Should I convert MR16 halogen downlights to GU10 before installing LEDs?
March 6, 2013 9:33 PM   Subscribe

When converting from halogen downlights to LEDs, if it's going to be a difficult job either way, is it better to replace MR16 sockets + transformers with GU10 sockets or just to use LEDs that are designed for MR16 set-ups? (Assume that I already know that the specific transformer I have would work with the specific LEDs I would buy). And if I want to convert, where can I buy cheap GU10 sockets with Australian 3 pin plugs wired to them (without buying an entire "LED downlight kit")?

I went up in the roof space a few days ago and noticed that our halogen downlights do not have the legally required space around them, nor heat protectors. I want to be up to code, but I don't want big gaps in my insulation. For now, I've installed a smoke detector up there, and moved the insulation away from the lights where I can reach it but I'd like to replace them as soon as possible with LEDs. I've found some awesome LED comparisons so I'm comfortable that I am finding acceptable options at around $25 a piece.

Our halogens are MR16, with an ATCO TM50-2 transformer wired to each. The transformer is connected to the mains via a 3-pin plug/socket, so we could replace the whole shebang without calling in an electrician. Alternatively, according to most of the websites I've found, the LEDs I am considering would work fine with this specific transformer. So I could just order MR16 bulbs and leave the current fitting as is.

In either case I don't think I can pull the bulbs out through the ceiling to swap them out. The fittings look like this (two pics because they are different in the kitchen vs the lounge). Nothing seems to unscrew or pull off. So if I have to get up into the roof space to put the new bulbs in anyway, I think it wouldn't be any harder to just replace the transformer/fitting set-up with GU10 sockets. But I am failing to find GU10 sockets with attached Australian 3-pin plugs (apart from finding very expensive full LED downlight kits that come with bulb and all). (I'm finding GU10 sockets without plugs wired on for $1.50 or so a piece.)

Also, although it's not any more difficult to convert the MR16 system to GU10, is there any reason to do so? How much extra power does the transformer use? Does it get hot (i.e. do I need to worry about its proximity to the insulation once I've switched the bulbs from halogen to LED)?

If there's anything else I'm missing or any other tips anyone can give, I'd appreciate that too.
posted by lollusc to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I take it back: I can get the bulbs of the gimbal-style ones out from below - thanks to youtube and a flathead screwdriver. But I can't do the other ones. When I pried at them just now with a flathead screwdriver, the bulb came out, but the socket is nowhere to be seen. It felt like it went "sproing" back up into the roof space.
posted by lollusc at 10:10 PM on March 6, 2013

Response by poster: And now I managed to figure out the ones in the lounge. So you can ignore pretty much the whole question, really. I'm not going to want to change the MR16 to GU10s without a really good reason now. So is there a really good reason?
posted by lollusc at 10:46 PM on March 6, 2013

I'm confused, aren't you looking at replacing potentially a 50W halogen to a <1>
If so, I've read it's good to keep one halogen installed in the circuit to avoid a significant voltage drop On the transformer although better check that carefully as it obviously depends on the Product specs (and I'm no sparkie...)
posted by Under the Sea at 11:28 PM on March 6, 2013

Sorry, should say from a 50W halogen to a ~ 10W LED
posted by Under the Sea at 11:30 PM on March 6, 2013

I'm not sure I understand the question now either, but when I was trying to replace my screw type halogen pot lights with LEDs, I quickly realized that screw type MR16/PAR16 LEDs are a rare breed. Took a long time to track some down.

So my advice is go with whatever set up allows you to use easily available bulbs. Sounds like you already have done your research on that though.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 2:49 AM on March 7, 2013

Buy the globes first but from somewhere that will refund you if they don't work. Try a one bulb circuit if you can. See if it works - mine don't as the transformer is not good enough for the LED driver and flashes the globe - very annoying.
posted by dantodd at 4:11 AM on March 7, 2013

Response by poster: Supposedly the transformer is fine with the bulbs I have (now) ordered. I bought a variety to see which I like best. The ones I dislike can end up in the hallway. The specific transformer I have is mentioned in reviews of the bulbs I ordered and people say it works. It doesn't have a minimum voltage requirement like some.

Sorry that the question no longer makes sense. I don't really have much of a question now anyway. My original question was under the assumption that I would have to do complicated things in the roof space to even just change out the bulbs. So I was wondering if in that case I might as well just change the whole system over to GU10. But now I have discovered that I can change the bulbs without going into the roof space, so staying with MR16 for the LEDs is going to be significantly easier.

Oh and I don't need screw bulbs - just the normal MR16 pronged ones.
posted by lollusc at 4:46 AM on March 7, 2013

I'm late to the party and you've kind of answered your own question but I'll just add that even if you find for some reason that your transformers do not work with your new bulbs you are able to replace the transformers yourself. Taking off the 240V cord and wiring that onto a new transformer is perfectly legal for a non-electrician in Australia, just make sure you know what you are doing, or get someone to help. It is not at all a hard job.

If you need further supplies for this stuff and get stuck feel free to memail me, I have 10 or 15 years of contacts in the lighting world in Aus.
posted by deadwax at 5:50 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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