Ask G

Ask G: Lighting lingo

What do all the acronyms and jargon-terms mean?

My husband wants downlights in our new house, but I want to get the low energy ones so I looked at a website and was frankly bamboozled by all the acronyms and jargon. What on earth are LEDs, CFLs, IRCs, low-voltage and low-energy downlights?

Isabella, NSW

Light bulb

Credit: Wikimedia

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LED stands for light-emitting diode.

Modern traffic lights use LED lighting, which is why they look like a cluster of light dots when viewed closely - each dot of light is a single light-emitting diode.

LED's are very energy efficient, and are also now available in downlights.

CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamps or lights.

CFLs use the same technology as fluorescent tubes and apply it to smaller spaces and baton-style fittings. They are also energy efficient.

IRC stands for infrared coated.

As the name suggests, IRC halogen downlights have a coating on the inside of the lamp that reflects infrared (heat) radiation back to the filament so that less electricity is needed to heat the filament to the point where it produces visible light.

Hence a 35-watt IRC is equivalent to a standard 50-watt halogen.

Voltage and wattage are two different aspects of electricity. For your purposes, it's the wattage that reflects how much electricity a light will use and consequently how much money you'll pay in power bills.

Note that 'low voltage' does not necessarily mean 'low energy'.