What is LED Lighting and how does it work?

Orange light emitting diode shows LED lighting LED lighting technology is advancing rapidly, replacing many of the light sources we are familiar with like incandescent and fluorescent. source: Wikipedia

The term “LED” is an acronym for Light Emitting Diode. A diode is something that only allows electrical currents to flow in one direction. LED lights are diodes that emit light when electricity flows through them. LEDs are made with two different types of semiconductor material – one that has too many free electrons (A), and one that doesn’t have enough electrons (B). When electrons jump from A to B, a photon, or light particle, is produced. LED lighting produces different colors of light depending on the semiconductor materials used as well as the energy that is required for electrons to jump from A to B.

LED lighting emits light using the “cold process” mentioned above, which is much different from the way that standard incandescent bulbs generate light. Traditional lighting technology applies power to a filament, which heats up, glows and produces light. So, when compared to standard incandescent lighting, LED lighting technology is extremely efficient, produces little heat, and does not burn out because the bulbs do not contain filaments.

LED lamps or bulbs generally consist of an array, or cluster, of multiple LEDs. In the past, LEDs were used almost exclusively in the electronics industry as indicator lights for things like computers and cell phones because they do not burn out. LED technology has advanced significantly in recent years to allow for use in commercial and residential lighting applications.

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What are the benefits of LED?

There are many! Replacing your old lamps with LED will reduce energy consumption, lower your electricity bill, and decrease the amount of heat produced by your light fixtures. LED lamps have a life of up to 100,000 hours and are very durable compared to incandescents. This means less maintenance and therefore less maintenance expenses. LEDs do not contain any hazardous chemicals, and they are easily recyclable. In addition, LEDs offer greater optical control, dimming capability, instant on/off, and a low rate of lumen depreciation.


Additional benefits of LED include:

Light output is directional

Lamps are compact and low profile

No IR or UV emissions

Resistant to breakage and vibration

Improved performance in cold temperatures

Rapid cycling does not affect lamp life


What types of applications are ideal for LED lighting?

LEDs can be used for a variety of applications, including street lighting, area lighting, parking structures, security lighting, architectural highlighting, and general interior lighting.


Are LEDs environmentally friendly?

Yes. LEDs are extremely energy efficient, which means less energy consumption and decreased burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity.  The long life span of LEDs is a huge plus for the environment, because bulbs do not need to be replaced very often, meaning less waste in our landfills and less pollution created by performing maintenance tasks and producing replacement lamps. LEDs do not contain mercury or other hazardous chemicals, so even if disposed of improperly they will not leach these chemicals into the soil or groundwater. Don’t forget – LEDs can be recycled – this keeps even more waste out of landfills and allows for reuse of materials.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that switching to LED over the next two decades could reduce the country’s electricity consumption by half, evade 1800 million metric tons of carbon emissions, and decrease energy costs by $250 billion dollars!


How energy efficient are LEDs compared to traditional lighting technology?

LEDs are up to 90% more efficient than incandescent lights, and LED lighting technology and energy performance continues to improve rapidly. The chart below compares wattages necessary to produce equivalent light outputs for LED versus incandescent.

Incandescent (Watt) LED (Watt)
25 3
40 4-5
50 6-7
60 8-9
75 10-12
100 15-20
120 20

How much money and energy will I save when I use LED?

Contact us for an accurate estimate of energy savings based on your own project. Our lighting experts are available over the phone Monday-Friday from 6AM-6PM at 1-800-983-1315.


Is it difficult to install LEDs?

LEDs must be installed correctly or they may be damaged. This is because they are diodes and only allow electrical current to pass in one direction, thus they must not be installed backwards. When installing LEDs yourself, make sure you are well-informed about the installation process.

There are three levels of changing over to LED technology. First, you can buy an LED bulb and install it into an existing socket(base) if the base matches. Secondly, you can take your existing fixture and retrofit it with LEDs. We would call this a "retrofit". Lastly, you could replace the entire fixture with one designed for LED. This would be the most efficient, but most time-consuming and costly.

Every project is different and each solution can be appropriate depending on your existing lighting fixtures. If you need help deciding what the most appropriate products are for your space, our lighting-certified(LS1) sales representatives are ready to help you. Contact us for an accurate estimate of energy savings specific to your own project or give us a call Monday-Friday from 6AM-6PM at 1-800-983-1315.


Can I use LED lighting with dimmers?

Many of the bulbs we sell on our site can use dimmers. Before purchasing, make sure that your order is correct. Non-dimmable LED lights in dimming fixtures can damage both components.

Our search results page allows you to filter based on whether or not a product is dimmable. Scroll down and it will be one of the last options in the left column.


How many LED bulbs do I need to replace my incandescent or halogen bulbs?

While LEDs are brighter than traditional lighting technology, they are typically not available in very high wattages. For every incandescent or halogen bulb you replace, you may need two LEDs. However, you will still be using less electricity with more bulbs. For help retrofitting your space with LED, please contact us and we will provide you with a custom design quote.


Why are LEDs more expensive than other lighting technologies?  Will I still save money?

The initial cost for quality LED lighting tends to be high in comparison to standard lighting. However, the return on investment is very rapid (generally 1-2 years) due to energy efficiency, and the cost of LED lighting products is declining at a fast pace. When comparing price, don’t forget to include costs of electricity, lamp replacement, and maintenance. In the long run, LED lighting saves you money. LED lights are a smart and cost-effective investment.


How long do LEDs last?

Typically, LEDs last between 50,000 and 100,000 hours. These measurements are “useful life”, or the time it takes for light output to decay to 70% of its original capacity. LED lighting does not burn out like traditional lighting because they do not contain a filament. Instead, the light output decays gradually over time. In addition, if one LED malfunctions, the others within the array continue to function. Thus, a full lamp replacement is unnecessary. Here is how long 50,000 and 100,000 hours will last you with some typical usage amounts.

Hours of Operation     50,000 hours =     100,000 hours =
24 hours per day            5.7 years                11.4 years
18 hours per day            7.4 years                14.8 years
12 hours per day            11.4 years              22.8 years
8 hours per day              17.1 years              34.2 years


Do LEDs require specialized fixtures and/or current converters to operate?

LEDs operate on a non-traditional DC current, but they have AC to DC converters. You don’t have to purchase any extras in order to operate them using your AC power source. Existing fixtures can remain, as LEDs can simply replace incandescent bulbs. However, note that fluorescent tube lighting is different than incandescent. Fluorescent tubes operate using a specific ballast. When replacing fluorescent tubes with LED lighting, the ballast must by either bypassed or removed in order to connect power to the LED tube.


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