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The Pros and Cons of LEDs
Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs have been a topic of much conversation as people begin to hear of the environmental and economic benefits associated with this form of lighting. LEDs have come a long way from once being used in small electronic devices, to now being used to create extraordinary effects at events and concerts. This technology has now advanced to the point where this form of lighting can be used for everyday purposes around the home.
There is a lot of misinformation regarding LEDs in the market place. This article will endeavor to explain the terminology and benefits of LEDs, expose the common myths and provide potential customers with information to make an educated decision when purchasing LEDs for the home.
LEDs are a lot more complex than the traditional incandescent light globes that we have grown up with. Incandescent globes were cheap and easy to install but they were not energy efficient and did not have a very long life span. So to understand LEDs we first of all need to understand some of the technology and the terminology.
Often specialists in certain fields use terms which the general consumer does not understand. This has traditionally been the case in the computer, telecommunications and home entertainment industries. It is now the case with LED's. LEDs are not like traditional incandescent lighting and can often require a transformer to operate at low voltage. Increasingly LED fixtures are being manufactured for line voltage and thus do not require a transformer while still being incredibly energy efficient.
There are many terms which can be used to explain how LED technology is used and applied. The following terms are just a few which will help when looking at LEDs.
Lifetime: The lifetime of a traditional light source refers to how long it will take to burn out. When speaking about LEDs it explains how long the light will last above 70% of its specified light output.
Directionality: Unlike traditional lights LEDs do not emit light in all directions. They require lenses and reflectors to direct light onto the desired surface. Thus, it is important to know what size area or surface you want to illuminate before purchasing any LED fixture or globe.
Colouring: LEDs have an amazing ability to show a surface or items in its true colour or in a colour of your choice. This means the light emitted can be a white light, warm white (yellowish), cool white or a mixture of the three primary colours. There are three main indexes which are used when discussing the colouring properties of an LED
- - CCT - Correlated Colour Temperatures
- - CRI - Colour Rendering Index
- - RGB - Red, Green, Blue
There are many benefits of installing LEDs but like any technology the benefits are only realized when the product is suited to the application. The main benefit of LEDs is that they can be five times more energy efficient than traditional incandescent and halogen lights and they can have a much longer lifespan. This means they are much better for the environment. Not only do they use less power and don't have to be replaced as often, they do not contain mercury like fluorescent lighting which require specialist recycling.
Two other benefits which are not often communicated are that they are very durable and can handle vibration as well as extreme environments. They also do not emit infrared or ultraviolet radiation which can cause household furnishing to fade.
Consumers are used to determining the brightness of the light by the wattage of the globe. However it is a mistake to compare these to LED lights or even one LED to another. When wanting to know the brightness of an LED it is important to find out the light output and light extraction efficacy.
A myth that is often circulated is that LEDs don't generate heat. LEDs do not radiate infrared heat but do produce heat when converting electricity into light. It is important to note that if the heat is not removed appropriately that it will damage the light. The heat that is generated is removed by a part of the fixture know as the heat sink and dispersed into the surrounding air.
As consumers we are used to paying a rather insignificant amount to replace light globes in our homes and as such could think that LEDs cost too much. It is true that initial purchase of LEDs does cost more but the return on your investment could be as soon as two years.
As with many other new technologies that have come onto the energy efficient market it can be hard to discern whether the product on offer can deliver what it promises. It is important to question the claims of the product, such as 'LEDs last forever'. LEDs like other light sources and do not maintain the same level of brightness for their entire life.
Other questions what may be of help are:
- 1. How does the manufacturer define lifetime?
Reputable manufactures will provide a lifespan that equates to 70% of the original brightness.
- 2. What is the maximum temperature that the fixture can operate at?
- 3. Does the lifetime of the LED include the electronics and other components?
- 4. What warranty is offered by the manufacturer?
- 5. Does the LED fixture require a transformer and if so is it included in the price?
- 6. Does the fixture have any special features that have to be allowed for to assist the heat sink process?
Where to start
There are a number of products on the market that can replace existing lighting in your home. It may be a good idea to trial some of these before commit to one product. There are LED replacements for outside spotlights, candle like globes an even one that looks like an old fashioned incandescent globe. There are also many companies making LED replacements for halogen down-lights.
When choosing lighting for your home it is worth considering a range of fixtures not just the standard down-lights. New buildings have to comply with lighting energy efficiency standards. Installing down-lights throughout the home will make it difficult to meet these standards. This is where LED pendent or wall lighting can assist in meeting the new standards while adding a real decorative feature to your home.
While there are an ever increasing number of LED manufacturers we recommend you source your new lighting from a major lighting manufacturer who is established in the industry. These companies have tested manufacturing procedures and have spent significant time researching and developing quality LED products.
Although LEDs may seem confusing to begin with, they do provide some real advantages for the environment, your hip pocket and the technological features.