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Introduction to LED Lighting

Solid state Light Emitting Diodes LEDs are among the most efficient and highly reliable lighting technologies available. LEDs lamps use only 15 percent of the energy needed by conventional lighting, produce virtually no heat, and last as long as 50,000 hours.

Additional benefits include higher flexibility of project design, adapts much better to automation controls, and completely new applications that would not be appropriate for CFLs or incandescent lamps. The performance of LED lamps today make them a very viable choice for many indoor and outdoor lighting applications. Experts believe that today LED lighting has a 50-60% market share potential, not only to replace existing form factors, but with totally new lighting methods. An example new low wattage application for LED lamps is in mines, refineries or other industrial sites where combustible gases may be present.

Solid state lamps, meaning lamps that employ semiconductor technology, allow highly flexible lighting products to be available to the general public. Lamps are available that can allow for easy swapping, change in light output, colour, or beam width.

Molex, the electronic connector company, has even developed a "hockey puck" lamp that magnetically attaches to rail fixtures. The two inch round puck lamp can be repositioned at any time without tools or technicians, because the wireless lamp incorporates the electrical, mechanical, and thermal interface to a hot spot or rail system. The applications for this type of device are unlimited. The hockey puck can be used for home lighting, restaurants and bars, retail displays, plant grow lights, and refrigeration lighting to name a few.

LED Lighting Basics

An LED is a semiconductor device, meaning it can act as an electrical insulator or conductor. The LED is optimized for light emission. It uses the same material as solar panels, which collect light for electrical current production. LEDs have been around for a long time, many decades in fact. They exist in just about every electronic device and car we use everyday. However, until recently, they have not able to compete with existing lighting technologies that have been around for even longer.

Comparison to CFL and Incandescent

The first step towards improving your lighting efficiency is to learn how to compare various types of lamps.

LED Lighting Performance Capabilities

LED lighting is very versatile. LED lighting can be had in just about any colour, intensity, or width. Some of the parameters used to assess LED lighting performance are Lumen, efficacy, operating temperature, life expectancy, Title 24 compliance, and ability to dim.

Lighting efficiency is described as "efficacy". Efficacy is the measure of lumen emitted per watt of electricity consumed. A higher efficacy is better. In lighting vocabulary, a lamp is the tube or bulb that emits light. A fixture holds the lamps or bulbs. The output of those lamps are measured in lumen, which we perceive as brightness. For example, a 13 watt light bulb emits 450 to 650 lumen, which is equivalent to a 40 watt incandescent bulb.

Other LED lighting performance measurements are warmth or light colour. This is a measure of how pleasant the light is to the human eyes. For example, an LED light with an appearance of 3000K is referred to as "Warm White". The light is measured in temperature in Kelvin degrees. 5500 degrees K is considered bright light. The use of Kelvin in light measurement goes back to measurement of sunlight and star light in terms of temperature.

LED lights are powered by DC (direct current) voltage. So the AC (alternating current) from your home outlets must be converted. There are many companies that offer AC power supplies for LED Lighting. The power supply can be mounted in a hidden location in the ceiling or walls. It converts the 115 to 240 VAC down to LED Low Voltage Lighting at 6, 12, or 24 VDC.

Inside the Home Uses of LED Lighting

Most LED lighting applications today are for commercial, campuses, and street lighting. As the the costs come down due to increased production capability, LED lighting will make since for home owners also. Below are just a few examples of how LED lighting is being used today.

LED Track Lighting

Track lighting with incandescent and halogen bulbs have been in use for many decades. Mounting movable lamps on a track allow for flexibility and pin-point lighting of a subject or area. LED track lighting offers additional benefits aside from higher efficiency. By being able to control light intensity, colour, lighting patterns, and direction, display designers now have much more flexibility.

LED Track Lighting
LED Track Lighting Example

LED Strip and Rope Lighting

Because a single lighted LED is so small (typically 0.5 to 1 inch wide), multiple LEDs can be mounted in a flexible strip of circuit board. The LED tape can be cut, usually in multiples of three lights, to fit anywhere you like. The performance of LED strips is quite impressive. You can get 60 to 108 LEDs on a 1 meter (3.25 foot) strip that will have a 950 lumen total output, with 120 degree beam angle, drawing only 14.4 watts.

Meter LED strip Comes on a Reel
Meter LED strip Comes on a Reel

If you have an application requiring multiple colour lighting, you can get RGB LED strips. The RGB stands for Red-Green-Blue. You can change colours with a controller. The controllers can be a simple wall mounted dial up to an Ipad or smart phone application.

