The lighting industry has gone through tremendous change over the past decade thanks to new innovations in LED technology. Short for Light-Emitting Diodes, LEDs have been widely used since their initial instruction into the commercial marketplace over six decades ago as simple indicator lights for electronic equipment. Today, LEDs have advanced to previously unimaginable levels of performance, and are now used in the most demanding applications on the planet.
While the principles behind this technology follow basically the same concept as other lighting types, there are significant differences between how LED technology actually works compared to all other forms of lighting. When shopping for LED lighting options, it is important to understand these differences, especially for those who are retrofitting or replacing their existing traditional lighting setups, such as fixtures utilizing fluorescent, HID and incandescent technologies.
How it Works
As mentioned above, LEDs work along the same lines as traditional lighting sources by generating light by electrical current. However, this is where the similarities end. Traditional lighting sources rely on either heat or a chemical reaction occurring in order to produce illumination, whereas LEDs rely on a semiconductor to produce light. This unique manner of producing light offers several technical advantages and far greater potential for ongoing advancement.
How LEDs work and how they are constructed is actually a quite complex subject, as it is a highly sophisticated technology. However, the basic concept is that electricity is passed through a semiconductor, which has impurities added to it in order to allow electrons to flow through it. When electrons flow through the semiconductor, light is generated by the release of photons from the movement of electrons from one orbital of an atom to another.
The actual color of the light produced is determined by the distance between the orbitals that electrons to and from. The greater the distance, the greater the energy released and subsequently the higher the frequency of light produced. Inversely, the shorter the distance electrons travel between orbitals, the lower the level of energy released and the lower the frequency of light produced.
This variation in electron orbital distances is responsible for the wide variation in color temperature options available in today’s LED lighting technology. When compared to traditional lighting options that have restricted color temperature choices, or simply only one option available, it becomes immediately apparent what a tremendous leap in options LED technology gives its users. With a theoretically endless range of color temperature possibilities for every type of bulb or fixture, it is now possible to perfectly tailor lights to every specific application. In fact, there are LED bulbs and fixtures that even offer the built-in capability to switch between different color temperatures.
Why it LEDs are Ideal for Lighting
There are a wide range of benefits to using LEDs for lighting, particularly when it comes to long term cost savings and improved lighting quality. While legacy lighting technologies such as fluorescents, incandescents and High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps provided excellent performance for their time, LEDs have eclipsed them in just about every measurable way. It is for this reason that LED technology has exploded in popularity across the lighting industry, and is predicted to take over every faucet of illumination for the foreseeable future.
Besides offering up to 70% more energy efficiency than traditional lighting tech, LEDs are also maintenance free. This saves users a significant amount of time and labor hours, especially in larger commercial and industrial operations. There are no ballasts to change, no starters to go bad, etc – simply set up an LED fixture or bulb and it will run for its rated lifespan with no hassle. When combined with the noticeably better quality and accuracy of illumination thanks to its higher Color Rendering Index (CRI) rating, it should be no wonder why LEDs are simply the best choice for any lighting application.