When new technology is introduced to the world, big changes are needed for it to work.
Whether it’s installing new 5G towers for mobile phone signals or swapping gas pumps for electrical charging points for cars, you often have to undo and redo a lot of work to take advantage of modern tech’s benefits.
But then, some technologies just work without needing to rip everything out and start again.
Simply swap in the new products or designs, and enjoy all the benefits. LED lights fall into this category.
LED lights don’t need special wiring. They’ll work with any standard light fixture, as long as it isn’t enclosed, which could cause heat damage. Poor wiring can cause electrical interference, but this is easily solved with a suppressor.
In this article I’ll explain:
- What sort of wiring is needed in the fixture
- Whether wiring needs to be shielded
- Other things to look for when swapping to LED bulbs
Do LED Lights Require New Wiring In Old Fixtures?
LED lights work by passing a current through a semiconductor, compared to CFLs which use a current through gas, or incandescent bulbs, which pass the current through a filament, heating it up.
However, that current is the same.
OK, it’s managed in different ways, which I’ll cover in a minute. Still, broadly speaking, it relies on a circuit with a live and neutral wire, the standard wiring of a light fixture in any home or average workplace environment.
So while LEDs are advanced, modern technology compared to older bulb types, they work with exactly the same wiring.
As long as you buy the correlating bulb base, you simply swap the older bulb with the new one, and you’re done. Just make sure the power is off when you swap the bulbs.
The clever tech needed to manage the current is built into the bulb.
That’s an LED driver, which downgrades the high voltage AC current to the necessary DC current for the diode. But because it’s all inside the bulb, it just works.
Does Wiring Need To Be Shielded?
While it’s normally straightforward, a couple of exceptions may mean you need to do a little bit of work, but you won’t have to re-wire.
The problem is if you start to notice some interference around your home, which an LED light bulb can cause.
Well, specifically, it’s the fault of the poor-quality, unshielded wiring rather than the bulb. Still, it’s adding an LED bulb that triggers it.
This can manifest in many different ways. It might be that your speakers start to buzz or hum.
Or, if your light fixture is in or near your garage and you have a remote door opener, it might not work as it should.
That’s because LED lights give off a small amount of radio signal. However, with poor quality wiring, that signal can be amplified.
So if your garage door opener isn’t working or your speakers are making noise that they shouldn’t be, you might have a problem caused by the LED light.
Before you pick up the phone to a senior electrician to get your whole lighting system re-wired, there’s a couple of much simpler solutions.
You can add some shielding to the wires 0 mesh tubing that just needs placing over the wires.
Even simpler solution is a ferrite suppressor (Amazon). These use a ferrite core to dampen RFI signals, and they’re really easy to install – just clip them over the wire.
They’re small enough too that they should fit in your light fitting with no significant issues.
This will dampen the signal and stop it from causing interference.
Because the signal is being created by the bulb, you need to place the suppressor on the negative wire leading from the bulb – so it dampens the signal once it’s been created.
Other Watchouts When Converting From Incandescent Bulbs To LED
There are a few more things to consider when swapping your incandescent bulbs to LEDs.
Incompatible Dimmer Switches
Firstly, while the bulb doesn’t need special wiring, you need to make sure it’s not on an older dimmer switch circuit.
If you don’t have modern dimmers and you don’t use dimmable LEDs, then there’s a good chance you’ll have some problems.
These could be a reduced lifespan of the bulb, as the current isn’t effectively regulated, or it could mean that there’s a constant buzzing sound, or your lights might flicker.
Even on circuits with a modern dimmer, you’ll need a dimmable LED for it to work correctly.
Flickering LEDs can be caused by other problems too.
Sometimes it’s just a loose wire – at which point you may want to look more into the fitting and see if you can extend the wire by a few inches, as longer wires are less likely to come loose.
Or, if you’ve bought cheap LEDs, they might have poor-quality drivers which regulate the current into the bulb.
If the driver doesn’t do its job effectively, the bulb could easily flicker due to inconsistent power.
Finally, you need to make sure you consider the light fixture. While the circuitry shouldn’t need to be changed, the actual fitting might cause problems for the LED.
That’s generally if it’s an enclosed fixture, such as semi-flush lights suspended in bathrooms and kitchens, or recessed ceiling lights covered with glass fronts, or anything where the air is sealed.
Enclosed fixtures that are air-tight don’t offer an effective way of dissipating heat. And so, regular LED bulbs will burn out really quickly because, unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs hate heat.
You can buy enclosed-rated LEDs if you have fixtures that are air-tight, but they cost more.
They’ve got more efficient heat sinks to help transfer heat away from the diode as much as possible. It’s always best to avoid using air-tight, enclosed fixtures if you can, though.
Also read: Can You Use Dry Rated LEDs In A Bathroom?
LED light bulb technology is great for saving money – bulbs are more efficient, safer to use, and longer-lasting.
The fact that they don’t need special wiring to install them is another bonus since you can enjoy these benefits without major electrical work.
You just need to be wary that you don’t install them with an incompatible dimmer or in an enclosed fixture, and it’s essential to always buy LEDs from a reputable retailer to avoid problems with cheap bulbs.
How easy have you found it to install LEDs in your home?