We have been asked this question quite a bit over the years:
Can I replace my halogen bulbs with LED bulbs?
Well, we are going to answer that question. In depth.
Low voltage Halogen under cabinet spotlights have been popular since the early 1990's. And back then, that was all that existed. They were commonly called puck lights because they had the shape of a hockey puck. Yet they were much smaller. Most were only 2-1/2 to about 3" in diameter. They were not overbearing, they were meant to add focused light onto your countertops, or to accent objects on your counters. Many were used inside upper cabinets with glass doors to allow the light to shine inside to highlight plates, vases, and other objects you wanted to display within your cabinets.
So under cabinet halogen spotlights were used for:
- Adding focused light to your countertops
- Providing accent light for countertops and backsplashes
- Interior cabinet lighting, to include living room built ins
- As lighting around bathroom mirrors
- And very much so as ceiling lights in boat cabins
G4 LED Replacement History
Approximately 11 to 12 years ago, there was this halogen substitute called an "LED pin." It should had been called an LED wafer since it was flat and most were around 1-1/2" in diameter. They did vary in size, and varied a little in intensity. Some were just a half watt, and others might have gone as high as two watts. We never offered any. At that time, we sold only Hera Lighting brand lighting products. Hera never made an LED pin, nor did they endorse any. Hera was starting to produce real LED lights. Not halogen lights converted to LED. So this was not a favored approach to convert halogen to LED. And these LED pins did not fit too well inside the small halogen lights. Many prevented the ring and lens to be placed back on the light. Most were very difficult to slide in sideways due to their size. And the majority that were 1 watt or less, just outright stunk on the light output. They were nowhere near the intensity of halogen. Kind of a failed experiment.
So for years, we advised against using LED pins and that it was best to just upgrade to real LED lights. LED lights were more expensive than their halogen counterparts. It was newer technology, they do cost more to make, but they also last longer. All of Hera's LED lights are rated for 50,000 hours. Thus, no bulbs to change. The LED lights that we offer from Hafele at more attractive pricing are rated for 30,000 hours useful life. And most of those are priced about the same or less than what the halogen lights were. Lot's of cost savings with the Hafele Loox LED lights. Additonal cost savings include:
- LED lights are lower wattage, they use less energy
- LED lights are cooler, some are warm, but not hot like halogen, they do not increase your AC bill
- Real LED lights do not have changeable bulbs, thus no bulb expense, very long life
- And since they are lower wattage, more LED lights can run from one LED power driver, less transformers to buy
So we feel, the LED pin was a failed experiment. As technology continued to expand, so did solutions. We went to Home Depot to see if G4 halogen bulbs were even still available. Hera discontinued everything halogen in August, 2015. All lights and parts for the lights, including bulbs, were no longer made and offered from Hera. We have been slowly selling off the overstock over these last many years and just recently sold the last of our G4 halogen bulbs in 10 watt and 20 watt. It is important to us to continue to help our customers, so we wanted to see what Home Depot had. And they did have them. But something else caught our eye too. They had an LED bulb with the G4 socket. What G4 represents is that the bulb is bi-pin. Thus the two little pins that push into the socket. The 4 means the pins are 4mm apart. So when you go bulb hunting and see G6 and G8, those will NOT fit in the G4 sockets that Hera used. You must get a G4 bi-pin bulb to fit in the Hera halogen lights. This is true of Tresco, Mepla, and other companies that made under cabinet lighting, and used G4 bulbs. But back to the sparkling little G4 LED bulb that jumped off the shelf and right into my hand. A nicely sized LED bulb to take the place of the glass halogen bulb. I did buy one, so I could write this blog post and offer more helpful info. This is the packaging of the bulb I bought. On the front of the package it clearly says G4. It implies it is the substitute for a 20 watt halogen. Yet at 2.5 watts and being 12 volt, it will NOT be as bright as what you use to have with your 20 watt halogen. A 20 watt halogen bulb is usually about 300 lumen. This bulb is 225 lumen. So it will be bright, but a little less bright than the halogen. The front of the package does say 12v, and the estimated life is approx. 10,000 hours. In comparison, the economy halogen bulbs that we use to offer were rated for 1000 hours. The premium halogen bulbs were rated for 4000 hours. And we did have a Xelogen bulb (a Xenon bulb to use in place of halogen), those had ratings of 10,000 or even 20,000 hours. That was a great bulb and we miss that one. But this $7 LED bulb from Home Depot is rated for 10,000 hours. The back of the package estimates a 9.1 year lifespan when used only 3 hours a day. That sounds right to us. At that rate, they are also estimating your annual energy cost of using this bulb 3 hours a day to be about 30 cents. Can't do that with halogen. To be more realistic though, if you have this bulb on 6 to 8 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week, expect that it will last 4 to 5 years, but still cost you under $1 a year to run it.
We are not selling this bulb. You can run to Home Depot and grab them for just under $7 each. We have not sourced them. But we did test fit one into a halogen light socket that we still had. This is the Feit Electric bulb inside a Hera E1 light. It fits, and fits nicely. It was also extremely easy to push in and pull out. The entire LED bulb seems to be in a clear rubber boot. It feels spongy and was easy to hold. Unlike halogen bulbs where you need to wear gloves or hold them with a paper towel because you are not supposed to touch the glass. With the LED bulb, just hold it with clean fingers. We took some measurements too. The halogen bulb which we show together with the LED bulb at the top of this blog post measures:
- .35 inches pin length
- .92 inches glass length
- .32 inches glass diameter
The G4 LED bulb measures:
- .37 inches pin length
- 1.03 inches bulb chassis length (just 1/10 of an inch longer)
- .35 x .49 bulb girth, this bulb is not 100% round, it lays in the light on its flat side.
