Upgrading your spotlights | Replacing halogen bulbs with LED lights

If you still haven’t made the switch from halogen to LED spotlights, you’re probably spending a lot more on your electricity bills than you need to. LEDs are far more efficient, using around 10% of the energy it takes to run a halogen light. It’s why the UK government, thinking of an eco-friendly future, banned the sale of halogens in 2021 – effectively pushing homeowners into buying LEDs.

However, some people have had problems when replacing halogen bulbs with LED lights, and have wound up not making the change at all. This article explains all you need to know to make the switch, especially when it comes to dimmer switches.

Did you know? Electricians actually refer to light bulbs as ‘lamps’, but in this article, we’ll stick to using the term that most people are comfortable with.

How much could I save by upgrading to LED spotlights?

First, it’s good to know how much money you could be wasting with halogen. A 5 watt LED can provide the same amount of light as a 50 watt halogen, while using a tenth of the wattage. In other words, you could power 10 LED spotlights at the same cost of powering a single halogen bulb.

Now let’s consider what this means for your household bills.

Each unit of electricity (known as a kilowatt) costs around 34p (at time of publishing). A 50-watt halogen burning for three hours will use 0.15 kilowatts. If you turn that bulb on for three hours a day, it’ll cost you £18.61 a year just for one bulb. It’s not uncommon for family homes to have at least 30 of them.

With 30 halogens burning for three hours a day, albeit at different times, the cost rises to £558. Swapping these to LED light bulbs will reduce your annual spend to £56 approx. This huge saving will help keep your bills manageable, especially as energy prices continue to rise.

Tip: Waiting for your halogen lights to blow is a false economy. You can expect to save more on your energy bills by changing to LEDs now than by doing it slowly, over several years.

What other benefits do LED spotlights provide?

Replacing halogen bulbs with LED lights isn’t just about energy saving. We outline a few of the additional benefits below:

1. LED technology has a longer lifespan. While halogens last for about 4,000 hours, LEDs last for up to 50,000 – that’s around twelve times as long.

2. Aside from being more energy efficient, LEDs are more physically durable than halogen bulbs. We advise against knocking or dropping them, but they’re less likely to break if you do.

3. Replacement LEDs give you a range of colour temperature options. Choose from extra warm white, a cool blue tone or a bright daylight effect.

Are LED lights better for the environment?

By replacing your existing halogens with LEDs, you reduce your carbon footprint. LED bulbs convert more of their energy into light, while halogens convert more into heat – essentially turning it into something you don’t need. Additionally, LEDs are considered non-toxic and can be recycled, so they don’t pose a threat to the environment.

Changing to LED is both eco-friendly and great for your energy bills. That’s why it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to help the planet, with immediate benefits to your annual spending.

Tip: You can change to LED lights without issues if you have a standard rocker switch without a dimmer. The only thing to consider is that a non-dimmable switch always uses the maximum amount of electricity. Dimmable ones, on the other hand, give you greater control – so you can enjoy a low-light atmosphere while using less electricity.

Do LED spotlights work with a dimmer switch?

LED spotlights come in dimmable and non-dimmable format, so before buying them, check the box to ensure you pick up the right one. If the bulb is dimmable but rapidly flickers when you turn it on, then your dimmer module may not be compatible with LED bulbs.

You’ll have to consider different aspects depending on the type of fixture you own:

GU10 – When replacing halogen bulbs with LED lights for this type of fixture, you only have the dimmer module as part of the switch to worry about. GU10 lights are known for their peg-like connectors, and have become a staple for modern spotlights in the UK.

MR16 – Replacing halogen for LEDs is more complicated if you use MR16s, known for their straight, pin-like connectors. These connect to a transformer that’s usually hidden in the ceiling void, making it much more difficult to make the upgrades. As with the GU10s, you still need an LED compatible dimmer module hidden behind the dimmer switch.

Can I replace the module or transformer myself?

Even homeowners who are confident in their DIY skills are recommended to call an electrician to make the changes they need. Some people with GU10s might be tempted to check the dimmer module behind the switch to see if it’s LED compatible, but this information isn’t usually displayed, which makes it a waste of time. It’s also potentially dangerous because you could damage the wires as you screw the switch back in. Additionally, if you try to replace the module with one that you know is LED compatible, you could easily wire it incorrectly.

Trying to change an MR16 transformer in the ceiling is just as hazardous. You could move the connected wires, dramatically increasing the risk of a fire, and there’s a chance you could damage your ceiling in the process.

Warning! It’s very easy to make mistakes, and even the smallest error in your wiring could pose a risk to health and safety. Before you take matters into your own hands, remember that a qualified electrician will make the upgrades safely and perform the necessary electrical testing to ensure your safety against fire and shock. They’ll also issue a minor works certificate (MWC) to show the work has been completed to the most up to date UK wiring regulations.

How to switch to LED lights the easy way…

Replacing your halogen bulbs with LED spotlights needn’t be confusing. Simply follow our advice below:

  • Don’t buy all LED bulbs upfront. Instead, buy just a single bulb and see if it works
  • Check the packaging to make sure you’re buying a dimmable bulb
  • Halogens can get hot, so wait for them to cool down before removing them
  • Choose an LED colour “temperature” that works for the atmosphere of your room
  • If your new bulb flickers or doesn’t turn on, book an electrician to check the module, transformer, or both

How much should switching to LED cost?

If you have a rocker switch, you should be able to change from halogen to LED lights without a problem. If your dimmer switch isn’t LED compatible, upgrading takes less time than you might expect. This means it’s still much cheaper to call an electrician to carry out the work than it is to keep burning through old halogens. You’ll make your money back in the first year, especially as energy costs rise.

Our electricians can usually complete the work you need to upgrade in about an hour. This includes testing to see if your dimmer module is LED compatible and changing it if needed. If you have an MR16 light fixture, we can upgrade the transformer and dimmer module for LED use. If you prefer, we can even replace your light fixture with one that accommodates GU10s. Please note that you’ll also pay for the LEDs and any dimmer modules or transformers installed.

Do you have questions about replacing halogen bulbs with LED lights? If so, give Aspect a call. You can also book work with us online. We upgrade domestic and commercial lighting systems, can recommend ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and we respond quickly to electrical emergencies.

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