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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Educate Yourself with LED Lighting technology & the Quality LED Lighting products being sold in market today

The days of the classic incandescent light bulb are numbered
It was a good run. It has provided lighting for billions of people throughout the world for over a century now.
With energy costs increasing and recent congressional legislation (which will start phasing out the incandescent light bulb in 2012), how will people across the world now light their homes?
Some say the answer is fluorescent lighting, but the future of lighting is in LED technology. Lighting has become more complex and choosing a QUALITY LED product is not as easy as it may seem.
Here are some LED technology knowledge to educate you and inform you of quality LED lighting products being sold today.

What are LEDs and LED lighting?
Many of you may have recently purchased a car with LED daytime running lights and brake lights, or maybe you recently purchased a new slim HDTV that is LED backlit. Others may be reading this page right now on a computer monitor or mobile device that is backlit by LED lighting.
LEDs, which stand for Light Emitting Diodes, can be thought of as small semiconductor diodes that are mounted on an electronic circuit board. When electricity passes through the diodes, they light up. LEDs have many advantages over other light sources for the following reasons: low power consumption, minimal heat, small profile, and long lifespan if heat and current are controlled properly.

LEDs have been around for decades in electronics and other devices but only recently have engineers been able to develop white LED light through various methods and make it bright enough to replace the lighting in our homes. Most LED light sources will look different than what you are used to. This is due to the fact that most LED light sources are often built around a heat sink that keeps the LEDs cool and contributes to their long lifespan. LED lighting is the future of residential lighting and will become the standard light source in the next few years replacing incandescent and eventually fluorescent light sources.

How do you choose a good LED light source?
The market for LED lighting is changing every day. New products are showing up all the time and will only continue to show up as consumers gain interest and prices come down. The problem, however, is due to the complexity of what really makes a quality LED light, the average consumer may look only for incandescent wattage equivalency and later be disappointed on their purchase. If consumers have a bad LED experience, there is a risk that they will no longer trust the technology and assume that all LED products are created equal. This happened with many people who bought cheaply made CFL bulbs that quickly went out and they never bought any again.
Here are 3 things you need to remember and look for when purchasing or researching an LED lighting product.

Brightness- Is there any labeling on the box or description that states the claimed output (often in lumens)? Manufacturers often overstate their performance but if the model only lists the wattage equivalency you should be suspicious.
Here is a basic chart on approximate incandescent lumens to compare what you have currently in the house. (Keep in mind that this is in all directions and that some lights are directional and have a narrow beam spread which can change results dramatically)
25W - 185 Lumens
40W - 320 Lumens
60W - 610 Lumens
100W - 1100 Lumens
Color- Two Things to look for: something called Color Temperature and CRI. Color temperature for most residential use is usually in the 2700-3500K range (K means Kelvin). This color is the range most people currently have in their house with incandescent and halogen lights.
CRI is Color Rendition and the higher the number (0-100) the better. For reference most halogen lights are upper 90s to 100 which most people prefer. Fluorescents are usually in the low 80s which is one reason why many people dislike the color. See below for more definitions on Color Temperature and CRI
Manufacturer- Have you heard of them before? If you haven’t do not worry just yet. Many new companies have emerged from various industries to compete in the LED lighting market. Some of them are great competitors and are giving the big boys like Philips, GE, and Osram Sylvania a run for their money. There are however many fly by night companies bringing in poorly made Chinese products you want to stay away from. Some of these LED lighting manufacturers may not even be around to honor their 3-5 year warranty if something was to go wrong with your light. You do not want to skimp on quality due to price with LED lighting just as you usually shouldn't with most products and especially electronic devices.

The government has pushed for new labeling standards with what they call the Lighting Facts label (above) found on the package of the light source. These labels are helpful but can still be confusing to the average consumer and from what we have found, may still be misleading. If you see this on the packaging, it is a good thing, but you need to educate yourself on what the numbers mean and realize they many not be accurate.

Will LED prices come down? Should I buy now or wait?
These are great questions. Yes, the prices are likely to come down, but no one knows exactly how far they may drop. Due to their complexities I would not want them to be as cheap as an incandescent or halogen light bulb.
Many people may wait to buy which is a hit or miss conclusion. LEDs are a product that most people will start seeing a payback very soon. With the reduced electricity usage, no maintenance expenses (changing lights on 2-story ceilings), and no heat output (lower AC bill), LEDs start puting money back in your pocket after a short time.
Just like LCD televisions and cell phones, new LED products keep coming out that are better, cheaper, and offer more features, but if you keep waiting and waiting to buy, you never will.

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