REVIEWED Inground uplights
We bench test and rate the latest products from the major brands. Report by Lux technical editor Alan Tulla.
This review covers a whole range of mid-size uplighters. Most are 10W – 15W and 150 mm – 200 mm diameter. All, except one, are designed to be recessed in the ground. Some have a fixed beam and others have an adjustable tilt. There’s something for everyone.
There are two main issues to consider when choosing an inground uplight. The first is the location and environment such as the operating temperature, will rainwater drain away, whether vehicles will be driving over them etc. The second is the lighting effect. Do you want a wide or narrow beam, is it uniform, does it need a brighter central area. There are other particular issues such as the surface temperature of the glass (important where people might be barefoot) and whether the uplighter could be a trip hazard, how to minimise sky glow etc.
When you think about it, inground uplighters have to work in pretty difficult conditions. Apart from being walked and driven over, they are, at times, submerged by rain, exposed to very high and low temperatures and possibly vandalised.
One of the biggest complaints about uplighters is that they let water in. In pre-LED days, the commonest reason was moisture entering during relamping or the top cover not being replaced properly. Nowadays, with LED, there is less reason to remove the cover and a more likely cause for dampness to enter is via the cable gland. This is made worse by the fact that the uplighters “breathe” as the air inside expands and contracts with heating and cooling. There are several good engineering solutions to this problem so always ask your supplier about how this issue is overcome.
Always check the maximum ambient operating temperature of the uplighter. Stainless steel luminaires are terrific at resisting corrosion but they don’t conduct heat nearly so well as aluminium or bronze/brass. The face temperature of the front glass can be an issue where there are members of the public. You don’t want a baby or someone with bare feet treading on hot glass.
One last point about environmental conditions is that public spaces are often cleaned by mechanical washers. These have stiff rotating brushes and high pressure jets which can force water inside and, sometimes, lift the uplighter right out the ground. The Construction, Design and Maintenance, CDM, regulations oblige the designer to consider the operating environment, such as this. I am indebted to a friend working in the streetlighting sector for pointing this out to me.
In terms of lighting effect, I would always recommend you do a trial. Switch it on and see what the beam looks like. Flat, plain surfaces, such as pillars or concrete façades, can be very unforgiving; they will highlight any imperfection in the beam or colour fringing.
Think about the best way to minimise skyglow and stray light. Tilting the beam so it is caught by the eaves is a fairly easy solution. Using a narrow a beam as possible also helps. Most manufacturers also offer louvres, visors and beam shaping lenses.
The price ranges are: £ (< £150), ££ (£150 – £300), £££ (£>300).
Auraled Illustro LED 9W
The IP67, 316 stainless steel Illustro is different from all the other uplights reviewed in that the LEDs are powered by induction rather than using an electronic driver. Auraled say this greatly reduces the possibility of LED failure due to moisture being drawn in to the luminaire. In effect, the uplight is in two parts. The upper contains the LEDs, which warm up and cool down, but this is totally sealed and kept separate from the lower half which contains the inductive driver and supply cable. It has a wide, even beam.
This is a well-made unit at a very keen price.
- Price range £
Designplan Centaur CE150 16W
This is a typical example of a Designplan product. It has a die cast IP67 aluminium body with matt black polyester powder coat finish which both protects the luminaire and helps transmit the heat away. The toughened clear glass and stainless steel bezel are completely flush – in some competitor products, the glass is below the bezel and can collect water. A 10mm thick polycarbonate lens is also available.
There are three beam spreads available and the Medium which we tested was smooth, uniform and without any colour fringing. It’s a good all-rounder.
The standard unit is supplied sealed and with a 2m flying lead.
- Price range ££
Ghidini Neo 12W
Ease of installation is important and this unit is already supplied with a flying lead, so it is quick to connect. There is a cable gland on the base but in fact, inside, it is totally potted, so there is no chance of moisture ingress through the cable. The IP67 body is of die cast aluminium with a polyester paint finish.
Most of the other uplighters contain several individual LEDs, each with their own lens. The Neo is different in having a single CoB module combined with a bright facetted reflector. This gave a smooth beam with a more intense central section.
- Price range ££
iGuzzini LightUp Earth 15W
Light Up Earth is a whole family of uplighters available in a large range of sizes and optics.
The one that particularly interested us was the uplight with an adjustable optic. There are five beam widths available. It can be rotated 180° and tilted +/- 30° either side of axis.
What makes this uplight different is that you don’t have to remove the front lens to adjust the tilt angle. This avoids the risk of dirt or moisture getting inside – if you have aimed floodlights in the rain, you will know what I mean. Since it is IP68 and you don’t have to open the uplight, the driver is remote. Interestingly, it is fitted with an astronomical clock which is used in conjunction the Dali control.
The uplight will operate up to 45C and has a cool touch glass
- Price range ££
Kingfisher ArcLuce Short 180 9W
Kingfisher have an enormous range of uplighters. This one is typical of what they offer. This has a die cast aluminium body with double layer polyester paint. There is a tough 10mm glass lens which will resist a 5,000 kg static load.
An interesting design feature is that the cable exit is on the side and so the total depth of the uplight is only about 120 mm. It is also an efficient unit delivering 85 lm/W. It stays cool, too, with a maximum glass temperature of 40C.
- Price range ££
Lumascape LS 363 15W
Except for one other manufacturer, this is a larger, heavier and more robust unit than all the rest in this review. The body of the LS 363 is 316 grade stainless steel and rated at IP68 to a depth of 10m. It will operate up to an ambient of 50C.
This particular unit has an LED module that can swivel +/- 15° either side of centre. The module can also rotate so you can aim the beam exactly where you want it. Adjustment is made by removing the six Teflon coated cover screws
- Price range £££
Simes Concrete Uplight 13W
This is completely different in that it is surface mounted and made of concrete. Since none of the luminaire (apart from the cable entry) is recessed, there are no drainage issues. It is also rated at IP67.
The body is made of very fine grained concrete reinforced with synthetic fibre. It’s an attractive unit that would blend in with a lot of landscapes. The CoB LED module gives a very smooth, wide beam. Again, ideal for uplighting trees in a landscape. The uplight is 70mm high so it can be clearly seen by day or night.
- Price range £££
We-ef ETC 330
This is another solidly engineered, robust unit and is the largest diameter of them all. This unit has exceptional versatility in that not only can you rotate the lens unit almost 360°, you can tilt it +/- 30° and, best of all, there are four different beam widths available from 5° to 25° plus a wall wash.
It is IP67 and made of stainless steel with polymer impregnated screws which means that you will still be able to open them after years of use. The front glass will withstand a static load of 5,000 kg.
Price range £££