What is LED Lighting?

  This is probably a case where it's good to start with the basics.  Yes, we can go into photon physics but really, the basic case for LED lighting is much simpler (Thank goodness!).  Let's start then with our goal and by "our", you can easily include the business owner, individual, us, and the United States in that big grouping.  The goal is rather simple so we'll work up from there.  We want to get the most lumens (measure of light) for the lowest wattage (measure of electric energy) with the least amount of toxic by-products and at the highest quality color (of light) possible.  Low energy, good light, nothing that requires HazMat (that's only partially a joke).  That's our goal.  Now let's look more closely at LED lights and how it reaches that goal better than the other available technologies. 

Let's first demystify the jargon a little.  LED stands for Light Emitting Diode.  In layman's terms, a diode is an electrical component that allows electricity to pass in one direction.  That's the "D" in our LED.  The "LE" is the important part.  Some materials will emit photons (light) when electricity is applied to them.  We're turning electric current into light but very efficiently.  LED lighting has been in the works for years now but there are some significant developments both within the LED technology and in our business/environmental orbits that have really made this form of lighting a no-brainer.   It's probably best to discuss LED lighting in relation to the other kinds of lamps available on the market, all with the above goal in mind. 

There are three basic types of light technology in mass-production and commercial availability at this time.  The oldest technology (dating back to the industrial revolution) is incandescent which essentially heats up a thin metal that glows when electricity is passed through it.  This is the oldest technology and we're all pretty familiar with it.  It's been around for so long that the costs have been reduced to almost insignificant amounts for the actual bulbs but that's increasingly a very small and misleading portion of the total cost or our stated goal above.  Incandescent bulbs lose a great deal of their energy in the form of heat and ultimately, we're turning electricity into heat and heat into light.  Heat is the boogeyman of energy systems everywhere as it's essentially lost energy (or misdirected energy as the case may be).  We're now a century into this technology and the time has come to find better option.  We're not still driving model T's with cranks so lighting has some what been stagnant in this regard.  Enter fluorescents and CFL's.

We're all pretty familiar with fluorescents in office spaces.  They're the long tubes that buzz, flicker, and were the next wave towards our original goal mentioned above.  Essentially, electricity excites a gas in the tube which then converts the electrons to photons in the form of light.  The lumens per wattage improved which is why you find these where large scale, industrial or commercial lighting is needed.  It came with a cost.  The problem is that only certain chemicals or gases have this property of "flourescence" and phosphorus (by name sake) is the best at it.  Phosphorus is also incredibly dangerous for humans.  If you've ever seen one of the tubes break, you'll see that whitish powder.  Believe it or not, you're now suppose to have HazMat or a licensed company clean up such as spill.  It's that bad.  CFL's were a condensed version of fluorescent bulbs basically to fit a smaller and more ubiquitous form factor...the light bulb.  These are those spiral tubes you see as replacements for the old incandescent bulbs.  Better efficiency on the electricity to light front but with the nasty toxicity we'd rather avoid.  How dangerous are they?  Well, they're being phased out in the next few years in spite of huge capital investments and the lobbyist that protect these companies so that's pretty serious stuff.  We just can't handle all the phosphorus and mercury needed for this technology.  Can't we have something with the efficiency needed without wearing special suits in our offices or houses?  I think you know the answer.

Yes.  Yes.  and Yes.  You can still wear the suits but LED's address our goals above in spades.  LED's directly turn electricity into light with a much high efficiency than the other technologies and has not of the toxic baggage associated with CFL's and fluorescents.  Why isn't this everywhere?  Two reasons.  The technology is still relatively new and major advances allowed for color tuning fairly recently.  Let's face it...we have to like the light.  Original LED's were to bright or bluish/white.  We can now "color" the light to match almost any color or Kelvin you like with warm yellows now available (and very popular by the way).  The other issue is the initial cost of the bulb is higher than incandescent and fluorescent since those are much older technologies and there are economies of scale that result from decades of production design and capitalization.   Again, that's only part of the equation since the energy needed to power your lights must be factored in.  When you do so, the LED lighting is significantly (can't emphasize this enough) less expensive in watts to lumens.  You can either pay the bulb supplier a lower amount up front and pay the electricity provider significantly higher amounts of money over the long term.  It's a sucker's bet but we're about to turn the table on the house.   Run your LED lighting quote to find out how it plays out for your situation.

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