Lighting – debunking the LED
Photos courtesy of Living Lighting Etobicoke-Kingsway
The world of lighting has been changing drastically in the past several years. It used to be we had a few products to select from, some better for certain applications than others, and as long as we addressed the basic principles of lighting we should be safe in our lighting design. However, the technology that had moved at a bit of snails-pace started to rapidly increase and we are finding ourselves reaching a point where the traditional incandescent bulb will soon be a thing of the past with, amongst others, the LED bulb taking centre stage.
The LED bulb, or light emitting diode, has graced us with its presence for several years now.
This is a bulb that functions differently than the conventional incandescent. In the LED bulb, electrical currents pass through tiny microchips, illuminating the tiny light sources referred to as “LEDs” … the result is visible light. To prevent performance issues, the heat LEDs produce is absorbed into a heat sink.
LED bulbs are definitely different in many ways when compared with incandescent. The LED bulb does not actually “burn out”. In the case of LED lighting, they will experience a lumen depreciation in lieu of the burn out effect; meaning the brightness of the LED simply dims slowly over time. The “lifetime” of the LED bulb, therefore, is recognized when the light output is decreased by about 30 percent. However, that said, many LED bulbs have a life expectancy of up to 50,000 hours; longer than the typical incandescent. Another major difference between these bulbs would definitely be their energy output. With incandescent bulbs, light productions involves generating a lot heat as the filament needs to be warmed; this is wasted energy as a large portion of this electricity is not actually producing any visible light. Based on this process, as the LED bulb functions in a different fashion, it also generates very little heat, whereby a higher percentage of the electricity required goes directly to the production of light… therefore “energy efficient” as it will consume one-sixth the energy of incandescent bulbs and can last up to twenty-five times longer.
This is definitely a fantastic and important factor, in our world today. However, let’s face it LED lighting is not necessarily a favourite of many. Between the too bright, too white, too cool and the undimmable factor, the LED had a rough start on the market.
Many believe that the wattage of a bulb is an indication of the brightness of light, but in actuality, it is a measure of the volume of energy the bulb draws. With incandescents, we have accepted a general correlation between watts and brightness. However, with LEDs it’s not quite the same as they are designed to draw less energy and therefore simply don’t equate; as a 60w incandescent is approximately an 8-12 watt LED. The best way to determine the light output is to work in a measurement of lumens, the accurate measurement of brightness a light bulb can provide.
Too white, too cool…
After a bit of a rough start with the colour of the basic LED bulb, which was drastically different than customary warm, yellowish light the years of incandescent gave us, we are now able to select from several options of white LED lighting. Warm white and soft white will give us a yellowy hue similar to that of an incandescent. The bright white LED bulbs will produce a much “whiter” light more similar to daylight. Technically speaking, light colour or colour temperature is measured in kelvins. The lower the number the warmer the light will be. The incandescent bulb lies somewhere between 2700k and 3500k, so to achieve a similar warmth or colour of light a 3000k LED would be a wise choice, instead of a 4000k, a definitely brighter and whiter light.
There have been many issues with dimming LED lights, or even the inconsistency of the dimmability of LEDs. When retrofitting lighting, you need to remember that LED bulbs have a low electrical load, often lower than typical dimmers which are still designed for tungsten loads that are rated at 250w to 400w. It’s best to simply just use dimmers that have been specifically designed for LED loads, and in the case of smart home technology attention should be paid to ensuring the compatibility of the LED dimmers with that of the specific supplier. Sadly, an equal balance of consistent dimming is often extremely difficult to achieve. It’s never a good idea to mix different manufacturers on the same dimming circuit as every LED can have its own circuitry design and the dimmer may not be able to provide a consistent signal to each light source; resulting in flickering, humming and annoyance. The short of it is… to really avoid any issues should they occur the best would be to change all the bulbs on that particular circuit preventing any chance of inconsistency. This can be rather expensive, but chances are it will eliminate any issues until such time that technological progress perfects the “ghosts” of the LED bulbs.
Becoming more familiar with the LED bulb will hopefully put to rest the loss of the incandescent that so many of us will mourn. The LED is a different entity and needs to be realized as such, so instead of fighting the change, embrace it and move forward knowing that the LED will light the way for the future.
Linda Mazur is an award-winning, nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.
With almost two decades of experience this in demand multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating relaxed stylish spaces and full-scale design builds within Toronto, the GTA and throughout Canada.