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LED lighting - an introduction

Author: Jon Sharman
Published: January 31, 2014

LED lighting is the most energy efficient form of lighting around today. An LED, or ‘Light Emitting Diode’, uses the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material to create light. Most LED lighting combines a high-brightness blue LED with a yellow phosphor, which acts like a filter to create white light.

LED Lighting: From concept to creation

The blending of blue and yellow light to create white light was first noticed by Sir Isaac Newton in the early 1700s. Almost 300 years later, the 1990s invention of the blue LED by Shuji Nakamura unlocked the possibility of white LED lighting, which has become one of the greatest technologies of the early 21st century.

Benefits of LED

  • LED bulbs and luminaires have exceptionally long lifespans, with manufacturers quoting up to 30,000 to 75,000 hours. By comparison, CFLs and fluorescent tubes are typically rated at about 6,000 to 15,000 hours and halogen lamps at 2,000 hours.
  • LED light bulbs radiate minimal IR or UV light, either of which can damage artworks and other display items by heat damage and fading.
  • An LED lamp is always vastly more energy efficient than any incandescent or halogen equivalent, and usually more energy-efficient than fluorescent.
  • LED lights are particularly resistant to damage by shock or vibration. This is not true of incandescent or fluorescent light sources.
  • LEDs are small, which allows great design freedom for lighting designers, and makes it easy to produce retrofitting lamps.
  • Being relatively cool-running, LEDs do not raise room temperatures and create a need for air-conditioning to be utilised (cooling rooms generally costs more than heating them).
  • LED bulbs offer the user a choice of colour temperature (warm white, white, cool white), meaning you can tailor your lighting for a particular application.

Identifying the right LED bulbs

Many people new to LED lighting will be converting from halogen or incandescent and wondering what to look for when replacing their existing lamps. Lyco usually quote an equivalent in terms of wattage (halogen for spotlights, incandescent for general lighting). For example, 5W=50W might refer to a 5W LED GU10 spotlight with the light output of a 50W halogen equivalent.

Buying LED - FAQs

Is LED bright enough?

Already LED lighting is used in car headlamps and street lighting. It is suitable for many applications where inefficient lighting has previously been the only option, and its versatility will only increase as lumens-per-watt performance goes up.

Are LED lights dimmable?

Many are, though you should take care to pair them with a high quality LED-compatible dimmer switch.

How is LED lifespan measured?

Because LED lifespan is so long, it is calculated using limited data from a large sample selection. The end of an LED’s life is widely accepted as the point of 70% lumen maintenance (when it has lost 30% of its original output), though the benchmark used varies between manufacturers and is not always quoted.

How good is LED colour?

LED bulbs have a minimum CRI 80 rating for colour rendering, which is a good quality for most purposes. Historically, the discontinuous spectrum of LED made it less dependable for colour-critical applications than an incandescent light source but that is a thing of the past. Already there are CRI 90+ products on the market and LEDs are expected to improve further in the very near future.

Benchmark LED products

Its always handy to know what are the best or most popular products are when looking to buy. With this in mind we provide a regularly updated list of the top ten LED bulbs and most popular LED light fittings. Being constantly maintained, these articles should always prove to be a great source of reference.

Why not browse our extensive LED range including LED bulbs and fittings?

Want to know more about lighting or looking for inspiration? Try our Lighting Advice section.