Choosing energy efficient recessed downlights

If you have recessed downlights that require a safety gap, it's worth upgrading to modern LED downlights that can be insulated over and cost less to run. Most recessed downlights installed before mid-2012 allow draughts through the hole in the ceiling and require safety gaps in the ceiling insulation, reducing its ability to hold in the heat. In addition, their incandescent or halogen bulbs are inefficient, resulting in high running costs.

  • Replace the whole downlight fitting, not just the bulb. Simply replacing the bulb with an LED or CFL-bulb is not a good idea. LEDs and CFLs shouldn't be used in closed fittings as they need good ventilation to ensure their long life. If they get too hot, they are likely to fail early. Also, you would still have draughts and need the safety gaps in your insulation, resulting in heat loss in winter. Instead, replace the whole downlight with a modern LED downlight where the bulb is fixed to the fitting and can’t be changed like a regular light bulb.
  • Choose an LED downlight that is IC, IC-F or IC-4 rated. Only downlights with one of these ratings can be insulated over, so look for a statement on the box and a label on top of the actual downlight.
  • When you’re upgrading your ceiling insulation, upgrade your downlights at the same time. So your new insulation can be installed without holes around the downlights, giving you best performance for your insulation money. Nowadays, many insulation service providers also offer downlight replacements as part of their services.
  • Cutout size. When replacing existing downlights, measure the diameter of the existing holes in your ceiling lining (remove an existing downlight to measure) and choose a compatible replacement LED downlight.
  • Light colour: Choose a warm white LED for most rooms in your home for a more comfortable light. Cool white LEDs are good for task lighting where contrast is important e.g. workshops, garages and offices.
  • Beam angle. The beam angle measures how the light spreads out from the bulb. Beam angles of LED downlights vary greatly and depend on their application. For general floodlighting, choose a downlight with a larger beam angle – about 90 degrees or higher. Use narrow angle downlights – about 30 degrees or less – for spotlighting, such as for highlighting pieces of art.
  • Brightness: Compare the lumens of different downlights you are considering. Lumens measure light output - the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. As beam angle increases, you need more lumens to maintain the light’s intensity.
  • Dimmable? If you want to be able to dim your downlights, check the packaging to make sure you choose a model that is dimmable.
  • Choose ENERGY STAR® qualified downlights, they’re proven to offer superior light output, superior energy efficiency and are backed by a three year warranty. To view a list of all ENERGY STAR® qualified downlights, click the link below.
  • Where to buy? Modern LED downlights are available from hardware stores, specialty lighting stores and electrical wholesalers. If you’re not exactly sure of the type of downlight you need, check with a registered electrician or insulation service provider – they can advise you and also arrange the supply and installation. 
  • Leave the installation to a registered electrician. For your safety and for maintaining your home’s insurance cover.
  • Patch up the holes in the insulation. Once you’ve replaced your downlights with IC, IC-F or IC-4 rated ones, make sure to cover them with insulation. Check the downlight manufacturer’s instructions for what insulation is compatible. While you’re up there, check if your insulation needs any repair or a top up. EECA recommends getting an insulation service provider to do this for you.

 List of ENERGY STAR® qualified downlights

 Checking ceiling insulation

 Downlights and insulation performance

 Find an insulation installer