How to replace 12 volt halogen downlights

Victorian homes have around 23 million 12 volt halogen downlights.

Halogens are available in either low voltage (12V) or 240V models, but low voltage doesn't necessarily mean low energy use! Energy bill savings of around $161 million per year and a 5% reduction in residential electricity consumption could be achieved if all those halogen downlights were replaced with low energy alternatives.

12V Halogen Bad 12V LED good

Replacement Options

If you’re looking to replace your existing halogens you can:


  • Replace them with LED or CFL alternatives (which will use less power)
  • Install lower wattage halogens lamps (they use less power and will give out less light, but that may not be a problem in rooms which are already overly lit!)
  • Install the more efficient IRC or energy saver halogen lamps (which have same light output but use less power and can therefore achieve energy saving of around 25%)

The table below shows the typical light output of standard 12V halogen downlights, as well as the typical input.

Light Output (Lumens)  12V Halogen 12V LED

LED light

230 20W

LED light

500 35W

LED light

750 50W 10-12W


Lighting technology is changing rapidly and constantly evolving. This means that there is now a growing range of LEDs suited to replacing an existing 12V halogen lamp, while either a LED downlight fitting or a 240V compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) could be used to replace your entire existing downlight fitting.

Select the best replacement

As there are now so many low energy replacement lamps available, you need to choose a type that:

a) Can provide the necessary amount of illumination for the purpose, and

b) Is compatible with your existing hardware.

In light of this, you should keep the following considerations in mind.

Will the light level of the low energy replacement be similar to the 12 volt halogen?

The light output of a 12 volt halogen downlight lamp is around 650 to 700 lumen. The lamp packaging should state the light output of the new lamp in lumens and/or indicate which standard halogen lamp its light output is equivalent to.

The table above shows the typical light output of standard 12V halogen downlights, as well as the typical input powers of lower energy replacement lamps. Higher light levels are required for bench top areas where fine work is undertaken, in comparison to general circulation areas.

How long does it take the lamp to reach full brightness?

This information may be available in the specification sheet, but operating the lamp in the shop or trialing one at home may be the best way to determine if the startup time is acceptable.

Will the colour appearance of the new light be suitable for the application?

Generally, a ‘warm white’ colour appearance (or colour temperature in the range of 2,700 to 3,000 K) is preferred in most living rooms and bedrooms in the home. Meanwhile, lights with a ‘cool white’ colour appearance (or colour temperature in the range of 4,000 to 6,000 K) may be acceptable in kitchen and bathroom areas.

Will the new lamp be compatible with a dimmer if your existing lighting is on a dimmer?

This information should be stated on the packaging.

Will the lamp be compatible with the existing connectors?

It is important to obtain information on the existing connectors, to know whether or not there is a separate plug for each downlight or whether they are hard wired.

Will the lamp be compatible with the downlight fitting (including the cut-out dimensions)?

It is important to know the size of the fitting and the cutout.

Government Energy Saver Incentive

The Victorian Government's Energy Saver Incentive offers discounts and special deals on selected energy-saving products and appliances.

Special offers or discounts are currently available from participating businesses that can fit out your home or business with the latest in energy-efficient lighting, including LED down-lights. To find out more about this scheme, or to find a participating retailer in your area visit the Switch On website.

More information

Find out more about energy efficient lighting with our other how-to guides.