How to use LED lights

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  • Sally Storey, Design Director of John Cullen Lighting, explains how to create effective lighting schemes using LEDs

    Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are more environmentally-friendly than standard halogen bulbs,  providing more light per watt than a halogen source. But are reports that LEDs are expensive to run, prone to overheating and give a harsh light lacking in atmosphere true? Our expert Sally Storey answers these probing questions:

    Where would you use LEDs?

    ‘LEDs are particularly good as low-level stair wash lights, uplights and shelf lighting. I wouldn’t use them for ceiling lights, as the colour of the light is not yet quite as good as low-voltage halogen lights, nor do LEDs go yellow and appear warmer when dimmed.’

    Can LEDs be used to light a whole house? 

    ‘Not yet. The quality of light is still a bit flat, so at this stage a combination of sources LED and halogen light bulbs achieves the best effect.’

    How easily are they installed? 

    ‘LEDs can be installed easily, as they are smaller than and get less hot than a halogen source. They need a driver to power them, just as a low-voltage light requires a transformer.’

    Is it true that LED Lighting can sometimes overheat?

    ‘In terms of surface temperature, the LED itself remains cool at all times but because the heat travels backwards, there should be an adequate heat ‘sink’ built into the fixture to ensure the light lasts a long time, and all good manufacturers will provide this. As with any lighting, always consult a qualified electrician when it comes to installation.’

    How do I combine built-in lighting with traditional forms of decorative lighting?

    Chandeliers, wall lights and table lamps are great sources of ambient or general light, and they set the mood. Then, built-in lighting adds magic: a recessed LED can uplight the fireplace surround, or a bookcase can have a continuous LED contour lighting strip to highlight each shelf.’

    How much do I need to spend?

    ‘That depends on your project. To transform a dining room, two recessed uplights to light your fireplace, a narrow beam Polestar downlight to highlight the centre of the table, plus two lights in a niche and one to light a picture could cost around £610.’


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