Guide to Buying LED Downlights

LED downlights are an increasingly popular way to illuminate homes, businesses, hotel lobbies and more. Beyond their versatile appearances, they are also more energy efficient, meaning they can also save you plenty of money on your electric bill. Below, we will explore numerous available options for LED ceiling downlights and also answer some common questions concerning them.

What Different Types of LED Downlights Can You Buy?

There are many different styles of LED downlight fittings:

Fixed IP20 Downlights  

The most popular basic type of downlights is fixed LED downlighters. As the name suggests, these lights shine illumination straight down and tend to be smaller in size. They are well suited for use in kitchens and bedrooms.

Waterproof Bathroom Downlights 

Because of the wet environment of a bathroom, downlights in this space need a waterproof IP65 rating. These lights come fitted with a dust- and water-resistant seal to keep out debris both wet and dry. These are also sometimes used as kitchen downlights as kitchens can be humid and moist at times.

Adjustable LED Downlights 

This type of downlight lets you direct the beam of light into a direction that isn’t just straight down. These are good for those who want to shine a light on a certain painting or object or illuminate items like cupboards to improve the functionality of the space. They are also perfect for use on sloped ceilings as a downlight and can offset the degree of slope to allow the beam of light to shine straight down onto working surfaces.

Adjustable IP65 Downlights 

These lights combine the protective benefits of IP65 waterproof downlights with the convenience and aesthetic appeal of adjustable downlights.

Outdoor Downlights 

Outdoor downlights are also rated for water resistance to some degree to keep them protected from exposure to the elements. This type of downlight is often seen under soffits or porches. Most commonly, they come in the form of recessed LED downlights.

Square Downlights 

If you want a recessed downlight that has extra modern appeal, square downlights are a fine option. They have stronger lines and angles and therefore add a crisper, more contemporary appearance.

LED Spotlights 

A spotlight is simply a surface mounted light that contains one or more bulbs. These usually have LED bulbs that are fully integrated and shine direct, bright beams of light in certain directions. Often, they are used to illuminate certain features in a room or to shine a light on objects in a retail environment.

Twin and Triple Downlights 

Twin downlights make good ceiling downlights for those trying to save space. Because there are two bulbs in one fixture, they take up less room while shining the same amount of light as other LED downlights. Triple downlights function similarly but have three bulbs instead of two, making them even more broad reaching. Often, twin and triple LED downlight fittings have adjustable heads, so you can decide at which angle each of the lights shines.

LDC926 5 Watt White Gimbal Recessed LED Downlight

LDC926A 9 watt LED downlight

LED Downlight Beam Angles Explained

Every light has a beam angle, which is the angle at which the illumination shines and is distributed. Typically, downlight fixtures will have a beam angle between 30 and 40 degrees, which makes it easy to direct a beam of light in one specific area. There are wider beams that spread the light out over a larger area. Both sizes of beam angles shine the same number of lumens but fan out differently.

Different lights work better with different beam angles:

– 15 Degrees. A 15 degree beam angle is usually found in accent lighting. This angle is good for shining illumination on pottery, artwork, souvenirs and plants since it is a narrow beam that offers the most concentrated light. This provides intense, focused lighting that can enhance the mood of the space.

– 25 Degrees. The narrow beam of as 25 degree angle also generates rather intense illumination. It is particularly good for illuminating smaller details in the room and placing emphasis on them. You will usually see 25 degree angle beams used in kitchens and rooms with high ceilings. 

– 36 degrees. Downlights that have a 36 degree beam angle are perfect for rooms in the home and office. This is especially true if you want to spread lighting out without it taking up the entirety of a section of the room.

– 60 degrees. Perfect for larger spaces, a 60 degree beam angle covers a larger area of space and spreads it out further, making it perfect for diffusing soft lighting. For this reason, it is commonly used in living rooms as flood lighting.

– 120 degrees. If you are concerned about low energy downlights or otherwise only want to incorporate a few lights into a space, choosing such a wide beam angle will help you towards that end. This beam angle shines light across the largest area of space and therefore reduces the number of downlight fixtures you need to illuminate a space.

Should LED Downlights Have Firehoods?

A potential fire risk is created each time a hole is cut into a ceiling in order to install a recessed downlight. A plasterboard ceiling serves as a natural fire barrier, and sometimes other kinds of ceilings will be fire rated, but this is not always the case. In areas where the downlight poses a fire risk, fire hoods are sometimes necessary. The purpose of a fire hood is to slow down or altogether stop the fire from getting past it.

Because LED lights give off little to no heat, they do not pose the same fire risk as other types of lighting. If your LED lights have been specifically fire rated, the risk of combustion lessens even more. It is difficult to tell one hundred percent one way or the other whether you should be using a fire hood if you are not a professional electrician.

For this reason, it is best to consult with an electrician whether one is needed on a case-by-case basis. Electricians will also know building codes in a way you are not likely to, so they can be sure your house or flat is up to code.

CSL022 5 Watt Round Recessed LED Downlighters

CSL022 5 watt recessed spot light downlights

How Many LED Downlighters Do I Need?

