+ "What are LED's?"
LED's, (or light emitting diodes) are a form of solid-state lighting which relies on the movement of electrons within a semiconducting material, which then converts energy into light. It is one of the most highly efficient and long lasting forms of lighting available today, set to replace incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen lighting in the very near future.
LED's rely on the transfer of electrons to release energy in the form of photons, and it is this movement of electrons which is the basis for all electrical energy. It produces everything from massive lightning storms, to tiny electrical impulses within our body's nervous systems that enables our brains to take care of our every thought, breath and heartbeat.
The semiconductor materials which LED's are made of are simply materials which are able to conduct electrical current. These materials are put through a process called doping where impurities are added to them to make the material more conductive. The result can either be what's known as p-type material, which has more positively charged particles due to missing electrons, or n-type material, which has more negatively charged particles due to excess electrons.
+ "How do LED's produce light?"
Diodes such as LED's consist of an n-type material and a p-type material bonded together, which, when an electrical current is applied to it will cause electrons to flow across the boundary between them. When the electrons are pushed from the n-type material over to the P-type material they are forced to release a small amount of energy, and this released energy comes in the form of photons, in other words, light!
+ "What are the benefits of LED's?"
There are many reasons why LED fixtures have quickly moved to the forefront of the lighting industry:
- Low running cost:
with such a low energy consumption rate, LEDs offer fantastic performance for such an energy efficient product.
- Safe running temperatures:
Lighting fixtures with surface temperatures exceeding 90 degrees are classified as fire hazards, and as such have to be fitted with protective covers.
- High durability:
Classed as solid-state lighting, LED fixtures can be handled without fear of breakage unlike fragile incandescent, Halogen and CFL globes.
- Environmentally friendly:
Built with no harmful chemicals such as Mercury or Cadmium, and producing no harmful UV rays, LEDs are safe in any hands.
+ "Should I just buy a replacement LED globe or look for a new LED Fixture?"
When choosing your LED lighting, you have the choice between Retrofit globes, or Integrated LED fixtures.
The reason we only provide our customers with either Semi-Integrated or Fully-Integrated LED fixtures is because we believe they can deliver a much more reliable and long lasting light. Supplied with Quality tested components, we stand behind all the products in our store with confidence.
Semi-Integrated: Fixtures with the LED, Heat Sync and fascia built into one body, with a separate, external Driver.
Fully-Integrated: Fixtures with every component built into the body (LED, Heat Sync, Fascia and Driver). These can be connected straight to 240V mains power.
The problem with Retrofit Globes
Retrofit globes, while they appear to be cheaper, and easier options, can come with added problems and hidden costs due to their limited heat dispersion capabilities and the fact that they are not supplied with power supplies. Both of these factors can greatly reduce the lifetime of the LED to well under what is claimed, and their unreliability is often reflected by short lifetime warranties with very restricting clauses.
Incompatible Power supply
As an electrician it has been my role to install, maintain and repair various types of light in a variety of applications, and over the years I have unfortunately needed to replace quite a number of popular Retrofit globes which either failed to last a full 12 months, or simply did not give out enough light. The reason for their heavily reduced lifespan was mainly due to the fact that they were simply swapped with Halogen globes and run on Transformers or cheap Drivers. And restricted in size, the LEDs were not powerful enough to produce the light required. This meant added cost to replace the globes, purchase new compatible power supplies, as well as labor.
Limited size, limited heat dispersion capabilities
With restrictions on the physical size of Retrofit LED globes, the size of the heat sync is also limited. And even though LEDs are extremely efficient, producing no radiant heat, the small amount of conductive heat produced behind the LED needs to be removed with the help of a sufficient heat sync to ensure the chips longevity. Having personally replaced 'premium' Retrofit globes in as little as 6 months after being installed, we believe that Integrated LED Fixtures are by far the most reliable.
+ "How does the technology in LED light differ from traditional lighting methods such as incandescent, Halogen and Compact Fluorescent lighting?"
