Retrofitting LED: the challenges and solutions

It’s not always as simple as plugging an LED alternative into an existing lighting system. We look at some of the problems with retrofitting and how to fix them: from cheap lamps to lighting control. 
There are manufacturers who claim to have LED retrofit products that simply ‘plug in’ to an existing lighting system – but be wary. While these products do exist, it’s not always as simple as taking out a halogen GU10 and replacing it with a new LED alternative. As an electrician, you probably already know that - the people who often need convincing are your clients. 

Best practice and dodgy DIY

The Electrical Safety First group have published a to highlight the dangers of retrofitting LEDs without the proper considerations, but one of the most common problems is homeowners purchasing cheap ‘retrofit’ LEDs online and installing them themselves. 
Added to an existing lighting system, these cheap imports can overload a circuit (due to mislabelled packaging) or even present a fire risk, but more commonly they simply look rubbish. Cheap LEDs often have a much lower flicker rate than any lamps that we would stock at our branches – it’s not always immediately noticeable, but over time this flicker can create eye irritation and headaches, especially if installed in the workplace.  

Reputable products 

Buying lamps from your local wholesaler is the best way to make sure that the LEDs you buy are fit for purpose and to be certain that they are compatible with any existing controls or devices on the system. If, for instance, you are switching halogen downlights for LEDs on a circuit that has an old-fashion Triac dimmer, you will need to switch the dimmer as well. 

LED control

LEDs, when paired with a Triac dimmer, simply won’t work as well as they should. The small copper coil featured inside a Triac dimmer may dim incandescent lamps effectively, but when connected to an LED it causes all manner of problems, the most noticeable being flicker and buzz. It also dramatically reduces the lifespan of the LEDs on the circuit.
Your local BEW branch will be able to advise what control systems are suitable for your installation. Products such as Easilite – an app control system that can be connected to existing lighting – and the ZGRIDLED150 – an affordable digital LED dimmer that connects straight to T&E wiring – are both simple, effective solutions to retrofitting controls once you’ve made the switch to LED.
To find out more about installing compatible LED products in retrofit projects, speak to the team at your local BEW trade counter. We work closely with manufacturers to make sure that our LED products are compatible, reliable and safe.