To put it simply LEDs are a different beast than the old incandescent bulb we are all so used to. And 2012 has been ‘the year’ for the light bulb industry, with the world working on the global phase out of the incandescent. In 2009, the incandescent phase out was initiated throughout most of Europe and three years later the US followed.
But what exactly makes LEDs so great?
For one, the long life of the LED bulb seems to be a media hit. Some companies are advertising 50,000 hours or even 20 years for the lifetime of one bulb. Yet as great as it sounds, this all seems like such a foreign concept when compared to the incandescent bulb we all grew up with. To help simplify the transition from the old to the new, here are some of the how’s and why’s of the LED bulb.
Lighting Science’s website has a complete list of why LEDs are so great, including:
- Long life LEDs last up to 50,000 hours (vs. 1000 hrs for Incandescent)
- Lower maintenance/replacement costs
- Energy efficient LEDs use up to 5090% less energy
- Directed light offers better system efficiency
- High reliability, safety & durability
- LEDs are solid state devices, no moving parts, no glass and no filaments
- No heat or UV in light beam
- Environmentally friendly LEDs contain no mercury.
- Longer lifetime creates less environmental waste
- Size and digital nature offers new possibilities, never before accomplished
- Dynamic color control
- Instant restrike
- Fully dimmable
But what does an LED bulb look like?
Although LED bulbs vary in shapes, sizes and colors, some look like the Philips Prize winning LED bulb, shown below.
Photo: Philips LED Prize Winning Light Bulb
There are so many LEDs available how do I decide? Aren’t all LED lights highly efficient and long-lasting? Some urban myths circulating around LEDs state that:
- After less than a year of use, a poorly designed LED product can flicker
- Shift in color
- Look dim
- Offer uneven light
- And Continue to use power when turned off
LEDs have a long lasting reputation as indicator lights in electronics for years. Although using LEDs to create stable white light for general lighting has presented new challenges. The key to a successful long lasting LED is simple a smart design. Energy Star’s lighting products must pass a variety of tests to prove that the products will display the following characteristics:
Common characteristics of a “good” LED bulb, also Energy Star’s LED Standards (per Energy Star’s Website):
- Light comes on instantly when turned on.
- Brightness is equal to or greater than existing lighting technologies (incandescent or fluorescent)
- The light is well distributed over the area lighted by the fixture.
- Light output remains constant over time, only decreasing towards the end of the rated lifetime (at least 25,000 hours or 22 years based on use of 3 hours per day).
- Excellent color quality. The shade of white light appears clear and consistent over time.
- Efficiency is as good as or better than fluorescent lighting.
- No flicker when dimmed.
- No off-state power draw. The fixture does not use power when it is turned off, with the exception of external controls, whose power should not exceed 0.5 watts in the off state.
For the best results choose an Energy Star qualified LED fixture and don’t forget to ask about your new LED bulbs warranty.
Learn About LEDs with Energy Star
Philips Interactive LED Demo
What is a LED? by Lightopia
LED Rebates available via Lighting Science’s website
Explanation of the Lighting Fact’s Label
Energy Star’s Product Manufacturer List
Philips Lighting offers a great resource tool to help determine the correct LED bulb: Philips’ LED Light Bulb Calculator