By Jan Dowling February 11th, 2015. Comments Off on LED Lights in the spotlight

More than 50 years after its discovery, LED lighting is well and truly in the spotlight. Lighting company Philips has developed an LED lamp it describes as “the world’s most energy-efficient“, and other breakthroughs in LED technology are hitting the headlines on a regular basis. Last year, one of the world’s biggest retailers, Ikea, announced that by 2016 the only lighting products it sells will be LED-based ones.

Yes, the humble LED bulb has plenty of untapped potential for new homes, additions and renovations. So what is it that gives LED lighting the edge?

It’s a matter of efficiency

It’s about how much light you can squeeze out of every watt of electricity consumed. LED lights are super energy efficient and use around 85% less energy than halogen or incandescent lighting, not to mention having a significantly longer lifespan than other types of lighting. Better yet, the upfront cost of LED lighting has dropped thanks to more products being introduced to the market.

How LED lights work

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, work differently to traditional incandescent light bulbs. While incandescent and fluorescent lights have filaments in glass bulbs or bulbs that contain gases, LEDs comprise small capsules or lenses in which tiny chips are placed on heat-conducting material. Connecting a diode to an electrical current excites the electrons within the diode, making them release photons, which we see as light. The colour of the light is a direct result of the energy gap in the semiconductor of the diode. This means that LEDs produce a spectrum of colours easily and brightly while using very little electricity to do so.

Benefits to you

1. The pinnacle of energy efficiency

When it comes to choosing energy efficient lights, the decision usually comes down to LEDs and CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) bulb. But LEDs have the edge. Some LEDs can use up to 90% less energy that traditional incandescent bulbs and last 25% longer. LEDs even outdo CFL bulbs in efficiency, mainly because they have double the lifespan.

So why are LEDs so much more efficient than incandescent and CFL bubs?  It comes down to the direction of the light. LEDs emit light in a targeted direction rather than dispersing it in all directions, and they don’t require or emit high levels of heat. You can expect 80% of the energy to be emitted as light and 20% to be released as heat. In contrast, CFL and incandescent bulbs release between 80% and 90% of their energy as heat. The efficiency of LED lighting is rising fast, so by replacing conventional incandescent bulbs with LED lights, you are actively reducing your energy consumption and reducing your impact on the environment.

2. New dimension in LED design

LED lights have been around for years, but only recently have they been designed for domestic use. In the past they had a reputation for giving off poor light, but we are seeing exciting developments in LED lighting and a phenomenal improvement in light output. You no longer need to compromise on bright lights to get exceptional energy efficiency. Some leading Australian companies are releasing architecturally designed LED lights, making them a more attractive choice for renovations or additions. You can choose LED downlights that are modern and sleek, and are designed to go anywhere where halogen downlights are used. LED strip lights can be used for recessed lighting, architectural lighting, al frescos, windows and archways. The list is endless, and it’s growing.

3. Save, save, save

In the past, the biggest problem for consumers purchasing LEDs for residential lighting has been the upfront cost. LEDs could cost two to six times the price of CFLs, depending on the type and size of the bulb. This meant that replacing a whole home full of lights could cost hundreds of dollars. However, the increasingly popularity of LEDs has led to more competition in the marketplace, which means the price of LED lights has lowered considerably.

4. Long life span

One of the main benefits of LED lights is their long lifetime. LED bulbs can last a minimum of 35,000 hours, compared to just a few thousand hours for incandescent bulbs. How much is 35,000 hours? Exactly four years of continuous operation. Some LED lights can last up to 70,000 hours! Realistically though, LED lights will last somewhere between three and seven times longer than incandescent bulbs. Usually they will need to be replaced a short time before their end of life due to inadequate lighting. Regardless, changing your lights to LEDs will save you a lot of money in the long run, not to mention the time and effort you’ll save by not needing to replace your light bulbs so frequently.

5. Safety

Because LED lights are low voltage, they come with safety advantages for homeowners, renovators and builders. While 240v fittings always carries the risk of electrocution if not installed properly, LED lights are much safer and easier to install. Cables do not need to be buried 600mm below ground, as required for 240v supply to outdoor lighting. As a result, installing LED landscape lighting will generally not require a professional electrician. Simply remember that every brand of LED lighting is different, so be sure to read the instructions carefully

6. Eco-Friendly

LED lights are not only energy efficient, they are a more environmentally friendly choice for your home. They contain no mercury or toxic materials, and all parts are clean and 100% recyclable at their end of life. The long life span also means that one LED light bulb can save material and production of up to 25 incandescent light bulbs.

7. Durable Quality

LEDs are extremely durable and sturdy. Rather than comprising fragile glass and filaments, they are made from epoxy lenses, which are much stronger and resistant to breaking. This means, unlike traditional bulbs, they are more likely to withstand being dropped. Because LED lights have better resistance to shock, vibrations and external impacts, they make great outdoor lighting solutions and can withstand unpredictable weather conditions. In some countries, traffic lights and outdoor signs are already being switched to LEDs. Even high-end luxury car manufacturers are choosing LED-based automotive headlights. If it’s good enough for them…

8. Low UV emissions

LED lights give off almost no ultra-violet (UV) emissions. UV emissions can have a harmful effect on colour pigments, plastics and even human skin over extended periods. LED lights will have no impact on your fixtures and fittings – an important consideration if you have artwork around the home.

9. Design Flexibility

Whether you’re looking to buy entire new light fittings, or simply replace the globes in existing lights that you have at home, you’re sure to find something that suits your needs. There is an abundance of LED fittings available and a product for absolutely every application – decorative pendants, downlights, lamps, wall lights, spotlights, bathrooms and outdoor lights. There are even specialty LED globesfor chandeliers!

When it comes to atmospheric lighting, LED lights have the potential to give homeowners and designers enormous creative freedom. Like traditional lighting, LED lights can be dimmed to create the desired ambiance, from a soft romantic glow to a vibrant disco effect. LED mood illumination is also being used in aircraft, classrooms and the entertainment industry. Whether for general lighting, accent lighting, home theatre lighting or something altogether more special, LED lights can be used wherever you need them.

10. Withstand extreme temperatures

Unlike many lighting solutions, LEDs will operate with no problems under extreme cold or heat. While frostbite might not be a problem here in Australia, this feature makes them ideal for commercial settings such as walk-in fridges. It also means they are perfect for outdoor and indoor use, whether you are in the dusty outback or a snowy mountain cabin.

11. Get Focused

LED lights are designed to emit almost all of their light in a desired direction, rather than dispersing it in all directions. This ultimately achieves a greater efficiency than traditional lighting, and makes LED lights a great solution for spotlights and downlights inside and outside the home.

12. Let there be light!

Unlike fluorescent lights, LED lights when switched on are immediately bright. Also, LED lights can be switched on and off frequently without affecting the bulb’s life span or brightness. This is a great advantage in busy family homes and high traffic areas.

13. Low Voltage

LED lights are available in low voltage, making them especially suitable for outdoor areas. They can be connected to external solar energy systems and used on decking or to illuminate pathways. Because they will run on low power, they produce little heat and are extremely energy efficient. But you already knew that…

So, there you have it! LED lighting is the way to go – it’s economical, it’s versatile, it’s beautiful and it’s good for the planet.

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