A Guide To Light Bulb Voltages
LEDs are a relatively new kind of lighting, and the way they work is different to more traditional lighting solutions – some major, and some minor.
Voltage is one of those differences – and knowing what voltage to use is important when buying any type of light bulb.
LED light bulbs are available in 2 main types – mains voltage (also known as line voltage) and low voltage. Information regarding the voltage of any given bulb we sell can be found on their respective product pages.
Most bulbs that are used for general purpose lighting are mains voltage. As the name suggests, these kinds of bulbs run directly off the mains 230V AC (alternating current) electricity supply.
Strictly speaking though, there is no such thing as a mains voltage LED – as all LEDs work on low voltage DC (direct current). An LED bulb that is designed to replace a regular mains voltage bulb would therefore require a ‘driver’ to change the electricity supply.
So how are mains voltage LEDs able to plug straight in? It’s simple – they have a driver housed inside the unit itself.
You can see this for yourself by comparing a 230V GU10 LED Bulb with an equivalent 12V MR16 LED. You’ll notice that the GU10 is slightly longer – this is to accommodate the driver.
As a result of this, GU10 LEDs will work in your existing fittings without any problems, and negate the need for any rewiring.
Some LEDs however, are made to work at 12V rather than 230V – i.e. they don’t contain a driver inside the unit. These are called low voltage bulbs, and are commonly used where a mains supply isn’t available, like in cars, motor homes and boats.
Within the home, low voltage lighting is typically used in the bathroom, kitchen and garden as it is much safer. In order to be able to run from a mains electricity supply, low voltage bulbs require a separate unit called a transformer.
The transformer ‘steps down’ the mains voltage, and changes the current from AC to DC.
Low voltage LEDs require an LED-compatible driver. These work in a similar way to a transformer, but aren’t interchangeable. If you are upgrading to low voltage LED bulbs, make sure you change your transformers at the same time.
The most common low voltage LED bulb is the MR16, which is essentially a low voltage version of the GU10. Other low voltage bulbs include the MR11, which is a smaller version of the MR16. The G4 is also low voltage too.
The simplest way of differentiating between bulb voltages is by checking their fitting. As long as you’re buying an LED bulb with the same fitting as those you are replacing, you should be fine.
If you’re changing your fittings or replacing them, it might not be that simple. If you’re having any difficulties then an expert from our team will be happy to help – simply call 0116 321 4120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.