LED Strips Controlled by a Dial
LED Strips Controlled by a Dial

LED Under Cabinet Lighting

Providing under cabinet lighting seems to be one of the most popular applications of LED lighting. Perhaps because the LED light strips are thin and can be mounted hidden under the cabinet bottom. Thus, they provide kitchen counter or task lighting without being seen or taking space. LED Kitchen Lighting is very easy to install using LED adhesive backed strips that can be easily applied to the bottom of the cabinet. The power supply for the light strip can be also mounted hidden on top of the cabinet or where ever else is convenient.

LED strips Used for Under Cabinet Mounting
LED strips Used for Under Cabinet Mounting

LED strips Used for Under Cabinet Mounting
The Circuit Board LED Strip Can be Cut to Fit

LED strips Used for Under Cabinet Mounting
LED Lighting Easy Installation Using Adhesive Backed Strips

LED Lighting Fixtures

LED lighting fixtures are available today in any form factor that was available with conventional incandescent lighting. LED lighting fixtures offer, not only better efficiency, but much greater flexibility in application mounting. They also have an advantage in offering pin-point lighting to focus light on a particular subject rather than general area. Lighting filters can be added to the output of LED lamps that can make the light appear warmer or older, in terms of degrees Kelvin. A warmer LED will look more like a conventional incandescent lamp.

LED fixtures are also more flexible in power requirements. Most operate on very low voltage that can be DC or AC. The driving circuit, called a power supply can be mounted inside the LED fixture or remotely hidden away.

LED Lighting Fixtures are available in many different configurations for just about any application, indoor or outdoor. Here are a few LED Lighting Fixtures Examples.

Recessed LED Lighting

Many kitchens, dining rooms, and hallways of home around America have recessed lighting in the ceilings already. However, these fixtures usually contain very inefficient halogen or incandescent lights. In addition, the recessed fixtures typically have air leaks, allowing your cooled or heated domestic air to escape into the attic or ceiling air spaces. Newer recessed LED lighting fixtures solve both problems by providing a very low watt use lighting alternative in a sealed package that fits the same form factor. So you would only need to unplug the old recessed incandescent assembly and replace it with a new LED fixture.

Recessed LED Lighting
Replacing an Old Recessed Ceiling Lamp with LED Lighting

LED Accent Lighting

While normally being used in retail display cases, LED accent lighting has unlimited creative uses in the home. For example, a strip of RGB (multi-colour) LED lamps can be powered by a USB (universal serial bus) connection and provide back-lighting for your computer, an arbitrary display of multiple colours on a wall, floor lighting under your driver's seat, mood lighting for late at night, china cabinet lighting, and on and on... Check out this inventor investment solicitation suggesting many uses for LED Accent lighting strips.

LED Flex Lighting

LEDs are mounted on a flexible circuit board that can be mounted out of site.

LED Step Lighting

LED step lighting are lamps that are literally designed to be mounted on a wall next to your steps in the home. Because the lights are low power, they can be justified in an application that would not make sense for incandescent lamps. They also provide styling, safety, and power reduction.

LED Step Lighting
LED Step Lighting

LED Display Lighting

LED Lighting Modules

LED Under Counter or Display Case Lighting

Traditionally, tungsten based halogen lighting has been used in under counter lighting. They work great until you try LED under counter lighting. You'll find that the halogen light tends to drown out the details of the object you are trying to display, while the LED lighting accents all of the details of the object. The halogen lamp hits the surface of the display object, then returns a single bright light to the eyes, hiding (almost protecting) the finer details of the object. Whereas, the LED under counter light will reveal the details as well as show the real 3-dimensional properties of the object.

LED Under Counter Lighting LED Under Counter Lighting
Mineral Object Lighted with Halogen Lamp --- LED Under Counter Lighting Shows Greater Object Detail

LED Ceiling Lighting

With the versatility of LED Lighting just about anything is possible in just about any setting. From basic retrofit LED ceiling lights to remote controlled entertainment center lighting, you can become a true lighting artist.

LED Ceiling Lighting
LED Ceiling Lighting

LED Wall Lighting

LED Residential Lighting

Outside the Home LED Lighting Uses

LED outdoor lighting can replace any traditional lighting system currently in place. Major areas that can be lit with LED technology are security, landscape, feature, and pool lighting.

Outdoor security lighting is usually used to light up entry ways, parking lots, and driveways. Security lights can be controlled manually, by timer. or motion sensor.

LED outdoor lighting is excellent for highlighting certain areas in your exterior landscape. For example, you may want light up a special single tree or light one section of the side of your house at night.

The same goes for exterior feature lighting. You may have one or more water features, planting bed, or other object that you want to highlight in the evening landscape. LED focused lighting is excellent in this application.

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