There are many differences between these various light sources including their methods of producing light, their safety, their efficiency, their expected life expectancy and the costs of the products. Let's go through them one by one:
(Typical Rated Lifespan: 1,000 to 2,000 hours)
Incandescent globes have a very thin filament made of Tungsten, sealed inside it's glass bulb, through which electricity runs when it is turned on. This filament has a resistance so that when current is applied to the light bulb the filament is heated up a very high temperature which makes it glow. This makes it a very inefficient way to produce light because it's reliant on a high degree of heat for it to perform. Roughly 90% of the power needed turns into heat rather than visible light. This also means that the life expectancy of the filament is very low, roughly 2-3% of that of an LED.
Another major problem of incandescent globes is their durability. Because the filaments are very fine and they're encased in a very thin, sealed glass bowl so as to not burn out straight away, but it makes them very prone to breaking if they're not handled with great care. In fact there recognised as so inefficient that they are in the process of being fazed out because they just don't meet the minimum energy requirements that are now expected.
(Typical Rated Lifespan: 4,000 to 8,000 hours)
A halogen globe works in pretty much the same way as an incandescent globe, the main differences are in the construction and materials used; it contains a filament which is encased in a small tube made of quartz which is filled with Halogen gas. Using halogen gas enables the filament to withstand much higher temperatures without affecting its life expectancy, and also causes chemical reactions between it and the tungsten as it slowly vaporizes, causing it to be deposited straight back onto the filament. Making them brighter and longer lasting than incandescent globes.
One of the biggest problems with using Halogen globes in your home or business is the extremely high temperatures at which they run. Your average Halogen needs to be heated to about 250 degrees in order to allow the chemical reactions between the filament and the halogen gas to take place. This is great if your looking to heat up your ceiling space, but not so great on your power bill.
Halogens are expected to last about 4 times as long as an incandescent, however with the latest LED Fittings expected to last more than 50,000 hours they're expected to also be phased out in the very near future.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFL's):
(Typical Rated Lifespan: 6,000 to 15,000 hours)
CFL's work by driving electric current through a sealed glass tube which contains argon and, unfortunately, mercury vapor. The inside of the glass is also coated with a Phosphor powder. When the current flows through the tube it excites the argon gas, which in turn excites the mercury, turning it from a liquid to a gas. The argon atoms and newly made mercury gas atoms then proceed to act like bumper cars, knocking and colliding with each other inside the tube. Each collision excites the mercury atoms causing them to produce Ultraviolet Light. The Phosphor powder coating on the glass then gives off visible light when hit by the UV photons.
One major problem with CFL's is their environmental impact. Containing only small amounts of Mercury in every light, they must be correctly recycled rather than put in landfill, and it is still recommended that you leave and ventilate the room of a broken CFL for 5 to 10 minutes! In fact, research from Stanford University, as reported by MSNBC, has shown that the amount of mercury in one "Low Mercury" Compact Fluorescent "can contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels."
Due to the Ultra-Violet rays produced, there is cause for concern due to excessive exposure leading to retinal and skin damage. While some people may claim that this is bogus, I can speak from my personal experience in the electrical industry having seen first hand the effects of high exposure to Fluorescent light. A fellow electrician was spending the day indoors replacing Fluorescent lights, so decided to wear safety sunglasses so that he didn't have to strain his eyes looking at the bright light. At the end of the day when he removed his safety glasses, he had a noticeable tan-line on his face! It definitely changed the way I looked at Fluorescent lighting... From a practical perspective, standard CFL's have some flaws which are worth noting:
- The lifespan and effectiveness of Compact Fluorescent Lamps can be greatly decreased if they are not left on for more than 15 minutes at a time, as starting the lamp causes wear and tear on the electrodes.
- Unless stated, CFL's cannot be dimmed.
- Full brightness can only be reached when the light is fully warmed up. And unless stated, this can often take many annoying seconds
- The glass tubing of the CFL is highly fragile, easily cracking and breaking. Once cracked it becomes useless, needing to be sent off to be safely recycled.
Compact Flouro's were the last attempt to create an energy efficient supply of lighting before the potential of LED's were realized. LEDs are revolutionizing our expectations of the quality, efficiency and appearance of lighting.