The lighting world is a funny place
Big is back and feature pendants are still very much the rage, with consumers wanting to replicate or take inspiration from the impressive designer fit-outs they encounter on the telly, or in fashionable bars and restaurants.
Show it off
A stunning pendant can act as both a focal point and conversation piece in any space. We have all manner of wonderful suspended lights at About Space – cool, distressed industrial things; curvy, organic wooden shades; striking modern designs. From extravagance to minimalism and everything in between.
I’ve put a few to good use myself over the years, none more so than a huge, louvred aluminium pendant that hung low from a very high ceiling over the dining table. It’s no exaggeration to say that it took up half the room. People would literally stand still and gaze in awe – it’s all anybody ever noticed when they walked in. So yes, a good pendant can truly make a room. I mean, have you ever been complimented on your choice of downlights? I thought as much.
A subtle addition
But that said, downlights still have a very important role to play in the lighting of a modern home. On the surface they may not be as exciting as a feature pendant, but they’re the lights that most of us readily encounter in our everyday lives. Whether they’re in a task-area or being used to accent the beauty of your space, never underestimate the importance of the humble downlight.
There’s another major reason for the sustained interest in downlights, of course. They are the ideal vehicle with which to experience the ever-expanding world of LED technology.
The benefits of LED
LED lighting is a huge thing right now, and everybody wants to know about it. And for good reason: you really can save yourself some money on your power bills, plus there’s a feel-good environmental component thrown in to boot.
Since the introduction of the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with door-knockers, online banner ads or flyers in your letterbox from companies offering to replace all of your old halogen downlights with LED fittings for free.
But do yourself a favour and heed the lessons learnt from the Home Insulation Program debacle. Research these companies thoroughly before you let them through your door. You’ll be amazed at how many claim to be “experienced” yet have sprung up only in the last year or two solely to cash in on the VEET scheme. And ask yourself: would a reputable lighting company ever name itself The Eco Green Energy LED Save Ca$h Today Company Inc and offer nothing but generic, non-dimmable halogen downlight replacements?
While I’d personally advise against it, if you really must go down the VEET road, do at least check the register at veet.vic.gov.au to ensure that the company you’re dealing with is in fact accredited with the government to undertake this service. Demand certification that the products they’re planning to install meet the relevant Australian standards, because you really don’t want your house catching on fire. And don’t be afraid to get technical: ask if the lamps are SAA-approved and IES LM-79 and LM-80 compliant. You’ll want them to be.
Most well-established Australian lighting companies – your household names like Beacon, architectural designers like Coolon or boutique stores such as About Space do not partake in this scheme. There are many reasons for this, but it mostly comes down to that old chestnut of quality and safety versus cost.
Getting it done right
Lighting professionals realise that there’s a certain standard of quality in a product that you should expect and refuse to sink below if you want to uphold your reputation. And this isn’t just from a legal standpoint – I mean, what use are free lamps if they’re going to mysteriously stop working within two weeks (and I’ve heard of this happening many times)? The quality of the engineering and of the light beam itself in terms of colour and scope is something that comes on a sliding price scale. This is not to say that all good lighting has to be expensive, but there is a minimum acceptable level of manufacturing prowess that isn’t easy to achieve with what the government is prepared to compensate suppliers per unit.
In addition, if you truly want the job done properly, retrofitting your existing downlight units with halogen-replacement LED lamps may not be the best way to go anyway. Choosing a dedicated LED-native fitting with on-board chips can prove to be more efficient because the Lighting Specifications and transformer have been properly paired to work together. They are more versatile, with features such as adjustable beam angles to control the spread of light. Dimmable units are also more readily available in this format, whereas many cheap retrofit lamps don’t respond well (or at all) to a dimmer or an existing transformer.
The final obvious reason is a cosmetic one. Whether flat or recessed, new LED downlights can look pretty, even when they’re switched off – certainly more slick than a retrofit lamp jammed into an old fitting.
There’s a lot of choice out there, of course, so educate yourself and explore what’s on offer. At About Space, we have everything from accolade-laden, Australian-designed Brightgreen LED products to our great little entry-level Ledon series. Our most popular downlight, however, is the excellent-value Evo 50. These have very reliable on-board Citizen chips, fulfil every required Australian standard and are available with a variety of flat, recessed or adjustable rims. They look really slick and punch well above their price point for the quality and features you get.
Most importantly, wherever you get your lighting from, always ensure that you use a qualified electrician to undertake all installation work. And not just for the sake of the law or the requirements of your insurance company. Your very life depends upon it. Be safe – be happy!
Drop into About Space’s Fitzroy or Alexandria showroom or give our friendly staff a call to find out more about LED lighting and which downlights might best suit your needs and budget.We are located at 175 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 – tel (03) 9417 4635 and 410 Botany Road, Alexandria, NSW 2015 – tel (02) 9318 0193.