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LED Light Bulbs





   

While LED (Light Emitting Diodes) technology is not new the improvements are finally making them a viable option for most any applications. The lack of mercury and lead in their manufacturing along with the long life and energy savings make them the best option for the environment. Though they many have a higher initial cost they will more than pay for themselves with the energy savings and long life span.  

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LED Lighting Technology 

Light Emitting Diodes (LED) technology was discovered in the early 1900's but did not become a viable product until the late 1960's. In the early days they were mainly used as indicator lights because of their long life and reliability, but they did not have a high light output for other lighting applications. While the LED technology was being used in items such as TV remotes and other items as time passed it seemed to have languished in obscurity until the 2000's. The adoption of more stringent efficiency laws in Europe first and then the United States gave a big boost in R&D dollars spent for the technology. Many of the problems such a lumens (light output) per watt, quality of the light output and high cost of production were overcome with the infusion of money. Below are some advantages and concerns you should evaluate when choosing whether to buy LED lighting products.


LED Advantages

Long Life

LED's long life is one of the major advantages of the technology.  Early LED lights had a median life ratings of 100,000 hours but this has come down in most retail products as the manufactures have increased the light output (lumens) per watt.  The higher light output per watt causes heat in the diode that produces the light, which has shortened the life.  This being said most of the retail LED products out today are rated in the 25,000 to 45,000 hour range. To put this long life in perspective, a 25,000 hour rated LED light bulb that burns for 8 hours a day will last for an average of 8.5 years. This can be a huge advantage if your lighting application is in a difficult place to change and maintenance is an issue.

Energy Efficiency 

Energy efficiency has become a big topic in todays society and has been the main driver in the development of LED's. The US government put new energy efficiency regulations into place in 2004 and again in 2007 that required lighting to meet new efficiency standards. It also outlawed the manufacturing and import of many of the traditional incandescent and halogen bulb you may have used in the past. LED bulbs meet these new regulations and provide one of the most efficient light sources you can buy (Below is an example of efficiency and life).

12.5 Watt LED Light Bulb         14 Watt Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb 60 watt incandescent Light Bulb
Energy Usage:  12.5 watts Energy Usage:  14 watts Energy Usage:  60 watts
Lumens:  800 Lumens:  800 Lumens:  850
Lumens per watt:  64  Lumens per watt:  57 Lumens per watt:  14
Average Life:  25,000 Hours Average Life:  8,000 Hours Average Life:  1,000 Hours


The other important thing to remember about efficiency is that LED technology is still improving every year. where as the other two types are close to there limits in technological advancement. 

LED's have been advancing at a rapid pace both in efficiency and cost.


Light Quality
 
There are a two main ways that the industry measures light quality; color temperature and color rendering index (CRI). Color temperature is a term that manufactures use to measure the color of the light. The color temperature of lights is measured in kelvin. An incandescent light bulb has a kelvin of 2700 where a halogen light bulb is around 3000 kelvin. The lower kelvin colors are termed as warm colors (yellower white) and the higher kelvin numbers are termed as cool colors (bluer white). It is important to remember that you are measuring shades of white when discussing kelvin. LED's like compact fluorescent come in many kelvin options, which can include 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4100K temperatures. These options allow you to find the color of light that works for your specific applications. Color rendering index (CRI) measures how true the colors look under the light bulb. An incandescent light bulb is rated as a 100 CRI and is the standard that all other lighting is measured. Fluorescent lights usually rate at a CRI of 75 to 80. The newer LED light start at 80 and have now gone up into the lower 90's in some cases. The best way to think of CRI is the closer the number is to 100 the truer the colors will look. There is one other advantage that LED's have when it comes to light quality, they have virtually no UV or infrared light in their output. UV and IR are the elements of light waves that fade fabrics, paint and other items. LEDs have very little UV and IR components which make ideal for use with art work and fabrics.


LED Concerns

Pricing

Pricing for LED's started very high but they have been coming down every year. At their prices today they are very economical due to their high energy efficiency and long life. Pricing will continue to go down in the future and efficiency will continue to increase making LED's more and more viable option.

Light Output

The other concern with LED's is the amount of total light (lumens) that they put out. LED's, while very efficient in lumens per watt, are still not able to match the light output of some of the higher wattage light bulbs that are now outlawed. Every year the industry continues to improve this. LED's can meet the needs of most applications today but if you require a lot of light (lumens) for your application it may have to wait for the LED technology to catch up.




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