LED Basics: From Humble Beginnings to Present Applications

Several types of LED lighting.

Invented in the early 20th century, Light Emitting Diodes (LED) have only started seeing widespread use in the past 50 years. As a relatively new technology, at least in a majority of households, there are many questions about LED lighting. What are LEDs and where did they come from? What are the benefits and who uses them? By learning the basics, the benefits, and the present applications, you can determine whether using LED lighting is beneficial for you.

How They Work

LED lights use two semi-conductive materials, allowing current to flow in one direction, emitting light in a more efficient way. These materials were not always so readily available to the general public.

When first introduced in 1927, LED lights were only used as indicator lights for calculators, flashlights, and other electronic devices. They were expensive to produce and thus were never used for everyday lighting applications.

However, by 1976, improvements in brightness and additional colors paved the way for a wider use of LEDs as a light source. Since then, LED lighting has evolved to the point where today, LED lights are replacing traditional lighting sources.

LED Basics: From Humble Beginnings to Present Applications

How They’re Different

There are many advantages to using LED lighting over traditional lighting sources, including efficiency, performance and other environmental benefits.

Traditional lighting sources such as incandescent and fluorescent bulbs are highly inefficient, typically using more energy to produce lower amounts of light compared to LED sources. This is measured by the wattage of the bulb and the amount of lumens it produces. The wattage translates to how much energy the bulb consumes to produce light, the higher the wattage, the more energy a bulb consumes. The lumens are the amount of light a bulb produces. The higher the lumens listed, the more light that bulb is able to produce. For example, your average incandescent 40W bulb might only produce around 450 lumens, whereas a 35W LED bulb can produce around 2575 lumens. An LED bulb can be up to 90 percent more efficient than traditional bulbs. This allows LED lights to provide up to 50,000 hours of illumination, easily outlasting the traditional lifespan of around 1000 hours.

Many people are used to buying bulbs by wattage, and know how much light to expect from a 40, 60, or 100 watt bulb. When they see lumens on the new labeling, it may not be easy to translate that into the light you’re looking for. The Energy Star program created this useful chart.

LED Basics: From Humble Beginnings to Present Applications

Their efficiency also results in a low heat output which prevents socket failure. Less socket failure means less rebulbing, a labor-saving and cash efficient solution to bulb replacement.

How They Look

LED lighting aesthetically looks better than traditional lighting sources. With the evolution of Chip on Board (COB) technology, LED lights avoid light pollution and only illuminate the necessary areas. The light itself is cleaner than traditional lights without flickering. In addition, LED lights turn on instantly as opposed to a slow start-up. They can be dimmable and programmable, and produce a truer, whiter light than incandescents.

LED Basics: From Humble Beginnings to Present Applications

How They’re Environmentally Friendly

LED lights are also more environmental friendly than their counterparts. Their efficiency means less maintenance and less money spent on replacement bulbs; reducing manufacturing, shipping, and other environmental costs. Furthermore, unlike CFL bulbs, LED lights contain no mercury or other harmful environmental substances.

LED lighting is rapidly becoming the top choice for lighting installations nationwide. LED lights can be seen replacing traditional lighting sources across the market. Their uses range from landscape lighting to flood lighting. Many different applications use LEDs because the longer lifespan leading to less labor costs, better performance and the aesthetic advantages of the light. While one may think that only new construction projects can take advantage of LED lighting that is simply not the case. LED retrofit kits allow one to replace traditional lights in their home or on an old project with new LED lights. With so many advantages over traditional lighting, it is time for LEDs to shine!

LED Basics: From Humble Beginnings to Present Applications