Halogen to LED – First Step
The first step in changing over your halogens to LEDs, is understanding how your existing lighting system works.
Most halogen installations have either 12 volt MR16 lamps with a transformer tucked away in the ceiling, or straight 240V GU10 type lamps:
It’s a simple globe changeover if you have the GU10 lamp base. A 10 watt LED GU10 will produce similar amounts of usable light as a 50 watt halogen globe, along with all the additional benefits of LEDs.
Please see our range of 240V GU10 base LED downlights here.
Halogen to LED – Lamp Compatibility
If your existing lamps are MR16 type, then further considerations are necessary to achieve the halogen-to-LED conversion. MR16 halogen installations generally include transformers which convert 240V AC mains power to 12V AC.
12V DC or 12V AC/DC or 240V?
Certain LED downlights, and LED Strip lighting, are specified as 12V DC input. These LED lamps are not suitable for use with any existing halogen transformer and require a 12V DC transformer or 12V DC LED driver.
Fortunately, 12V MR16 LED downlight globes in the medium to high price range are supplied with electronics which convert the AC input to DC. These lights are labelled 12V AC/DC and will operate with certain halogen transformers such as iron core (magnetic ballast), and a small selection of electronic transformers.
Any MR16 LED downlight with 240V input should not be purchased for use in Australia. These will not work with any 12V transformer nor are they safe to use with the MR16 lamp base.
Please see our range of 12V MR16 base LED downlights here.
MR16 LED Compatibility with Halogen Transformers
The two common halogen transformers are the Iron Core / Magnetic (big and heavy) type, and the Electronic (light with plastic casing) type.
Iron Core transformers rarely have issues which prevent them from powering LED lamps correctly, and are used with leading edge dimmers.
Electronic transformers on the other hand, typically have a minimum lamp load rating for the transformer to operate.
Electronic transformers are often marked with the minimum load required, such as 20-60VA or 10-60VA. (VA means volt-amps, and volts x amps = watts, so in other words 20-60 watts).
This can cause problems for customers wanting to retrofit LED lamps because of the low power consumption of LEDs. There are no retrofit LED MR16 globes (which we have encountered) which use more than 12 watts of power to operate, so meeting the minimum load is impossible with just a single LED lamp.
Quality LED downlight manufacturers, such as Philips, Brightgreen and Indice Ecotech, have advanced technology which mimics the higher load of a halogen so the electronic transformer is tricked into enabling the LED downlight to operate correctly. This “virtual load” technology varies between LED lamp manufacturers and is often patented.
The following graphic (courtesy Philips) explains how modern LEDs are designed to allow operation with existing electronic transformers:
20 watt Halogen meets the minimum load requirement.
No flickering or restarting occurs.
12V LED downlight without “intelligent” circuitry
Will not work properly, or at all.
Philips LED MR16 lamps with “intelligent” circuitry
Will work using any electronic transformer.
Similarly, the Brightgreen DR700 has a virtual load power control system which draws current from the transformer during the entire sinusoidal cycle of the 50/60Hz voltage supply. This allows the electronic transformer to sense that the minimum load requirement is met, so it supplies the correct voltage to the globe.
It is our firm belief that if you want to retrofit your halogen lighting system with LED downlights, it’s wiser to use a reputable manufacturer’s led light which includes smarter electronics, rather than risk the chance of premature failure.
Please don’t hesitate to call us on 1300 565 337 to discuss your application.