LED lighting – an introduction

LED lighting is the most energy efficient form of lighting around today. An LED, or ‘Light Emitting Diode’, uses the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material to create light. Most LED lighting combines a high-brightness blue LED with a yellow phosphor, which acts like a filter to create white light.

LED Lighting: From concept to creation

The blending of blue and yellow light to create white light was first noticed by Sir Isaac Newton in the early 1700s. Almost 300 years later, the 1990s invention of the blue LED by Shuji Nakamura unlocked the possibility of white LED lighting, which has become one of the greatest technologies of the early 21st century.

Benefits of LED

  • LED bulbs and luminaires have exceptionally long lifespans, with manufacturers quoting up to 30,000 to 75,000 hours. By comparison, CFLs and fluorescent tubes are typically rated at about 6,000 to 15,000 hours and halogen lamps at 2,000 hours.
  • LED light bulbs radiate minimal IR or UV light, either of which can damage artworks and other display items by heat damage and fading.
  • An LED lamp is always vastly more energy efficient than any incandescent or halogen equivalent, and usually more energy-efficient than fluorescent.
  • LED lights are particularly resistant to damage by shock or vibration. This is not true of incandescent or fluorescent light sources.
  • LEDs are small, which allows great design freedom for lighting designers, and makes it easy to produce retrofitting lamps.
  • Being relatively cool-running, LEDs do not raise room temperatures and create a need for air-conditioning to be utilised (cooling rooms generally costs more than heating them).
  • LED bulbs offer the user a choice of colour temperature (warm white, white, cool white), meaning you can tailor your lighting for a particular application.

Identifying the right LED bulbs

Many people new to LED lighting will be converting from halogen or incandescent and wondering what to look for when replacing their existing lamps. Lyco usually quote an equivalent in terms of wattage (halogen for spotlights, incandescent for general lighting). For example, 5W=50W might refer to a 5W LED GU10 spotlight with the light output of a 50W halogen equivalent.

Buying LED – FAQs

Is LED bright enough?

Already LED lighting is used in car headlamps and street lighting. It is suitable for many applications where inefficient lighting has previously been the only option, and its versatility will only increase as lumens-per-watt performance goes up.

Are LED lights dimmable?

Many are, though you should take care to pair them with a high quality LED-compatible dimmer switch.

How is LED lifespan measured?

Because LED lifespan is so long, it is calculated using limited data from a large sample selection. The end of an LED’s life is widely accepted as the point of 70% lumen maintenance (when it has lost 30% of its original output), though the benchmark used varies between manufacturers and is not always quoted.

How good is LED colour?

LED bulbs have a minimum CRI 80 rating for colour rendering, which is a good quality for most purposes. Historically, the discontinuous spectrum of LED made it less dependable for colour-critical applications than an incandescent light source but that is a thing of the past. Already there are CRI 90+ products on the market and LEDs are expected to improve further in the very near future.

Benchmark LED products

Its always handy to know what are the best or most popular products are when looking to buy. With this in mind we provide a regularly updated list of the most popular LED light fittings. Being constantly maintained, these articles should always prove to be a great source of reference.


Why not browse our extensive LED range including LED bulbs and fittings?

Want to know more about lighting or looking for inspiration? Try our Lighting Advice section.

Charles Barnett Managing Director

Charles started Lyco in 1995 with just 4 enthusiastic employees and has grown it considerably over the past 25 years. Charles is also the Managing Director of Lighting Direct and newly acquired Online Lighting. He now has a team of 50 lighting experts working on growing Lyco Group to be the UK leader in lighting for both businesses and homes. Away from the office he is a keen cyclist and is proud to have cycled 1017 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise money for a new residential centre for adults with multiple learning difficulties.

Fire-rated downlights – safety first!

Fire-rated downlights are designed to preserve the integrity of a ceiling in the event of a fire. They have a metal can at the rear containing intumescent materials, which expand under extreme heat to form a seal within the light housing. This stops flames taking hold of vulnerable ceiling cut-outs and delays a floor collapse, providing crucial evacuation time for upstairs occupants.