Thus, the two bulbs are extremely similar in size. You can see that the LED bulb is 1/10th of an inch longer, and just a bit wider on its width. But it fits, far better than the LED pins from a dozen years ago. You can also see the small circuitry in the LED bulb. I would suspect that these are "soft start." Which means when you flip the switch, there is a tiny delay for them to come on, sometimes up to 2 seconds. Many LED lights are like that. It is a feature meant to extend their life. Few seldom flash on. Those that do are cheaper and will not last as long.
Now a word of caution
If you are choosing to use this or any similar G4 LED bulb as a substitute for halogen lights, we have two things to say about that. First, if using these on a boat or motorhome, thus running your lights directly from your 12Vdc, they should work as expected. The package does say dimmable on it. So if you have your lights set up on a dimmer, that should work just fine too. But we have not tested it. As with anything, when you need to test it, but one or two bulbs first, see how they work, then go from there.
Secondly, if your lights are in a home or office, thus operating from the Hera 12v halogen transformers, here is your word of warning. Hera has told us that their 60 watt 12v transformers require a 10 watt minimum load to perform properly. They can work with less than 10 watts on them, but they might buzz or worse, flicker. Each transformer seems to behave differently. Many people have encountered no problems, but many have been ready to chuck their lights out the window. So in most 20 watt light applications, you will have 2 or 3 halogen lights on a 60 watt transformer. If you have the Hera UK120TW transformer, true that it is a 120 watt transformer, but better said as a dual 60 watt since each terminal block supports only 60 watts and has the same 10 watt minimum load on each side. So, if you replace 20 watt bulbs with this 2.5 watt bulb, for two bulbs you are at 5 watts, for 3 you would be at 7.5 watts. You could encounter a hissy fit with your halogen transformer. If you encounter a blinking effect, the transformer is turning on, sensing not enough load, turning off, turning back on to try again, and repeating that annoying cycle. If you get a light buzzing sound and the lights come on, you could then use the transformer for as long as it lasts. You most likely will not hear the buzz when you don't have your head close to the transformer. But that irritation will limit the life of the transformer. How many more years you might get out of it is hard to say. We just want you to be aware of this.
Which leads us up to a real LED light solution
We have never promoted replacing halogen bulbs with LED bulbs in a halogen fixture. Mostly because we did not know about this bulb. So we are not endorsing this bulb, we are just informing you about it. Try it at your own choice. What we do endorse is replacing your older halogen lights with real LED lights. And we have a nice selection. Within our website, we invite you to explore these web pages: (short explanations on each)
- Loox 2020 3.2 watt 12 volt LED light - by far the best light to use on boats. Good for the home too. Looks a lot like the Hera E1 light. Will fit into the same recessed hole. Has an IP44 water resistance rating, light is sealed.
- Loox 2047 3 watt 12 volt LED light - an economical solution for upgrading from halogen to LED. Fits into the same recessed hole as the Hera E1, EH11, KB12 and old KH12 lights.
- Loox 2039 2.5 watt 12 volt LED light - a superior solution for lights on boats, but it is more of the equivalent of a 10 watt halogen. For accent lighting, it is ideal. But it is not a bright work light. It has an extremely high water resistance rating.
- Loox 3038 3 watt 24 volt LED light - this is the way to go when changing out the halogen lights in your home. The 24 volt will offer a closer brightness to what you had with the halogen. Fits in the same holes as the E1, EH11, KB12, and KH12.
- Hera R55-LED 3 watt 24 volt LED light - this is Hera's top choice for under cabinet kitchen lighting. Near the same power as a 20 watt halogen. Rated for 50,000 hours. But the friction fit clips are designed for a 2-1/4" bore hole. If attempting to fit them into the 2-1/8" hole, it is a hard fit. A little trimming may be needed, or you have to increase your hole size. So not an easy retrofit like the 4 Loox lights we mentioned above it.
We can help you with retrofitting halogen lights to LED lights. We are not coming to your house, all help will be over the phone or via e-mail. Or by reading many of the notes we have added to various web pages. But we can help. You will have to hunt down the hiding spot of your existing halogen transformers. Clever cabinet makers seem to try to hide them from the homeowner. On a boat, you probably will have zero transformers. But in your home, you will have 1, 2, or 3 of the 20 watt lights fed from a 60 watt transformer. If you have 10 watt halogen lights, which are much dimmer, you could have up to six attached to a 60 watt transformer. And you might have a dozen or more lights in your kitchen or built-in living room furniture. You also may have zones, thus these 3 lights over here are controlled separately from those 5 lights over there. Sometimes with your zones, you cannot string wires across the room. Thus, you can set up your LED lights in a similar zone pattern. But one of the really nice thing about LED lights is you can attach many more lights to one LED power driver. The Loox 2020 LED light for example, you can connect up to 6 of them to one 20 watt driver. With the aid of terminal block extenders, you can actually connect up to 18 lights onto one 60 watt LED driver. And the Loox LED lights are lower priced than what many of the premium Hera halogen lights were priced at. Now is actually a good time to ditch halogen for LED. And LED lights are not harsh. You have choices of 3000K, 4000K, and 5000K. The 3000K is more like the warm look of halogen. Most people seem to favor that. If you are displaying clear crystal or glasswear, consider the 5000K.
Whenever you have questions or need help with a new lighting set up or retrofitting what you have, you can call or e-mail us for help. We hope that you will consider our products. Between Hera and Hafele, we have some really nice lighting. Linear lighting too.
We hope this information about this G4 LED bulb was helpful. As well as all the other rambling. We do not open our blog posts for comments. But if you have comments, there is an e-mail link one paragraph up. We are not going to post comments, but if some contain additional helpful information, we can add on to a blog post.