The transition from incandescent and halogen to LED is happening, especially for current commercial projects. The energy use reduction is a big plus, and as LEDs become more and more sophisticated it’s time to start really paying attention to dimming and color rendering capabilities which have been previously reserved for incandescent and halogen. We've seen a lot of improvements in recent years that have boosted LED performance and came up with a few rules of thumb when making the switch to LED.
- With LED lamp replacements, you need to be cautious of the dimming compatibility. You may already know from experience at home, but not all LED replacement lamps can be dimmed on traditional incandescent dimmers. A lot more pendants are coming out with integral LED equivalents, but if it’s just a regular medium base lamp, finding the right replacement lamp is something to be on the lookout for if it's going to be on a dimmer.
- Even in fixtures with built-in LEDs, minimum dimming levels are very important to look out for. A lot of drivers and dimmers can only dim down to 10%, which is fine for a lot of commercial projects, but for residential and hospitality and other projects where dimming is critical, we would suggest that all the dimming fixtures need to be specified to dim to 1% at the very least. The best options are dim to dark or 0.1%. If you can, seeing a demonstration of the different dimming levels between 10%, 1%, and 0.1% is pretty eye opening on the importance of those numbers, even if the difference seems small.
- Speaking of dimming, more manufacturer’s are producing warm-dimming LED A-lamp replacements in an effort to mimic the traditional incandescent dim. Since this is relatively new, there are a lot of different options out there and some are certainly better than others. However, the Philips lamps that you can buy at Home Depot are actually pretty good options for that. For other built-in warm dimming fixtures, we would recommend samples and performance testing before committing since they can vary wildly in performance. But hopefully, by 2020 this technology will become more consistent!
- Another fun thing that companies have starting making are the LED filament-style lamps. When they are off, it’s definitely obvious that they are not the same, but when they are on, we think they can look pretty convincing! These would also be good to sample before committing, their dimming capabilities vary, but the options are out there.
- Color-rendering is another important consideration for LED accent/display lights. A word of caution, CRI is a good general indicator of color accuracy, but can sometimes be a misleading number. It’s based on an average of 14 or so colors, so sometimes that can mean good color rendering for specific colors but not all. To help facilitate more useful CRI numbers, some companies will also publish their R9 number, which is specific to the color Red. Those lamps with good R9 values produce more vivid and appealing colors. There is a lot of info out there if you want to dive deeper, here are just a couple:
- For MR-16 replacements, we often use SORAA lamps. These are high quality LED lamps with good performance and a lot of track/MR-16 manufacturers now show SORAA on their cutsheets as a compatible lamp to purchase with their track heads. They also utilize magnetic accessories so that it is easy to add lenses and filters in the field.
There’s just so much going on right now in the world of LEDs. We want to really emphasize the importance of seeing these new LED fixtures in person. There are a lot of companies out there doing great, cool, new things, but there are also a lot that are releasing products with limited capabilities, and distinguishing between the two can mean success on a lighting project. If you have more specific questions for us regarding lighting, don't hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org