Saturday, 11 May 2013

Choosing LED bulbs for restaurants and hotels

We think the main critera are:

How long will it last?

When replacing small spotlights such as 50W GU10/MR16 we suggest using LED bulbs of 4 or 5Watts because LEDs create heat, yet hate running hot, so a higher power bulb (eg 9Watts) can't shed enough heat to give a long life.
Replacing standard round '60-watt light-bulbs' (called GLS bulbs) we find 7Watts is enough but suggeest using LEDs up to 10Watts but only if the heatsink is large and well-finned (surface-area is all-important).

Will it fit?
Some spotlight fittings have tight shapes, so it's vital to test-fit one sample to make sure it will fit.
Also bear in mind that if the bulb fits into the light-fitting with no air-gap, the heatsink won't remove as much heat into the air, so the LEDs will be hotter while running - that means you might reduce the life-expectancy or decide to use LEDs of a lower power in Watts.

Will it be bright enough?
We find our 5Watt spotlights are enough to match the ground-level light of most mains GU10 bulbs.
LED spotlights were quite inefficient when using just one LED that needed a lot of electrical power. Moving to three or four LEDs per bulb worked well as it allowed carefully designed optical lenses to be fitted, and we sell a lot of these due to the quality of the light-beam.
LED-bulb brightness/efficiency has taken a new leap now it's possible to fit arrays of many LEDs into a small space. Each tiny LED needs to be driven less hard and gives more light per unit of power.
Our 7Watt 'standard light-bulb' shaped LED-bulbs are a match for 11Watt CFL bulbs or 60Watt standard 'incandescent' tungsten bulbs.
Look for quoted 'lumens' but also test the light and look at the beam and colour, as there are many different qualities and beams given by LEDs so the wattage alone doesn't tell you how bright it will be.

Will the beam be wide enough to cover tables and avoid patchy-lighting?

We have tested many lenses over the years and only found a few that are wide enough yest still bright enough to make a diference. Many cheap LED bulbs with inefficient LEDs fake brightness by producing a very narrow beam.  If a cheap LED bulb can only illuminate a table 2ft wide, but another bulb illuminates a table 4ft wide, and each registers the same brightenss on that table, the bulb with the wider beam would be producing several times as much light!
Inevitbly if you bought the first type of bulb becuase singly they're cheaper, you would probably have to fit three or four times as many of them to cover the restaurant or bar.

Will the beam-colour enhance our ambience?
Choose whether you want to create a fresh modern, clean-and-classic, or antique ambiance. We can create bulbs for you which give a beam in colours including very-warm, standard warm, neutral (and even cool-daylight but we don't recommend this very often).
Always test a sample in-situ.

How much to pay?The price of LEDs has fallen gradually but as new versions are developed that give more light for less energy there is now a wide choice - for example you can pay anything from £1 to £30 for a dicroic-style 50mm LED spotlight. While some of the price-variation is just profiteering by a few 'brands' a lighting specialist can look at your lighting needs and recommend LED lighting at a price-level that will give you the performance and lighting-effect you need.

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These are just my tips based on experience as a lighting enthusiast surveying sites and speccing energy-saving lighting in hundreds of buildings over ten years, and I know other people will have had different experiences (maybe different products and technologies too) so please feel free to share your own experiences here.