Compliance required

Of uppermost concern when buying fire-rated downlights is compliance with Part B Fire Safety Regulations (England and Wales). Tables A1 and A2 in Approved Document B (volumes 1 and 2) provide easy reference to specific requirements, available online.

Aside from Part B requirements, recessed downlights should comply with Part C (air flow), Part E (acoustics), Part L (energy efficiency), and Part P (domestic electrical safety) Building Regulations. All of Lyco’s downlights fully comply or aid compliance with these regulations.

Fire-rated fittings

To comply with Part B Building Regulations, recessed ceiling lights are often tested for their level of fire protection, and may be fire rated for 30, 60, 90, or even 120 minutes.

Most 2 or 3-storey houses have a minimum 30 minute fire-rated ceiling requirement, whilst a higher four-storey house typically has a 60-minute rating. A taller residential building whose top floor stands between 18m and 30m high will require 90-minute ceiling protection, whilst anything above that needs 120 minutes.

These same figures are broadly applicable to commercial or industrial buildings, with some concession given for ceilings fitted with sprinklers. Non-fire-rated downlights can be installed into domestic ceilings below a roof void. Otherwise they must be used with an intumescent fire hood, and can easily end up costing more than fire-rated fittings with this extra expense.

For affordability, Lyco sell a range of Robus fixed downlights using a standard halogen GU10 bulb. Available in White or Satin Chrome finishes, these fire-rated downlights offer an economical means of improving fire safety in any building. Halogen GU10 bulbs are notable for dissipating much of their heat through the front of the lamp, using an aluminium reflector design.

Halogen downlights for bathrooms

One of the great advantages of halogen technology is its sheer quality of light, which is only hinted at by a default maximum CRI 100 score. Halogen light is well-suited to bathrooms, where its warm hue is flattering to skin tones, and excellent colour rendering helps in tasks such as make-up application.

With an IP65 rating, the halogen-lit Eon Directional Downlight can be positioned in zones 1, 2, and ‘outside zones’ of a bathroom. It is completely protected against dust and jets of water, despite an adjustable light head. This fitting is fire-rated at 90 minutes, and available in White, Polished Chrome and Satin Chrome finishes.

The LED advantage

In commercial or retail environments, the LED downlight is fast becoming king. It uses up to 90% less energy than halogen lighting, and with a phenomenal lifespan (the Fireguard range offers up to 75,000 hours) it also saves substantially in maintenance costs. This is especially significant in difficult-to-reach recessed lights.

One of the very best manufacturers of fire-rated LED downlights is JCC, with its diverse Fireguard LED3 and LED7 ranges. These fittings are mostly waterproof, hugely energy-efficient and come in both dimmable and non-dimmable options. They use 3 or 6-LED arrays with equivalent outputs to 35W or 50W halogen downlights, respectively. A choice of cool or warm colour temperatures is another LED advantage over filament lights.

The JCC Fireguard LED3 models have a particularly modest depth, making them ideal for shallow ceiling voids. At the high end of the scale, one of the primary advantages of a Fireguard LED6 model is its amazing 75,000 hour lifespan. The quality of all Fireguard products is backed by a generous manufacturer’s guarantee.

Fire-Rated Downlights – which should I choose?

Buy halogen for its superb quality of light and up-front affordability. Choose LED for its incredible energy-efficiency and longevity. If you’re buying fire-rated downlights, Lyco has a solution to precisely meet your needs. Why not take a look at our full range of fire-rated downlights today?

Looking for more news, information or inspiration? Try our Lighting Advice section.


Andrew Evangelidis Head of Buying

Andrew is an experienced buying professional who takes an entrepreneurial approach to identify new lighting solutions and ensure Lyco have first-to-market ranges for our customers. Having previously worked for well known brands such as Wickes, Carphone Warehouse and Toys R Us, Andrew has now turned his hand to sourcing commercial lighting and ensure our customers receive top brand quality products at marketing leading prices. He manages a team of commercial and decorative buyers who travel the world finding new products that our customers don’t even know they need yet.