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Recommendation for High-Quality Recessed LEDs

Trevor_Lambert | Posted in General Questions on

Having a hard time separating quality LEDs from trash. I have a bunch of low cost ones in my house that I’d like to replace with higher quality ones as they fail. My complaint with the cheap ones is that they can sometimes flicker when dimmed (not all of them, and not all of the time either), and they’re failing kind of early (4% have failed at about 4 years, all within the last couple months). Looking for higher CRI, better durability, and preferably changeable colour temp. There’s like a zillion brands of these things, and reviews these days seem to be mostly fake, especially from the evil online monolith. Most of the specs on these cheap ones are also pretty suspect.

Are these any good?
Any other recommendations?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #1

    Hi Trevor,

    I just reached out to David Warfel, a lighting expert I've worked with on a few articles. I'll let you know what he recommends. In the meantime, you might appreciate these two episodes of the BS* + Beer Show: Lighting Design Strategies and Pretty Good Lighting.

  2. jkstew | | #2

    I would avoid recessed LEDs as the enclosures don't allow LEDs to cool properly. Heat is the enemy of semiconductors and an LED has to have cool air circulating to it to live up to its promised lifetime. Waveform Lighting LEDs and YujiLEDs have CRI scores above 95.

    1. Trevor_Lambert | | #4

      None of the failures were in the LED enclosures, all were in the driver junction box. I don't have the option of using LED "bulbs" in fixtures for these lights.

  3. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #3

    Here is what David recommends: We like DMF’s adjustable One Frame in warm dim for easy installation, Lucifer’s brand new ATOMOS for small size, Tech’s 3” Element for good performance, and WAC’s Volta for easy adjustability, though it does not come in warm-dim. At the very high end, USAI’s BeveLED, Lucifer’s 2", No.8’s 800 series and Ketra’s D3 are solid performers.

    1. Trevor_Lambert | | #6

      Thanks for the suggestions. I've looked at every one of those, and none will fit in the spaces I have. I need a downlight that will exactly fit a 6" hole, without access to the space above the hole. On the second floor, I have the secondary limitation of 4" maximum depth. All of the listed lights are either too big, too small, and/or have a mounting structure that needs to go in pre-drywall.

      I did listen to the discussion, and looked at the do's and don'ts. We went with a scheme that broke just about every one of those rules, and I have to say we're overall fairly satisfied. Sure, it could be better, but would I pay $50,000 instead of the $1000 I spent for it? No.

      We have what they call "disc" lights in every room. They suggest they're only good for closets, though I'm not sure why. They put out diffuse light, so they don't produce the shadows they show in the "don'ts" of downlights above kitchen counters. Every surface, whether it's the floor or countertops, or tables, or dresser drawers are well lit our house. We also don't perceive the darkness they talk about because the light is coming from overhead. The only time it's even noticeable where the light is coming from, is if I'm looking into another room, in which case the ceiling in that other room is in my field of view. In the room I'm in, I generally don't see the lights, and I don't see shadows either. The only exception is if I'm in my bed with the lights on. That doesn't happen very often, as in addition to downlights we have wall sconces or task lights in the bedrooms. Honestly, some of the ideas of the experts seem legitimately bad to me. I'd rather have the whole room lit up, so I can decide what I'm going to look at, than these intense spotlights that are pointed at particular things that someone else decided are what I should see, with starkly noticeable darkness elsewhere.

      1. sribe | | #10

        "I'd rather have the whole room lit up, so I can decide what I'm going to look at, than these intense spotlights that are pointed at particular things that someone else decided are what I should see, with starkly noticeable darkness elsewhere."

        I had the exact same thought the other day, reading some lighting designer's blog ranting about how awful the disk lights are. I put one a few years ago when a fixture failed in a spot with a low ceiling, and it's great. I'm thinking about using them as primary lighting in a kitchen remodel--that plus under-cabinet strips will be fine, I think.

  4. AJ__ | | #5

    I used these. If you don't need the gimbal function I believe their standard version is cheaper. High quality and an established company with a presence in my area. I was able to buy them direct from an electrical supply but my electrician was able to get them a few bucks cheaper.

    1. Trevor_Lambert | | #7

      They seem to have a good selection of products, but they don't seem to have any presence either near me (Southern Ontario) or online.

      I wish there was a dim to warm option that start out colder. Like instead of going from 3.5K down to 2K, go from 5K down to 2.5K or 3K.

      1. AJ__ | | #8

        Did you try contacting the agent in your area rather than the store locator? I would be happy to buy and ship to you.

        Or perhaps try reaching out to their customer service. I've found them helpful

  5. Expert Member
    Akos | | #9

    I've had very good luck with Ovid Slumo series and Liteline.

    The Ovid ones are dim to warm, no 120hz flicker full or dimmed and excellent light quality. Not cheap.

    Liteline has a lot of different series, their indirect series are great for fill lighting. The dim to warms are available in both 4" and 6" but might be a special order, 2700k/3000k is usually in stock.

    I get the Ovid ones from Vaughan Electric, Liteline from Wolf Electric locally.

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