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The advantages and disadvantages of LED lights

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The LED (or Light-Emitting Diode) technology was on the rise for the past few decades, but the last few years brought up a massive spike in its advancement and popularity. The new solutions made it better and cheaper than ever before. Although being great light sources, LED lights still have some setbacks that you should be aware of. Let’s take a deeper dive into the advantages and disadvantages of LED lighting and find out if they’re really worth switching to.

Photo by Zishan khan on Unsplash

What exactly are LED lights?

As the full name suggests, LED bulbs and other light sources utilize semiconductor microchips and small diodes that transform electricity into light in the process of electroluminescence. Thanks to this they can be very low-voltage while still being bright. You should keep in mind that their brightness isn’t measured in Watts (as traditional light bulbs made us used to) but in Lumens (lm). Therefore, low-watt LED lights can be much brighter than equivalent incandescent or CFL lights.

What are the advantages of LED lighting?

LED light is often called the best currently available solution for all kinds of lighting. Although that claim might seem like nothing more than an empty advertisement slogan, LED lighting has solid features that back it up. And they are:

1. Longevity

The average lifespan of a quality LED light bulb is about 25 000 hours, while the best ones can even go past 50 000 hours. So a quality LED bulb could potentially stay constantly on for about 1 042 days, which is almost 3 years. In a more realistic scenario of being lit up for 8 h/day this can triple, reaching over 8 years. That’s a giant step-up from incandescent bulbs, which could reach 1 500 h at best. LEDs also beat fluorescent lamps which typically last from 6 000 to 15 000 hours. When it comes to long life, there’s no better light source out there currently.

2. Efficiency

Modern LEDs are the most energy-efficient light sources currently available – they transform up to 90% of intake electricity into light. This means there’s almost no waste in the form of generated heat. On the other end of the spectrum we have incandescent light bulbs – they can effectively use only 10-15% of the power, wasting all the rest as heat.

3. Sturdiness

Thanks to being based solely on semiconductor materials, LEDs are far more resistant to physical trauma – there’s no glass, neon tubes or filaments that could be easily damaged. Even the outer layer of LED bulbs is made only from aluminium and plastic, making them very resistant to harsh conditions.

4. Safety

Due to their high efficiency and the resulting low heat production (3.59 kJ/h or 3.4 Btu/h), LED lights can be safely touched even after long hours of staying on. There’s no risk of getting burned and exposing illuminated things to high temperatures, so they can be safely used around children or to illuminate goods and equipment sensitive to temperature.

5. Ecology

LED lighting is also very eco-friendly – there are no toxic materials present and about 95% of materials used to produce it can be recycled. In addition to low energy consumption, switching to LED lighting can greatly lower our carbon footprint, especially while used on a wide scale.

6. Colours

LEDs come in a variety of colours – from simple, one coloured bulbs to fully RGB lights that can switch colours on the fly when paired with a compatible controller. Therefore, LEDs can be used for anything from security and safety to mood lighting.

7. Variety

Light based on LEDs come in various shapes and sizes – from single, tiny diodes, through strips and strings, to big bulbs of almost any shape imaginable. There even are some with elongated diodes that imitate traditional filaments for that extra vintage look.

8. Controllability

Thanks to their digital nature, LED lighting systems are easily controllable and implementable in various intelligent lighting projects. This not only allows fluent colour changes and dimming, but also enables us to build massive lighting systems utilizing thousands of diodes working in full synchronization or create smart, remotely controlled home and work lighting.

Disadvantages of LED lights

As any other technology and aspect of life, LEDs have some, although few, flaws. Technological progress  helped eliminate some of them – like extensive blue light emissions, lower general light quality or limited light output. The cons of LED lighting that linger until now are:

1. Price

The high initial cost of LED lighting is often the first argument against it – one bulb cost as much as at least several incandescent bulbs. In reality though, LEDs will cost you far less in the long run – they require far less energy than others and have way longer lifetimes. You should also keep in mind that the price of LEDs has been steadily going down for the past few years and that trend will probably continue into the foreseeable future. So this con might get outdated rather quickly.

2. Temperature sensitivity

Ambient operating temperature is an important factor in the LED light’s quality. When it gets high, parameters of the current going through the semiconductor change, which may lead to burning out the whole LED module. Fortunately, this only gets problematic in places/on surfaces exposed to very high temperature or rapid increases of it.

3. Mixed quality

Due to the boom in popularity, the market was practically flooded by LED products. Unfortunately, this also means that the quality of bulbs and other lights can vary greatly even between different batches of the same product. In addition, the LED market is still largely self-regulated, which adds to the overall chaos. At this point, the only real solution to this problem is sticking to the products of renowned lighting manufacturers.

Pros and cons of LEDs – a quick summary

LED lights are currently the most energy-efficient, long-lasting and co-friendly option for illuminating private and public spaces. Their cons are largely overshadowed by the pros and most of them will probably fade away in the near future thanks to the constant development of the technology. So if you plan to modernize your lighting, LEDs are definitely the way to go today.