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    How to install LED downlights

    Brighten up your space with this downlighting guide.

    Hannah | Oneflare

    Lighting is the most important element for setting the mood of a room. Lighting can enhance the best features of the room and draw attention to a piece of artwork, and it can help hide some of your least favourite features. Replacing LED downlights is a great way to change the mood of the room or to add extra light for safety. Any major electrical work in Australia must be performed by a licenced electrician, but it is good to know how the process works so that you can plan for your lighting upgrade. 

    How to choose the right downlight size and frequency for your space

     Downlighting can provide general lighting, or it can be used to spotlight features. You can choose from many different types of lighting. They come in various colour temperatures, shapes, sizes, and finishes. Here are a few of the things you need to take into consideration when choosing your lighting. 

    • Downlight size: The size of the downlight refers to the physical diameter of the light. If you have a small space, you will not want one that takes up a lot of space on the ceiling. You also do not want to have a small, undersized light in a larger room. You can effectively light a larger area using strategically placed smaller lights. 
    • Beam angle: Another thing to consider is the beam angle of the light. Some lights are designed to direct the light in a focused beam, while others provide a wider angle and cover a larger area. You need to consider the beam angle when spacing your lights and plan for the correct amount of overlap in the beam. The height of your ceiling will affect the brightness and spread of the beam, too. 
    • Downlight placement: The placement of downlights is important to create balance in your home. The general rule for spacing downlights is to divide your ceiling height by two and use this number as a guide to space each of your downlights. For example, if your ceiling is 2.8 metres high, your downlights should have about 1.4 metres of space between them.
    Downlight with pendant lighting / Source: Electrifiable

    Materials and tools

    Even though a licenced electrician must hook up the lights, it is possible to do some of the prep work yourself. Here are a few of the materials and tools that you will need for installing downlights. 

    • Lighting units
    • Transformer for low-voltage lights
    • Cordless Drill
    • Hole drill bit or hole saw
    • File to smooth edges of hole and get an exact fit
    • 6.35 mm drill bit
    • Recessed lighting trim
    • Wire connectors 
    • Light bulbs
    • Wire stripper or needle-nosed pliers

    How to install LED downlights

    Once all of the materials and tools are gathered, it is time to install the lighting. Here are general instructions on how to change LED downlights. 

    1. Positioning the lights: Planning the light installation is the most important part of the project. You need to make sure that they are spaced properly and positioned where you need them. You also need to mark the position of any wires or pipes that are in the ceiling so that you do not disturb them when you cut the hole. Carefully mark the location of the light by tracing the outline of the light onto the ceiling where it will be placed. 
    2. Fitting the downlight: Next, you will need to drill the hole that the lights will go into. You can do this by using the hole drill bit to create a line of holes, or you can use the hole saw. It is a good idea to make the hole slightly smaller and use the file to get an exact fit. 
    3. Wiring the lights: When wiring the lights make sure to turn off the power and clearly identify which wire is hot and which is neutral. If you have chosen low-voltage lights, a transformer will have to be installed. Make sure all electrical connections are made according to local laws and requirements. There are many nuances to this step, such as making sure the ends do not have too much wire exposed and that they do not touch anything when the light is recessed into the hole. Otherwise, it could cause a fire hazard. 
    4. Inserting the downlight unit: The final step is placing the light into the hole and using screws, firmly attach it to the ceiling. 

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    Differences in installation

    Existing installation vs new home installation

    Replacing downlights in a new home can be easier than replacing an existing one. When retrofitting lights into an existing hole, the new light might not be the same size, and it might not have the same brightness or beam angle. This may cause you to want to move the light, however that means that you would have to repair the old hole and cut a new one. Another issue that you might run into is that the old hole might be too big for the new light, which means that you would have to do some repair before installing downlights or have to choose a new light. 

    Downlights in high ceiling / Source: Servitech

    What are the best LED downlights to use?

    You have several choices in lighting. You can choose Halogen or LED. Both of them have a different look in the room and offer a different type of ambience. LED lights tend to look brighter and range toward the cool, or blue end, of the spectrum. The warmth and brightness of a Halogen light are somewhere between the old incandescent bulbs and LEDs. Many people love the look of an LED, especially for doing work that requires excellent lighting, such as reading. 

    How to hire an electrician

    Now that you know how to change downlights and what is involved, hiring a professional who can do the job right the first time makes sense. In Australia, each state has different licencing requirements for electricians, but all agree that you should not install lights without the proper training and credentials. Here are a few questions you should ask before hiring an electrician. 

    • Are you licensed to install lighting in my local area? 
    • Can you provide a certificate of proper installation, if needed? 
    • What is your plan for installing the lighting, and will you work with me to achieve a design that I am happy with? 
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    How much will your job cost?

    The Oneflare Cost Guide Centre is your one-stop shop to help you set your budget; from smaller tasks to larger projects.