LED Technology – The Future of Lighting
Put simply, LED technology is the future of sustainable, effective, and radically efficient residential and commercial lighting. A true win-win, LED technology finally overcomes many of the forced trade-offs encountered when deciding between older lighting technologies. As costs continue to fall and performance rapidly improves (it already exceeds every other technology for most applications), LED lighting and, to a lesser degree, Induction and High Efficiency Fluorescent lighting will be the universal standard within 5-10 years across the United States.
LED lighting is a solid state lighting technology that originated early in the 20th century and saw its first use in practical applications in the 1950’s.
Originally produced as indicator light sources for early calculators, computers, and other digital devices; LED technology has evolved into high power drivers and chips capable of providing usable illumination, extreme efficiencies, and long life. Many properly designed low power LED’s from 1970’s and 1980’s digital devices are still working today.
LED’s work by passing a current through a p-n semiconductor junction. As charge carriers (electrons and holes) meet, electrons fall into lower energy state and release energy in the form of a photon (light).
The biggest advantages of this process, in addition to its efficiency, is that it involves no filaments to burn out, gases to leak, or other mechanical failure points. Typically, LED chips at end of life do not fail, they simply dim consistently to the point where they are no longer useful.
Although LED’s are far more efficient at converting the majority of their energy consumed into light, there still is a significant amount of heat available to damage sensitive electronic components. One of the biggest challenges and innovations in high power LED design has been to design effective thermal management systems to combat this heat stress. Fortunately, we have recently managed to achieve proper LED thermal management at affordable price points.
Even as recently as 3-4 years ago, LED simply wasn’t a viable commercial option for most applications. However, as the technology continues to advance exponentially, many high quality LED products are now fully tested and are an excellent choice to replace aging, inefficient technologies.
Although LED is still significantly more expensive than existing technologies, the tremendous energy and maintenance advantages usually greatly outweigh its higher cost.
For example, a 6W LED replacement for a common 35W Halogen PAR36 landscape lighting bulb (run for 12 hours per day at .10 cents per KWH) will pay for itself in energy and maintenance savings in less than 2.5 years – and then last approximately 9 more years (50,000 hours rated life). It also offers identical color temperature and lumen (light) output as its Halogen counterpart.
For commercial applications, similar payback scenarios are common and occasionally even significantly better when a business qualifies under a state or federal lighting incentive program.