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You probably do. Just consider your smartphone’s flashlight, the fixture you bought for your desk, your bike light or the solar-powered lamps in your garden. However, the chances are that in most places inside your home, you are still using light bulbs, halogen light or energy saving lamps. It is important to understand that these lamps consume significantly more energy than LEDs.
At the end of the 20th century, the use of LEDs in general lighting was still in its infancy. Since the turn of the century, however, there has been a lighting revolution. LED lighting is on its way to becoming the norm, both inside and outside homes.
Let’s have a look at what it is and what types of LEDs we can encounter these days. In Part 2, we will elaborate on the many advantages of LED lighting.
What Does LED Mean?
LED stands for light emitting diode, and that’s exactly what it is. Today, the abbreviation is used so often it has become a generally-accepted word in most modern languages (Dutch, for instance).
When power is sent through the diode’s forward direction, it emits light. The technology and its characteristics have improved tremendously over recent decades. Hence, LEDs have grown to become the background lighting for nearly everything from analogue audiometers up to full-fledged lighting sources.
The LED piece itself (the diode) is very small and is enveloped by a see-through holder with two connection cords. Technicians call this the LED light.
LED Lights, Fixtures and Strips
In English, we also use the term LED light. However, in that case, it means something entirely different, more specifically the so-called retrofit lamps in one of the commonly-used light sockets, equipped with multiple LED lights. A control unit has been installed in the socket. Such a lamp can then be used to replace light bulbs, halogen lights or energy saving lamps in existing fixtures. The shape may seem similar to that of light bulbs and energy saving lamps. In most cases, however, a metal cooling fan is found on the exterior.
Different types of LED lights. (Courtesy of Fotolia)
In addition, we can opt for LED fixtures. These are designed specifically for LED lights. In this case, the designers have paid attention to the cooling aspect. The modern LED fixture no longer contains any loose LED lights. The LEDs, and in some cases the control unit, have been fully integrated into the fixture. In general, an LED fixture contains multiple LEDs.
For the more creative individuals among us, there are also LED strips. These relatively flexible, pliable, rolled-up strips are equipped with LEDs. You can cut off the desired length and connect a power cord. LED strips can be used as indirect lighting in rooms or glass cupboards, and are particularly popular for improving staircase lighting.
LEDs emit very little heat compared to previous light sources. Hence, they can be touched quite safely, contrary to light bulbs and halogen lamps. On the other hand, they do not withstand heat that well. An overheated LED will have a shorter lifespan. This is why retrofit LED lamps are practically always equipped with a metal cooling fan on the outside, which keeps the heat under control. Manufacturers do everything possible to keep the operating temperature as low as possible for LED fixtures as well. LEDs are, however, not affected by cold. Hence they can be placed in outdoor environment, even when it is below freezing outside.