LED stands for light-emitting diode. This technology is not new, but it is revolutionizing the way we live, work, and play. LEDs are special because they create light instantly while producing very little heat and consuming a fraction of the electricity of a standard light bulb.
In fact, they are even more efficient than compact florescent (CFL) light bulbs. You can buy an LED light bulb to replace a standard bulb.
You can also find LED technology applied to many other devices as described below.
LED Technology & Lighting
1. LED Replacement Light Bulbs
These bulbs consume about 13-15% the electricity of a standard light bulb, and about half as much as a CFL. While standard bulbs last hundreds of hours, and CFLs last thousands, the lifespan of an LED is usually listed in the tens of thousands of hours.
At this time, the cost of LED lights is significantly more than other types of lights, but it is rapidly declining. Because of this, it only makes sense to replace lights that are on all day or bulbs that are very difficult to replace to save energy at home.
- Instantly on. There is no warm up period like CFLs.
- Amazing Efficiency. There is no other technology that produces light with less electricity. This makes LEDs perfect for applications where the light is on all the time.
- Incredible Longevity. These lights last for years. They should provide light for 25-30 years of normal use. If you have a light bulb in a spot that is almost impossible to reach, an LED may be a permanent solution.
- Not Available for Most Applications. They’re mostly available for smaller lights, where a standard bulb of 20 watts or less is required.
- Expensive. An LED replacement for a 100 watt bulb costs at least $50. The LED equivalent of a 20 watt bulb costs $15 to $20.
2. LED Televisions and Computer Monitors
The first generation of flat panel televisions used plasma. The next generation used florescent bulbs to backlight LCD panels (i.e. plasma vs LCD TV). The latest designs substitute florescent bulbs for LEDs in order to realize many advantages.
Like LED replacement bulbs, LED backlights last longer and consume far less electricity than florescents. Since the backlight is the weak link of an expensive flat screen, an LED model will usually outlive its predecessors. Finally, LEDs generate higher contrast ratios while reproducing a broader spectrum of colors.
- More Efficient. LED-based televisions consume 20-30% less electricity.
- Better Picture. You will notice brighter colors and greater contrast on an LCD television or computer monitor.
- Long Lasting. If you are going to spend huge amounts of money on a flat screen television, LEDs ensure you won’t have an expensive repair of the florescent backlight in a few years.
- More Expensive. You will pay a premium for an LED television, but it’s less substantial than the premium you’d pay for LED light bulbs.
3. LED Flashlights
While it may be some time before LED light bulbs are the best choice for most applications, the day of the LED-based flashlight has arrived. Handheld lights place a premium on low energy consumption, durability, and reliability. These are all areas where an LED vastly outperforms all other technologies.
LED flashlights will last far longer on the same sized battery compared to conventional incandescent bulbs. They are so efficient that there are now flashlights that can easily be charged by hand cranking or shaking a reciprocal generator, eliminating the need for batteries altogether. While standard bulbs are somewhat fragile, an LED can endure extreme vibrations and shocks that would shatter its counterparts. Finally, LED bulbs used by flashlights should last a lifetime.
- Incredible Efficiency. Consuming 15% of the energy that a standard bulb consumes, an LED will save you huge amounts on batteries.
- Extreme Durability. LEDs are virtually indestructible and can last a lifetime. This makes them perfect for applications like battery operated lights on bicycles.
- Battery-Free Applications. Hand-cranked LED flashlights are great for emergency purposes as they will never need batteries.
- Cost. LED flashlights are more expensive than their counterparts, but many models are available for well under $100.
4. Automotive Lights
The lights in your car take a lot of abuse. They may have to endure sub-zero temperatures in the winter and triple digit conditions when your car is parked outside in the summer. You also expect them to operate reliably for years while bouncing down the highway.
More car manufacturers are now switching to LEDs for interior and brake lights. Some luxury car manufacturers, like Audi, are even using LEDs for daytime running head lights.
An interesting feature of LEDs is that their response time can be measured in milliseconds while an incandescent bulb can take several tenths of a second to fully illuminate. While a few tenths of a second doesn’t seem like much, at highway speeds a car can travel ten to forty feet between the time a brake light is activated and when it lights up. Amazingly, it has been shown that using LED brake lights warns drivers to stop sooner, reducing the chances of a rear end collision.
- Safety. Daytime running lights and “instant on” brake lights make your car more visible to others, reducing the chances of a car accident.
- Reliability. You will never have to worry about getting a ticket for a broken tail light as the LED lights will probably outlive your car.
- Efficiency. An LED light will create less of a load on your car’s electrical system. It will also save a lot of energy in a hybrid car.
- Price. You are more likely to see LEDs on more expensive cars, but the technology is filtering down to less expensive models as well.
- Availability. Not all cars have LEDs. The technology is typically designed into the car. If your car didn’t come with LED lighting, there is not much you can do to get it.
5. LED Christmas Lights
This is probably the most fun application of LED technology. LED Christmas lights are small, lightweight, and last forever. You can leave them on all day, as they consume an almost negligible amount of electricity. Pack them up in a box and they will all be working again next year.
- Durability. They will not break easily.
- Efficiency. LEDs are perfect for small output applications like this.
- Colors. They come in all sorts of colors. In fact, the real challenge has always been manufacturing white LEDs.
- They Weren’t Around When You Were Growing Up. Since they cost little more than a string of lights with standard bulbs and they last a lifetime, there really isn’t much of a reason not to buy them.
LED lights represent the ultimate evolution of the light bulb. Their properties of efficiency, durability, and longevity ensure that they will be with us for a long time to come. As their price comes down, it will not be long until nearly every lighting product you own relies on LEDs to some extent.
Do you have any direct experience with LED technology? What do you think of the quality of light as well as the cost savings over time?
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