Why Won’t My LED Replacements For Halogen Lamps Work?

So you’ve decided to personally do something about global warming and all that and gone and replaced your hideously wasteful halogen lamps with environmentally friendly LED versions. Sure they were eye-wateringly pricey but hey, you’ve seen that poor ickle polar bear on its melting ice flow – it’s the planet we’re saving here!

Trouble is, it’s not so much all lights blazing and no-one home as the other way round. The wretched things won’t work!

Symptoms vary from a disturbing flickering, not totally switching off (a faint glow is always present), not being anywhere near bright enough and not coming on at all.

Well, first off, check your smug and thoroughly bogus green credentials at the door because we all know you only bought the LED’s to save shed loads of loot.

I replaced every light in my kitchen and it’s now fully illuminated using the same amount of power as just one of the 50 watt halogen lamps I was using before, so I know exactly why most people buy LED light bulbs.

Second, have you replaced low voltage halogen lamps with equivalent MR16 LEDs and/or got a dimmer switch installed? Pound to a pinch of sodium chloride that’s your problem right there. Almost all standard low voltage transformers and dimmers are rated to support a minimum load.

Quite often this minimum is not far short of the wattage for a single incandescent lamp, so if you replace that 50 watt load with say 6 watts then the device simply doesn’t recognize that there is anything there and won’t play ball. Check here for more on this subject than most sensible folk would ever wish to know.

Your solutions? In the case of the dimmer switch, then assuming you’re using mains powered LED (GU10 spotlights for example) all you need to do is replace it with a low load version – one that is explicitly rated to work with zero (or very few watts) up to say 60 watts (or whatever your total load is).

If you’ve got low voltage lighting then you have a similar problem but it’s the transformers that need replacing with low load constant voltage versions, usually called LED drivers. Unfortunately, it’s common practice to assign a single transformer to a single light, so you are in for a not entirely trivial exercise in terms of financial outlay and rewiring.

If you have both low voltage lights and a dimmer switch, then clearly you need to swap out both with the additional proviso that you need to have bought dimmable LED lights in the first place (now you tell us huh?), compatible LED drivers and a suitable dimmer switch.

If this is starting to sound a lot like a lot of effort then then is another solution. Convert from low voltage to mains which, although that may sound like yet more effort, is a relatively simple and low cost procedure.

What you need to do is, instead of replacing say MR16 halogens with equivalent LED versions, get GU10 format mains voltage LED lamps (dimmable if required) and a bunch of GU10 lamp holders.

The latter come with quite long “tails” and all you do is remove both existing lamp and transformer and connect the tails ends directly to the mains cable that formerly fed the transformer.

Plug in your new LED light bulbs and (dimmer switch caveats not withstanding) you will be up and running.

As Aleksandr Orlov would so succinctly put it, simples!


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