The benefits of LED technology in Lighting

The first Light Emitting Diode came to life 50 years ago (1962) as a semiconductor light source. LEDs then were used as indicator lamps in a number of electronic devices and principally as warning devices. With continuous development LEDs are now increasingly being used in all types of general lighting where the technology is proven in terms of energy saving. This trend is likely to continue as purchasers become aware of the substantial benefits LEDs have when compared to conventional lighting solutions.

Initially the LED lighting industry targeted the commercial and military aerospace industries where the benefits of applying LED lighting technology have already achieved substantial acceptance. The energy savings produced are compounded by massive reductions in maintenance costs and the application of LED lighting is now commonplace in both retrofit and new build aircraft as the commercial benefits of this technology are proven beyond doubt.

In general, current lighting in the public domain is dominated by traditional incandescent filament bulbs or fluorescent tubes and these processes have barely changed in more than 100 years. Those technology types and systems are fully understood and most people are comfortable with the range of fittings and versions available along with the associated cost implications. Common applications are virtually endless.

However, the cost and efficiency of conventional lighting is now being questioned more broadly as people become more aware of the alternative means of lighting that are available. This awareness is expanding rapidly as changes in education, environment and law mean that new alternatives in lighting technology are more necessary than ever.

Since 2008, LED lighting has been developing as a more generally accepted form of lighting with a number of big brand name traditional lighting manufacturers opening separate divisions focused on this new technology. Its application can make a major contribution to reduced running costs of both exterior and interior lighting whether it is in a private home, a public building or a commercial premises.

The application of LEDs to create light offers many opportunities to make, not only substantial savings in cost of general lighting, but also a significant reduction in environmental impact over conventional mains power generation.

The main benefits include:

  • Reduced power consumption: When compared to conventional mains powered lighting solutions, savings of 80% - 85% are common in many LED applications when using low voltage DC power conversion from mains power.
  • Increased life and decreased maintenance: The typical total life of 100,000 hours (10+ years) per unit with minimal degradation of light output eliminates the cost of lamp replacement and regular maintenance.
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): LEDs offer greatly reduced long term outright cost of ownership with minimal initial system outlay if used as a replacement light supply using reduced voltage mains power (110Vac or 240Vac converted to 12Vdc or 24Vdc).
  • Wider range of working voltage options: LEDs only require tiny amounts of power (typically in the 12Vdc – 48Vdc range) to operate efficiently which is ideal when considering systems to be run from solar or wind generated power. There is also the option of running LED lighting systems from mains generated power (110Vac or 220Vac) via conventional transformers at vastly reduced running costs.
  • Lower Heat Output: Maximum LED operating temperatures are typically 45°C rather than the 300° - 450°C operating temperatures of conventional lighting solutions. Heat pollution is therefore reduced offering savings in the operation of secondary interior systems such as air conditioning.
  • Minimised Light Pollution: Light Pollution can be virtually eliminated as light output from LEDs is directional, only directing light where it is required via reflector or optical guidance. Specific beam spreads can be defined typically within a range of 2° - 150° from light source. This is highly efficient as no light is wasted when compared to conventional lighting where light is typically omni-directional from bulbs or tubes and inefficient as much of the light generated travels away from the area where it is required.
  • Reduced Carbon Emissions: LED lighting systems are environmentally and ecologically friendly. Other than the massive reduction in use of conventionally generated energy, there are no poisonous elements used in component manufacture, such as Mercury and other noxious and polluting gases.
  • Dimmable Control: In addition to Instant On, LED lighting offers fully dimmable illumination from standard leading edge phase control, 0 – 10V / 1 – 10V dimming, DALI automated dimming and DMX software control. The application of highly efficient dimming control systems permits greater energy savings and maintenance reduction especially over any type of fluorescent type lighting which cannot be full range dimmed.
  • Shock Resistance: Unlike conventional light sources, LEDs are not subject to sudden failure or burnout as there are no filaments to burn out or break. The light in LEDs emits from encapsulated silicon diodes immersed in phosphor which can be energised from a very low voltage input.
  • Light Quality: The quality of the LED 'white' light can be tailored to suit the human eye, eliminating the eye strain that can have adverse and costly implications in certain working and living environments together with Health and Safety issues. LEDs do not produce ultraviolet light (however there are UV variants) and can be perfectly matched to a specific 'colour rendering index'.

Benefits ChartThe table above (click to view detail) indicates the recent development of LED lighting technology and the potential developments well beyond any of the traditional common forms of lighting. Note also that many of the apparent energy saving technologies thought to be the answer to saving energy in the 1980’s have now been overtaken or are close to being overtaken by LED technology in energy efficiency terms.

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