10 Quick & Easy Steps to Choosing the Best LED Downlight

What makes a good downlight from a bad one? Which one do you need and how do you know what to look for? There are so many choices to consider we have simplified the process of specification for quick results.

Table of Contents

How to Choose Downlighters

So if you are in hurry to choose a downlighter, follow these 10 key steps of advice for a great LED downlight choice tailored to your needs.

Recommended: The Best LED Downlights: Buying Guide & Reviews

1. Choose an LED Colour Temperature to Suit Your Room

Residential home lighting will generally need to be warm and inviting, so opt for the color temperature of 2700K which is described as warm white.

However, 3000K is also classed as a warm white that creates with a whiter tone of light. 3000K is a good choice for bathrooms, utility rooms and for some kitchens.

2. Choose a Color Rendering of at Least 90+ CRI

The quality of LED light is measured in a variety of ways but still classified by the CRI or Color Rendering Index in most cases. The higher the score of CRI the truer the representation of color your room will have.

Use LED light sources that have a score of at least 80 CRI and if the budget can afford it head for 95 CRI in an LED lamp or dedicated LED downlight.

3. Choose a Downlight with Long Lifespan Guarantee

LED as a source of light is manufactured to differing qualities according to target price and market. Be aware that the budget end of LED will work (drive) a lower quality LED chip harder to increase the stated output but it will be at the expense of it’s expected lifetime. 

Look for LED lamps for downlighters that have a minimum guarantee of 3 years of ‘normal’ use or at least 30,000 hours. 

High quality LED downlights will have a guarantee of minimum 5 years or 50,000 hours.

4. Choose the Trim Style 

The downlight trim is about the only part seen within the room once installed, it’s the part that fits flush to the ceiling. So choose a downlight with a minimally sized trim (or sometimes called a bezel)  thickness, diameter and color.

For a seamless integration of downlighter’s into a ceiling, choose a trimless downlight where there is no trim by plastering the downlighter into the ceiling revealing only the hole for the light to emit from.

5. Choose an Anti-Glare Downlight 

Glare is unavoidable if an eye looks directly into a light source, so the deeper the LED source is within a downlighter, the greater the comfort for the users of the room they are in.

Budget choices of LED lamp and downlighter move the LED source to the front to maximise the distribution of a weaker LED at the expense of more glare. 

Choose a baffled downlighter that positions the LED source deeper within the fitting for less glare. 

6. Choose the Light Output by Lumens Not Wattage

The amount of light created from an LED source cannot be measured by the wattage as light bulbs used to be. Instead look for the measurement of LUMEN (lm) as this quantifies what the expected light output of the downlight should be. 

Choose an LED lamp for a downlight or dedicated LED downlighter with at least 500lm output for normal use.

7. Choose the Light Beam Angle

The spread of light leaving a downlighter is measured by the beam angle

A budget LED lamp or downlight will be made with a single choice of medium width beam angle, usually around 30° to 40°. However, be aware that there are many choices of beam angle available from lamps and downlights so you can choose a more sophisticated approach to your lighting design.

8. Choose if the Downlight Will Need Dimming?

Dimming is the process of reducing the output from a light source to reduce the level of light in a room at your control.

To dim a room the LED downlighters or lamps will need to be dimmable, so be aware that not all of them are. Some are made to be switched on and off only.

A dimmable LED Downlight will need to be chosen to be compatible with the switch dimming it.

9. Do You Need Fire-rated Downlights?

A fire rating is required for a downlighter where the cut out through the ceiling it fits in compromises the integrity of a fire compartment. Choose a fire rated downlighter if there is any possibility that this may occur.

10. Do You Need a Downlight for a Wet Area?

Water and electricity should never mix. A downlighter installed in a room that has a higher humidity or degree of exposure to water will need to suit the locations regulations. 

Choose the appropriate level of wet rated downlighter to protect against the ingress of water into the product and meet building codes.

Andrew Orange , the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.