Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Picking LED lights

There are many myths about LED lighting. Most come outdated criticisms or people are innocently unaware of options. Although based on what I have seen at retail stores, I would agree that LEDs don’t seem up to snuff. But what you see is not even close to what you can get.

What does LED mean?
LED stands for a light-emitting diode, where small light sources become illuminated by electrons moving through a semiconductor material. This is where the science brings you in a million directions, depending on what you want to do with the light.

How do they give off light?
LEDs used to just emit light from a single plane, instead of all directions like traditional bulbs. As of 2011, omni-directional lamps can recreate the effects of traditional bulbs.

What about consistency?
LEDs are semiconductor devices where manufacturing can inherently create variations. Early production of LEDs revealed inconsistencies, especially where Kelvin (color temperature) the Lumens (light strength) mattered. The result was Energy Star developing stringent LED manufacturing requirements in 2010, tougher than the rules for compact fluorescent lights (CFL). Manufacturers have also developed their own rules and expectations in anticipation of having to meet Energy Star ratings.

What Kelvin (Color Temperature) should I get?
Read the box! Pick up a variety of bulbs…return the ones you hate. Use the different temperatures in different conditions. I found cool works well over the stove and my kitchen sink, but warm is good for everywhere else. But by and large, it is the preference of the user.
• Warm White- 2,500-3,500K- Friendly, inviting, personable. Good for Restaurants, Hotel Lobbies, Boutiques, Bakeries and Homes.
• Pure White, White, or Cool- 4,000-5,500K- Neat, clean, efficient. Good for Office Areas, Conference Rooms, Hospitals, and Store Displays.
• Cold or Daylight White- 6,000-6,500K- Bright, replicates natural light. Galleries, Jewelry Stores, Public Areas, Parking Lots

Lumens (Light Strength)
Not long ago, 60w meant 60w. So since we know what 60w was, they put “60w equivalent” on the box. But even that may not be true, since many bulbs, especially CFLs, change in Kelvin and Lumens based on when it was made, where it was made, and how it was made. Incandescent bulbs were about 16 lumens per watt, where most LEDs are about are around 90 lumens per watt. But that is not the defining choice, since there are some LED’s that boast 200 lumens per watt. Look at the box, and read what it is compared to.

What about heat?
LED technology moves the old ratio of incandescent bulbs emitting 10% light and 90% heat on its head. LEDs lights emit 90% light and 10% heat. Not only does it reduce energy, but saves on cooling energy demands. Anyone that has worked next to a 1000-watt halogen lamp knows what I am talking about. The little bit of heat LED lights generate is bad for the circuits and the lamps, so the heat is directed backwards into a heat sink. A well-designed bulb is cool to the touch. A poorly designed heat sink gets too hot and will kill the light way before the its expected life, sometimes to hundreds of hours instead of 25,000-50,000 hours.

So what is good?
LEDs are an investment, and uality costs more. LED manufacturing costs are broken down to 44% diode, 23% driver, 23% assembly, and the other 10% housing. If they cost less, then the drivers & diodes are cheaper, which are the two most important elements to life and consistency. Most drivers will not last more than 50,000 hours, but cheap or poorly designed LEDs will give only hundreds of hours. Pick a bulb that is UL and Energy Star approved, a warrantee of 3 years or more, and the highest lumens per watt.

Costs have dropped dramatically. From 2007 to 2013, a 4’ LED tube was $250- 2007, in 2011- $60, and 2015 should be $15. A better typical A-19 (household screw in) LED 10w bulb, 820 lumens (a 60w equivalent) is about $30 or so. A better Par 38 (or large flood or recessed can light) 18w 1000 lumen bulb (75 watt equivalent) can sell for about $60.00. Your local utility sells homeowners a limited amount of LED bulbs at a significant discount, so visit their website. These bulbs are good, not poor, not better, not best. There are also rebates and tax incentives for all types of retrofits, up to 50% of the cost.

Like all light sources, LEDs slowly fade over time. LED lumen depreciation is determined by testing them over a period of 6,000 hours or more. Lumen depreciation changes by how the drive current is designed and how the heat dissipates within the bulb itself. Bulbs are commonly considered to be at the end of their useful life when their light output falls below 70% of their initial output. Well-designed LED lighting fixtures can retain 70% of their initial output for 50,000 hours or more, depending on operating conditions and other factors. Incandescent bulbs last about 6,000 hours, and fluorescent lights about 25,000 or less.

LEDs can dim, although you need specific dimmers based on the manufacturer. There are LED equivalents for virtually every type of bulb, but there are some that cannot get an LED equivalent, such as smaller bulbs that cannot fit enough diodes to compensate for the expected light output. Check with the manufacturer if exact lumen, color rendering, or Kelvin are desired.

Bottom line
Do your research. Buy a few expecting to return the Kelvin and lumens you don’t like. LEDs are a great investment, saving up to 80% of energy costs, as well as significant replacement costs for bulbs and labor. Sure, you can wait for better technology, but then you can miss out on reducing your energy bills now. The internet is a good source IF you know what your buying. Start by asking a professional, such as a LED lighting supplier or lighting designer.

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