We've been selling LED downlights for over a decade. With substantial improvements in range and quality over recent years, there has never been a better time to upgrade.
This is our guide on 'how to change a downlight'. It applies whether you're upgrading old halogens or even replacing an existing LED downlight. There are three simple step to follow, which I'll outline in more detail below:
- Check your existing downlights. An essential step to understand what you have now and to inform what to buy next.
- Choose between replacement downlight bulbs or fittings. There are some pros and cons to each approach.
- Install your new downlights - the easy part if you've already checked off steps 1 and 2!
Please Note: while many of our downlights are DIY-friendly (like MR16 bulbs and plug-in fittings), always turn off the power before working on them. For any mains voltage wiring, or if you have doubts, hire an electrician.
Step 1) Check / Remove Your Existing Downlights
The best place to start is to work out what you currently have installed.
- Bulb or Fixture? Some downlights only need a bulb replacement (MR16, GU10, etc.), while others require swapping the whole light fitting.
- Plug-in or Hardwired? Is there a power socket in the roof, or is the fitting wired directly to the mains?
- Cutout Hole Size? Measure the existing cutout in your ceiling. It'll be slightly smaller than the front face of the downlight.
How to Change Downlight Bulbs
Changing a downlight bulb involves twisting, unclipping, or pulling out a section of the fitting. Twist (counter-clockwise), look for a release clip, or pull down firmly to access the light globe. Check our images below for some examples.
An example of a twist and release mechanism (left) and a metal clip (right).
Pull the globe out to reveal the fitting type. In this case, it's a GU5.3 base commonly called an MR16 downlight.
How to Change Downlight Fittings
Downlight fittings are usually held in place on the ceiling by spring clips. With the power off, pull one side down while supporting the plasterboard below the clip to prevent damage. Once one side is out, the other slides out easily.
Locate one of the spring clips and pull down firmly while supporting the ceiling.
The downlight can then carefully be removed from the ceiling.
Step 2) Choose an LED Downlight Replacement
Once you know what type of downlights you have, you can decide whether to upgrade the bulb or the entire fitting. There are advantages to both approaches, as I'll outline below.
- Quick, DIY-friendly installation, no electrician needed (usually),
- The options we sell are designed to work with your existing transformers and dimmers,
- Future LED downlight globes may offer improved efficiency,
- Bulbs are generally better at replicating the look of old halogen downlights.
- You may encounter issues with some transformer/dimmer combinations (we offer LED-optimised replacements if this occurs),
- Old downlight fittings have air gaps and usually can't be covered with insulation, even after upgrading the bulb to LED.
- They usually include a colour temperature switch (choose warm, cool, or daylight at installation),
- IC-4 rated fittings (like ours!) are safe to cover with insulation,
- Sealed fronts are bathroom/kitchen-friendly and stop air leaks,
- Once power sockets are in place in the ceiling, they're easy to upgrade yourself,
- They're often brighter than bulbs, so fewer might be needed,
- They're available in several cutout sizes (90mm, 120mm, 150mm, etc.).
- The initial installation will require an electrician if you don't already have power sockets in your roof space,
- They generally produce a wider beam of light than halogens, which may not suit some applications,
- You will need to replace the whole fitting when they eventually fail.
Step 3) Install Your New Downlights
Installing a downlight bulb is quite simple. Once you have removed the existing globe, reverse the steps in part one above to install the new light bulb.
You will often need to engage an electrician to install downlight fittings. However, if your ceiling already has power sockets like these, you can buy a new downlight with a plug and install it yourself.
Here's an example of how to install a downlight with a lead and plug where the power socket is already present:
Are You Ready to Change Your Downlights to LED?
We offer everything you may need:
- Bulbs and globes in all common types (MR16, GU10, MR11, AR111, etc),
- Dimmable downlights fittings for various cutout sizes,
- Smart LED downlights (Philips Hue and Nanoleaf),
- Accessories (power sockets, transformers, dimmer switches, and more).