Deciding how many downlights you might need in your space requires a bit of planning to figure out. If you plan out where you want the lights to go and sketch up a little blueprint, you can get a better visual of where the lights will sit and ultimately illuminate. As you plan a project, ask yourself the following questions to determine how many lights you should add:

What Focal Point Do You Want?

Downlights can be used to call attention to certain areas of the room or objects in the room as well as provide general ambient lighting. Figure out which areas of the room you want to have more light shining on and work from there. You can position these important lights where they need to go first and then position the remaining lights elsewhere.

What Kind of Room Do You Plan To Illuminate?

Not every room has to be lit up to the same lux levels. Lux is determined by lumens per square meter; living rooms and bathrooms tend to need only 150 lux, while kitchens usually require up to 300 lux. Check the lumen outputs in the lights you’re interested in adding to the room to figure out how many are needed to reach that amount.

Which Beam Angle Will You Use?

Choosing a wider beam angle will shine more illumination over a larger space, so you can include fewer lights. Smaller, more intense beam angles will require more light fixtures to properly illuminate the space.

How Can You Spread the Lights Evenly?

It is important to make sure your space looks uniform. When planning out the placement of downlights, think about the symmetry and how evenly spread out the downlights are. This, paired with the lux metric, can be especially beneficial when determining how many downlights you need to install.

What Does “Lumens” Mean?

Whereas traditional bulbs had their brightness measured in watts, LED bulbs instead use lumens to do the same. Lumens are a more accurate way to measure just how bright a light really is in a way that old lights could not. This is because wattage instead measured the power input of the light instead of the level of illumination that it outputs.

Lumens measure the amount of light that shines from any given bulb that is visible to the human eye. The more lumens a light bulb has, the brighter it will be. You can expect a conventional light bulb at home to put out anywhere between 300 and 1,000 lumens depending on the type of light it is.

To get an idea of how wattage relates to lumens, consider the following:

– A 40-watt bulb outputs the same amount of light as 450 lumens.

– A 60-watt bulb outputs the same amount of light as 800 lumens.

– A 75-watt bulb outputs the same amount of light as 1100 lumens.

– A 100-watt bulb outputs the same amount of light as 1600 lumens.

LDC201 12 Watt Ultra Slim Recessed Downlight

LDC201 12 watt ultra slim recessed ceiling LED downlight

Can You Put Loft Insulation Over Recessed LED Downlights?

Even though LED lights emit much less heat than standard bulbs, there is still enough heat emitted that you should be keeping the LED bulbs away from the insulation. This helps reduce the risk of starting a fire. This can leave you with a big problem, especially in terms of insulation and keeping valuable heat locked inside.

Many wonder if it is even possible to add insulation in the ceilings above their lights, especially because in order to remain in compliance with Part L (Energy Efficiency), you should not cut around any thermal insulation. This will reduce the energy efficiency of the insulation and cause heat to escape. Since a downlight typically draws the warm air from the room into the ceiling, anywhere that contains a loft would especially suffer.

Adding loft insulation over a downlight was once out of the question, but since loft covers are now in use, you can use them to safely and efficiently keep the area above the lights insulated. The covers can fit over any light fixture. To install it, you just go into the attic, clean the ceiling surface around where you plan to place the fixture and create a slit in the cover for accommodating the electric cable. Then, all you have to do is put the sealant around the cable and the border of the cover to secure it in place.

Which Downlights Can You Use in the Bathroom and Outdoors?

Outdoor downlights and bathroom downlights have something in common: they are both frequently exposed to moisture to some degree. In order to ensure the moisture doesn’t damage the light, you will need to purchase lights that have a proper IP rating.

IP rating, or an Ingress Progression rating, is a way to tell how well the lights hold up against both wet and solid debris. Each LED light, both for indoor and outdoor use, comes with an IP rating. These ratings indicate how well they hold up in various settings. The first number in an IP rating indicates its resistance to solid matter. The second number will indicate the protection it has against moisture.

IP65 rated downlights are necessary outdoors and in some areas of the bathroom. This waterproof rating ensures there is a seal around the lights to prevent water from getting inside, whether from rain or faucets. There are different zones in the bathroom to consider when planning downlights for the space:

  • ZONE 0. This zone is the area inside of a bath or shower. Here, lights need to be rated a minimum of IP67 to ensure that no water or moisture seeps in.
  • ZONE 1. This area is just above the shower or bath at a height of 2.25 meters from the ground up. Lights here need to be rated IP45, but most commonly, IP65 is used.
  • ZONE 2. This encapsulates the area extending 60 centimeters from the shower, bath and sink, as high as 2.25 meters from the floor. They need a rating of at least IP44.
  • ZONE 3. This final zone is anywhere outside of the aforementioned zones. It is best to have a minimum IP44 rating just to be safe.

Lighting zones for a bathroom


LED lights are leading the charge for the illumination of commercial and domestic spaces alike. Besides their famous energy efficiency, they also bring other benefits such as colour diversity, beam angles and safety measures. This article explored the different types of LED ceiling downlights and answered a few common questions surrounding them.

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