Lighting Industry

Downlight Market at a Glance

Recently, I conducted a survey of about 600 lighting designers, mostly IALD members, asking them questions about their specifications of nonresidential spec-grade downlights and also their perceptions of popular brands in the market. To qualify to take the survey, the designer had to confirm that they have specified commercial downlights over the past three years.

The survey was part of a larger study I conducted of a larger sampling of architects and lighting designers subscribing to Illuminate, the lighting design supplement to Architectural Products that I produce. Depending on the type of response we get to it here, we will go ahead with publishing the full results in the next issue of Illuminate and also possibly make it a regular feature in Illuminate, covering a different market in each issue (direct/indirect, track, outdoor, etc.).

So: What do you think? Please leave us a comment!

First, I asked lighting designers to break down their nonresidential downlight specs by general type:


Second, I asked them to break down their specs by size:


What are the most important factors designers consider when selecting a downlight brand?


And lastly, I asked lighting designers what is their perception of a list of common downlight brands in terms of average price of product (1-7 scale representing low to high) and average quality of product (1-7 scale representing low to high). The results are below. (Note that Juno is not listed horizontally for any special reason; that is a glitch courtesy of the Excel version in Microsoft Office 2007.)


Any surprises here?

  • Steven Rosen February 8, 2009, 4:03 PM

    These are good questions you are asking. I also wonder about lighting designers and the “vanity” market. Do some designers specify KV, Edison Price, or Zumtoble because they can? Lots of time a line like KV is terrific because they offer so many options–and if they don’t have something to complement their family they will consider making it. But, having used the “Name Brand” stuff I gotta tell ya, it is not necessarily any better (and sometimes inferior), quality-wise or performance-wise than the spec grade lines produced by the big commodity conglomerates. Before their was precision 3D CAD industrial design software and CNC machines, the boutique downlight manufacturers very much had the edge. Now, I’m not so sure. Is this heresy? God save me if it is.

    Interesting that Erco did not make your survey.

  • Earl Levin, LC, IALD February 10, 2009, 3:24 PM

    ERCO most expensive, highest quality by far and best efficiency. I

  • Jan Middleton February 11, 2009, 10:57 AM

    I would be interested to know if you asked any further questions about square downlights…are customers wanting more square products or do they still prefer round? Great article – thanks!

  • Craig DiLouie February 11, 2009, 12:42 PM

    Thank you for the great discussion. I’d like to see more designers respond to Steve’s comments about the higher-end brands! (No slight against Erco or any other omitted brand was intended. We simply had to cut off the number of manufacturers included in the survey to make things manageable.)

    Jan, to answer your question, the complete results of the survey are published online here. We had to limit the depth we explored to prevent “survey fatigue” and thereby maximize response. If we do the survey in the future, however, we will be able to develop two data points and sense a possible trend. Thanks for commenting!

  • Michael Phillips February 24, 2009, 12:18 PM

    Very intersting article, and confirms what I’m seeing in the market place.

    I would be very intersted to see a more detailed survey of the designers perception map with even more manufactures listed.

  • Gina Jackson, LC February 24, 2009, 12:37 PM

    This is great information. It is nice to see what other designers are experiencing. I am also happy to hear that you will continue the series with other categories. My findings with the high end fixtures is that they do more to make a complete product that has intangible features that allow for better installation, better heat management, tool or tool-less, in other words, they go beyond the optics.

  • aleman February 24, 2009, 6:48 PM

    Excellent article!! Do you have any survey about residential downlights? Here in honduras se use Lithonia where price is important and Lightolier when we are not so short with money!

  • Craig DiLouie February 24, 2009, 9:08 PM

    Thanks for visiting, Aleman! But I’m sorry to say there are currently no plans to look at the residential market.

  • Sterling February 25, 2009, 1:38 PM

    Very informative. Any plans for similar information regarding residential applications?

  • Craig Kennedy February 26, 2009, 10:46 AM

    This is great information. In the comments above you refer to “complete results of the survey are published online here.” How can I get to them?

  • Sabine March 2, 2009, 3:32 AM

    Excellent information on the topic. It’s good to see my assumptions aproved. I am keen on regarding more about the survey!

  • Sophie June 10, 2013, 2:55 PM

    I would be interested to see information on this now with LED taking off.


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