Are LEDs the better option?

You can’t fail to have noticed the introduction of LED technology onto the market because regardless of which magazine you open you are guaranteed to find something which is either in favour of, or totally against LEDs. So how do you go about making the right choice for your application with so many conflicting points of view?

The banning of the incandescent light bulb really started the ball rolling for LED technology and over the last two years it has been used as a replacement not just for incandescent but halogen lamps as well.

However, despite the fact that it was generally hailed as a great piece of technology the fact remained that it still couldn’t really compete with CFL, T5 and HID technology either on price or energy efficiency. This led to a lot of negative feedback in the market with many people looking for alternative solutions to meet the needs of their commercial lighting.

A new era

Thankfully a lot has changed and in the last six months alone the technology has moved on to such an extent that LEDs can now compete with any other light sources offering exceptional levels of sustainability, energy efficiency and performance.

The key to this change has been in the decrease in price and the increase in efficiency which has made LED technology a far more desirable prospect for the end user. For many customers the main problem was the price and the subsequent Return on Investment (ROI), but in some installations this can now be as low as three years, a figure which will continue to improve as Tridonic and other large module manufacturers look to decrease the cost further and increase the efficiency by up to 20% year on year.

Put simply, LEDs are now a much better option because the exceptional white-light performance, the broad colour spectrum and the compact dimensions of the LED modules provide the framework for an increasingly diverse range of applications. In addition, they contain no toxic components such as mercury or sodium so they tick the environmental box and because they have no filaments or cathodes they are highly resistant to physical shock. A much better solution all round.

Performance issues

Another major factor in the slow uptake of LED technology has been in the performance of LED light fittings which are affected by the quality of the LED component and the way in which the LED light source is incorporated into the luminaire.

This is one of those occasions where we need to refer to that familiar phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ because even the very best LEDs will perform badly or fail if the light fitting in which they are mounted is badly engineered. LED operation is highly sensitive to temperature and as a result if they overheat then you can expect their life expectancy to be short.

One of the common complaints about LED technology in the past has been that it doesn’t live up to its expectations, but what many people fail to realise is that the technology is not the problem. In order to get the best from LEDs you need to ensure that you are also specifying well engineered luminaires which have effective heat sinking to disperse the heat which is generated.

Most reputable manufacturers will supply or be able to recommend a good luminaire which will do the job, but it pays to ask the question at the outset to avoid being disappointed with the end results.

The future

The future for LEDs is very bright and with the current concerns over the rise in energy prices, and the need to reduce energy for businesses both large and small; LED technology is becoming an increasingly more attractive solution.

The key strength of LED technology continues to be the reduced power consumption and when designed properly it will approach something in the region of 80% efficiency which means that 80% of the electrical energy is converted to light energy.

It is also worth taking into account the fact that the long operational life of an LED lamp (50,000 hours) is a stark contrast to the average life of a CFL lamp, which is approximately 8,000 hours and as a result the use of LEDs would make any installation virtually maintenance free.

So to go back to my original point, are LEDs the better option? I think they are. They certainly provide flexibility in lighting design and the decrease in cost and increase in efficiency mean that they are now far more affordable. If you add to that the fact that LEDs ensure a constant and uniform appearance and the resultant long life will save you maintenance and repair costs then I think the point is fairly clear. Yes they are a better option and the reliability, cost and flexibility is something which will go a long way in this industry.

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