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Community and Q&A

LED panel lights for residential use?

SteveR_79 | Posted in Interior Design on

Will LED panel lights (or luminaries) be one step closer to the holy grail of residential lighting? Currently, these lights are offered in sizes that will fit in commercial ceiling grids, e.g. 2′ x 2′, 2′ x 4′, 2’ x 8’, etc. They are typically less than 1/2″ thick excluding the LED driver that may or may not be attached directly to the fixture. As Martin noted in Rule 2 on his 10 Rules on Lighting, it’s better to illuminate the ceiling than the floor. Mounting these large format panels directly to the ceiling illuminates a much larger area than any point source or fluorescent lamp could.

A web search of “led panel lights” provides a list of sites supplying these lights. Many of these LED lights are dimmable. Other options include variable color temperatures and remote mounted LED drivers. Some also include an LED driver that allows the user to select the color temperature.

Can anyone share their experience with these LED panel lights in a residential environment? They seem like a good choice for my kitchen remodel.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    I have no experience with these panels. But LEDs are directional. If the LED panel is mounted on the ceiling, then it is illuminating the floor.

    When I advised that "it’s better to illuminate the ceiling than the floor," I meant that the best approach is to have a light source mounted below the ceiling, with some or all of the light aimed upward. If you do this, the light will bounce off the white-painted drywall.

  2. marcussax | | #2

    Hello Steve,

    If you're not tied to a panel configuration, take a look at this link:
    I saw these at last year's International Greenbuild Conference and was impressed with them.


  3. SteveR_79 | | #3

    If your entire ceiling were an evenly dispersed light source would that meet your lighting goal? That's assuming you could control the lumen output. That's what I think I want and these LED panel lights seem like they are one step closer to that goal.

    I have no experience with these panels either, hence my question. But my understanding is that they are not directional like typical LEDs. Instead, these are edge lit panels. The LEDs are mounted on the perimeter of the panel. The panel has a "pattern" (cut or cast into it) that acts as a light guide for the LEDs on the edge. The entire 1'x2', 2' x 4', etc. panel is illuminated. The light may not be perfectly dispersed but it may be close enough for a residence.

    This company claims to have an evenly dispersed pattern,

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    If you end up installing some of these panels, please report back. As I wrote in my first comment, I have no experience with these panels.

  5. charlie_sullivan | | #5

    I was not very impressed by the web site Steve linked. Even on their "technical specifications" page they don't actually provide technical specifications of the light such as lumens or color rendering index.

    More generally, given the rapid improvements we are seeing in LED performance and cost, I think it is unwise to invest in a permanently installed LED system at this time. It is roughly equivalent to installing a 56k dialup modem in the year 2000--it seemed like the pinnacle of telecommunications technology, and something that a modern house should have for sure, but it rapidly became obsolete. Fortunately modems usually are not hardwired into the ceiling, so replacing them was relatively easy.

    So I would be inclined to do something much more boring, and just use a conventional fixture that aims some of the light towards a white-painted celing. The old fashioned "mushroom" style ceiling fixtures send some light laterally and light up the ceiling more than recessed lights or flat LEDs that mimic them. Wall sconces can send some to most of their light upwards. Cove lighting is another option. You can buy ordinary fixtures with light bulb sockets and screw in LEDs, or you can buy fixtures with LEDs built in. I would only do the latter after checking that the efficacy for the fixture was as good as the replacement bulbs that are now available, checking that the color is to my liking, and even then, I would be reluctant to spend much, based on the assumption that something better will be available in a year, and something much better in 5 or 10 years.

  6. SteveR_79 | | #6

    Mark: The site appears to be predominantly LED lamps for can lighting. I am trying to avoid point source lighting and get a more dispersed light source. Also I will be replacing the ceiling drywall and I want to avoid big holes in the new drywall since it is the air barrier.

    Charlie: I share your concern that these LED light panels are in their infancy. As you noted, technical information on these fixtures is lacking.

    Today's options for a dispersed lighting source are wall sconces, cove lighting, etc. as you and Martin mentioned. If the entire ceiling were a light fixture (luminare) would that be better than today's options? That's assuming the the ceiling as a light fixture is controllable and evenly dispersed. If this is true then the LED panel lights seem like a step in that direction. Is it too early for the LED light panels? I wish I knew.

    DOE is involved in Solid State Lighting research. The information there has been informative but it hasn't helped me make a buying decision.

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