The Truth About LEDs

A few weeks back a story about reengineering the lightbulb appeared in a number of national newspapers. The story stood out in my mind as it perpetuated myths and out of date information about LEDs

The Guardian article (A lightbulb moment for the old-fashioned filament) said:

‘The lightbulb, virtually unchanged since the 19th century, has become a target for climate-change campaigners in recent years. In the UK, it has been fiercely protected by those who view the EU – which ordered the phasing-out of incandescent bulbs – as a meddling force that wants us all to live in the cold, blue glow of low-energy lighting’.

Whilst a Daily Mail article (Welcome back to REAL lightbulbs?) echoed this sentiment:

‘But their replacements – LED and fluorescent bulbs - while far more energy-efficient have proved unpopular because they give off a cold, unnatural light compared to their predecessors’.

As an industry we have made great strides in closing the gap on traditional light sources to the point where in almost all cases LEDs compare favourably to halogen for warmth and colour rendition. As we work hard to convince consumers to take up LEDs en masse the last thing we need is national newspapers perpetuating stereotypes about energy saving lighting and reinforcing the message they are substandard to their millions of readers.

As we know the days of LEDs giving of cold blue light are long gone so I thought I would do a bit of myth busting. Here’s the truth about that and four other common (even in 2016) LED myths.

The myth: LEDs give off a cold blue light

The truth: Maybe 5 years ago, yes. ‘Alien autopsy white’ as Gordon Routledge described it, seemed to be the standard colour temperature of the first generation of LEDs. Not out of place in a dental surgery, they had their uses. Today however, most ‘big brand’ LEDs would stand up well in a Pepsi-Challenge against halogens.

The myth: All LEDs are the same

The truth: Consumers are beginning to realise that LEDs are assets that are to be ‘used’ rather than ‘consumed’. Domestically, most quality LED lamps can be expected to last *15 years or more. Now, think of any other electronic goods you would expect to keep in daily use for over 15 years - the same maxim is true for all of them... buy cheap, buy (at least!) twice.

Of course, LEDs are sophisticated electronic products just like TVs or computers and can be susceptible to system failures. For example, poorly constructed heat dissipation can cause failure through over-heating. Generally, the reason major brand LEDs are slightly more expensive is because these companies such as MEGAMAN, Philips or Osram will still be around to answer to their customers in 15 years should their lamps fail – so big investment is made in the technology that keeps their LEDs performing perfectly and throughout their expected lifetimes. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for cheaper non-brand alternatives.

The myth: The cost of LEDs is too high

The truth: Back in 2011, the price of LEDs - when coupled with concerns over the lighting quality appeared to be prohibitive. However, price erosion has occurred even faster than forecasted ((see predictions from Frost & Sullivan, World LED Markets 2012 (Below). We are now looking at prices for 60W replacement lamps that are less than half of the predicted levels currently. And still prices continue to fall, bringing payback times down with them.

LED replacements are now not only affordable, but in many cases perform even better than their traditional alternatives.

The myth: Dimming LEDs doesn’t work

The truth: Of all of the ‘myths’ discussed here, this one probably has the most credence. Dimming compatibility has been a major issue for LED manufacturers and consumers alike, especially in retrofit installations with existing dimmer circuits in place.

However, things are changing. As LED moves through mass-adoption, dimmer manufacturers are beginning to work on dimmers specifically made for LED, and likewise LED lamp manufacturers are working on ways to make lamps that are compatible with the widest range of dimmers possible.

Look out at Light+Building in Frankfurt in March for more updates in this area….

Leave your myths and truths in the comments below, I’d love to hear more about what you think.

*25,000 hour lamp on for 4-5 hours per day.


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