More and more modern electronic and home lighting solutions are using LED lights, so you may be wondering what the big fuss is, and why they have become so popular. LED lights have many advantages from a manufacturer’s point of view, as well as having benefits for the consumer, so it’s certainly worth being aware of their relative effectiveness and comparatively minor disadvantages.
What are LED lights?
LED stands for light-emitting diode, which describes the main physical component of all LED lights. A diode is term for an electronic component with asymmetric conductance over two terminals. In one direction, it conducts easily; in the other, only with great difficulty. Because it conducts electricity easily only in one direction, this can be used to create an effect with minimal input of power that is instantly controllable. In the case of LED lights, this is the production of almost instant light with very little waste, which means that there is no loss of power to produce excess heat.
Home and office lighting
The reduction in energy needed to generate the required level of light is one of the big advantages of LED lights, and this means that using LEDs for lighting functions can save a lot of money on energy bills. Additionally, however, the simplicity of the diodes and the reduction in waste heat means that smaller casings can be used, reducing the need for bulky fittings and making LED lights much more flexible in terms of decor and accessorising.
This is one of the reasons that LEDs have become so popular in the creation of ambient lighting, as small units can be accurately positioned to create particular effects. In addition, chains or displays of multiple small LEDs can be used to create more dramatic lighting effects, such as those highlighted at tradelighting.co.uk. Many modern LEDs even include colour-changing modes that allow them to cycle through particular lighting effects without additional external input.
The light from LEDs can be very bright, and it is more balanced than the red-tinged light from conventional bulbs, meaning that colours look more natural when seen in white LED light. This can be useful for businesses that rely on design functions or other visually-intensive processes, or for consumers who need stronger or more accurate lighting because of particular hobbies or physical requirements. Having said this, LED bulbs come in a range of shades, known as temperatures, so it is possible to pick the level of light that suits your needs much more precisely.
Monitors and televisions
LCD televisions use the bright and responsive nature of LEDs to create an effective backlight for their liquid crystal displays. These LEDs are all of one colour, and produce a very consistent light that is whiter than previous technologies. This technology also reduces energy costs, as with most applications of LEDs.
LEDs can also be used to reproduce accurate colours directly onto monitors and televisions. This is done using the addition of a layer of organic chemicals, causing the resulting components to be referred to as organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. OLEDs create their own light rather than reacting to backlights, so they can produce very sharp colour contrasts and technology items using them are much thinner than comparable units. They also do not emit any light when not being powered, so they can produce a true black, which is not possible for other forms of screen. While this technology is fairly new, and therefore expensive for larger devices, it is currently extensively used for smartphones and similar hand-held screens.
Because of the nature of LEDs and their instant response to current, OLEDs can theoretically have a response time of less than 0.01 ms, allowing greatly reduced latency and higher refresh rates that are easier on viewers’ eyes. The viewing angle is greatly improved, with colours staying true when seen from anywhere in front of the screen.
As well as saving energy during use thanks to their utilisation of minimal currents, LEDs use less energy during manufacturing than most LCD or conventional lighting processes. LEDs for use in screens can be printed using standard printers onto a range of specially prepared surfaces, though these surfaces have yet to become more affordable due to mass production. These surfaces can include flexible materials, so a range of clothing and wearable screens is a possibility.
LED bulbs for use in household and business lighting are relatively straightforward technological achievements that last for a long time compared to conventional lighting, saving further energy in production terms. When they do fail, they are also easy to source and replace, and the fact that they are cool in use means that removing the old bulb is rarely dangerous.
Issues to consider
The light from LEDs can be very bright, so it’s worth considering the placement of all of your LED bulbs and fittings carefully to avoid dazzle and glare. Suitable recessed fittings or shades are a good option and have the advantage of providing a modern look to a room. You can also choose to deliberately take advantage of this extra brightness when adding spot lighting for close-up work or other visually focused tasks.
In terms of LED displays, some colours can lose brightness faster than others, and while modern displays use the best materials and techniques to minimise this loss, it may still become apparent over very long-term use. In particular, blue LEDs are known to lose brightness at around double the rate that green LEDs do, which can cause colour balance issues over time.
As well as being subject to electronic devices’ usual vulnerabilities to water, OLEDs are also susceptible to even minor water intrusion damaging the delicate organic layer that creates the colour effects, so extra sealing is required for this type of component. This can limit the flexibility of this type of display. It also means that these types of display would have a limited lifespan in outdoor conditions, fortunately rarely a concern for a domestic user.