremendous investments to introduce LED downlights that offer this exact versatility. Not only do they offer the benefits and trim styles of traditional halogen recessed fixtures, but they have also become more compact, easier to install, and are available in multiple colour temperatures.

umeina downlights format

As an industry, we need to stop taking the easiest way. There is no question that there are applications for these thin LED recessed downlights that make sense. Yet, certainly not to the extent that they have been used. We need to start promoting products that make places, people, and goods look better. They may cost more and take some work to promote, but the value to the end user is absolutely there. Let’s make the effort, it is in everyone’s best interest to do so!

Comparing Downlights