LED lighting first made an appearance in the early 1960s and was used primarily in small electrical equipment and circuit boards.
The technology enjoyed more widespread use in the 1980s and was adopted for outdoor use, particularly in traffic lights and neon signs.
Today, LED lighting is used for numerous commercial and residential applications.
We will cover why LED lighting is better than traditional alternatives and share some useful tips to help you convert to LED.
What Is LED Lighting?
Light Emitting Diode, simply known as LED, is a type of light source that produces light through a process known as electroluminescence.
This technology is different from traditional lighting (such as incandescent lighting) because it produces light directly from electrical energy. Traditional lighting converts electrical energy into heat to produce light.
The typical LED has two terminals, positive (anode) and negative (cathode).
Electrical energy can only flow from the anode to the cathode in one direction. As electrons move between the two terminals, the diode emits light.
The specific conductors used in LED produce photons during this movement, which we perceive as light rather than heat, which would be the case in a regular diode.
Other Traditional Lighting Found In Your Home
LED is a relatively new technology that only gained traction for domestic use in the 1990s. Other traditional forms of lighting include:
Incandescent lighting is perhaps the most common form of lighting and has been a fixture in homes worldwide for more than a century.
These bulbs are cheapest in the market and produce a warm glow that many homeowners have come to know and love.
However, these bulbs are incredibly inefficient as they convert electrical energy into heat to make light.
This inefficiency has led most governments around the world to phase out incandescent lighting as early as 2005 in Brazil and Venezuela.
South Africa phased them out in 2016 for the same reason.
Fluorescent Lighting (Linear)
Fluorescent lighting is most common in kitchens, bathrooms, porches, garages, and other places requiring lighting over a wide area. This lighting has a relatively long lifespan and comes in a tube form.
Fluorescent lighting is more efficient than incandescent lighting, although this option is notorious for flickering and consistent buzzing noise.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)
CFLs appear to have replaced incandescent bulbs for the most part.
This option is basically the bulb equivalent of fluorescent tubes since the latter is not practical for domestic use save for very particular spaces.
CFLs use up to 60% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and fit most lighting fixtures found in the typical home.
Why LED Lighting Is Better – Advantages of LED Lighting Over Traditional Lighting
There has been a noticeable surge in the LED technology uptake, especially for domestic use in recent years. There are good reasons for this trend.
The main selling point of LED lighting is that it requires very little electricity to produce light. An ordinary 60 watt (w) incandescent bulb produces 800 lumens (lm).
By comparison, an LED bulb producing the same number of lumens requires only 7-10 watts.
CLF bulbs require 13 watts to produce equal lumens, but this small difference can add up over multiple bulbs and years.
Most homeowners see an average improvement in energy efficiency of between 60% and 70% by switching from incandescent lighting to LED. This improvement can go as high as 90% in some cases.
LED bulbs last longer than any other type of lighting currently available on the market.
LED can give you between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of light compared to the 750 to 2000 of operating hours you get from incandescent lighting. You can quickly go through 40 traditional bulbs before you need to change an LED bulb.
The most operating hours you can expect from CFLs are 20,000 hours, which is still significantly lower than LED.
Additionally, LEDs are constructed with solid-state materials, making them more likely to withstand cracks and other damage.
3. Capital & Operational Costs
One of the first things you hear about LED lights is 'expensive.' The reverse is true all things considered. Take, for example, that you would need approximately 21 incandescent bulbs for 25,000 hours of lighting, 3 CFL bulbs, and only 1 LED bulb for the same duration.
Consider also that you need very little energy to power LED bulbs, saving you money on your electric bill. LEDs may have higher upfront costs, but the investment pays for itself in a relatively short time.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has a handy calculator that can help you compute your savings before making the switch.
4. Light Output
Many people make the mistake of merely looking at the lumens when buying a light bulb.
Useful Lumens is the unit of measurement used to compute how much visible light a source produces within a 90-degree radius in any given direction.
To put it in perspective, traditional light sources produce light in a 360-degree direction. Most of this light is wasted since it doesn't go where it is needed.
On the other hand, LED lights are a directional light source, meaning they produce light at a 180-degree radius. This design leads to less wasted illumination.
5. Colour-Rendering Index
Color-Rendering Index, or CRI, refers to how colours appear, including their subtle variations when looked at under a source of light relative to natural light.
CRI is essential in various applications, such as comparing fabric colours or restoring or displaying artwork.
LED technology offers high CRI ranging from 95-99%.
The Colour-rendering index is measured on a 0-100% scale, with 85-90% being good and above 90% considered excellent.
6. Dimming Capability
One reason phasing out incandescent lighting has been so unpopular is because these bulbs were well adapted to dimming.
LED technology has improved a great deal in recent years, and it is possible to dim these lights.
Additionally, LED lighting can operate from 0 to 100% of its rated power, offering an even wider dimming range than traditional lighting.
7. Aesthetics & Design Flexibility
LED lights come in a wide range of colours, including white, orange, violet, green, red, blue, and yellow. It can also produce colour effects such as colour-changing, shifting, washing, and fading.
These lights also come in various shapes and sizes, making them extremely versatile for home applications.
You can use LED lights for task lighting, overhead lighting, recess lighting, display lighting, and anywhere else you need illumination.
LED lights emit far less CO2 than traditional forms of lighting. For reference, LED bulbs produce approximately 95% less Co2 than incandescent lighting.
These lights also don't use mercury, as is the case with fluorescent and CFL lights, making them easier and cleaner to dispose of.
We noted earlier that LED lights convert electrical current directly to light.
Incandescent bulbs convert only 10 percent of the energy they consume into light. The rest is converted to heat, so these bulbs feel hot to the touch while in use and immediately after.
LEDs emit very little heat, making these bulbs safer to use around children and pets, and they do not pose a fire hazard when used around potentially flammable materials.
Tips to Convert Your Traditional Lights to LED
Now that you are sold on the benefits of switching from traditional lighting to LED, we have a few tips that may come in handy as you make the transition.
- If you are working on a tight budget, you can begin by replacing your old fluorescent tubes with LED tubes. Look out for UL Type A, Instant Fit, or Plug-and-Play labels. These tubes fit perfectly in your existing fluorescent fixture without needing to make any alterations.
- Please use a certified electrician when replacing old fluorescent tubes with LED tubes retrofitted for this purpose. These tubes are different from the plug-and-play types since you will need to do some wiring modifications to bypass the ballast.
- Better yet, replace the entire fluorescent fixture with the LED type. The latter has a lower profile and looks more attractive. The investment will pay for itself before you know it.
- Keep in mind that the new LED lights will give off a slightly different colour than you are used to with traditional lighting. You can play around with the colour temperature (measured in Kelvins) to get the desired effect. 3000 Kelvins and above will give you a white light while 2,700 Kelvins will provide you with a warmer colour closer to traditional lighting.
- You will most probably need new dimmers that are specific to LED lighting. These shouldn't cost much more than traditional dimmers. Also, please confirm that the LED lights are dimmable since not all lights have this capability.
Home improvement can be a time-consuming and expensive undertaking.
You don't have to knock down walls and do dramatic landscaping changes to increase your home's value or upgrade your lifestyle.
Switching to LED lighting is one of the best investments you can make for your home.
These lights and accompanying fixtures are modern, aesthetically pleasing, energy-efficient, and excellent all-round upgrades to your home.
LED lighting is the way of the future and is an investment that will pay for itself many times over in your lifetime.