While there are many different light bulb fittings and bases, perhaps the most important difference is the voltage they operate at. You’ll find information on the voltage of each of the LED light bulbs in the detailed listings on the SimplyLED website.
Mains voltage bulbs
The mains electricity supply in the UK and Europe is 230V AC (Alternating Current). This powers the majority of lights in the home, and in commercial and public places.
LED light bulbs work on low voltage DC (Direct Current). This means each LED bulb designed to replace a mains voltage bulb, has a ‘driver’ which changes the mains electricity.
If you compare the GU10 LED bulb (230V) with the equivalent MR16 LED (12V), you will see the GU10 is quite a bit longer. This extra length houses a small driver. So although the physical fitting of both bulbs is the same, it’s important you choose the GU10 LED bulb for a mains voltage fitting.
Low voltage bulbs
Although low voltage bulbs have always been used in cars, their use in the home is a more recent innovation. Quite often the multiple fittings in bathrooms and kitchens are 12V. They are not connected directly to the mains supply, having a transformer in between.
The transformer ‘steps down’ the 230V mains voltage, and changes the current from AC to DC. LED light bulbs, such as the MR16 range, use a driver instead of a transformer. Although the driver does a similar job to a transformer, they are different and not interchangeable. When first changing to low voltage LED light bulbs, it’s important to change all the bulbs together and to change the transformer for a driver.
The other common low voltage application is in mobile homes, caravans and boats. Being mobile, they are not connected to the mains supply, and reply on 12V or 24V batteries.
LED light bulbs in these situations do not need a driver, so you should choose the MR16 range instead of the GU10 LED light bulbs.