You may have noticed the rapid change from the incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs to LEDs in many applications such as flashlights, traffic signals, parking lots, office lighting? What’s behind these changes and why are LEDs so good at this?
LED is short for “light-emitting diode.” Unlike incandescent bulbs, which light up with any kind of electric current, diodes take only one-way direct current, like a battery. Inside the diode, the current flows through a junction made of two different kinds of crystal. When the power flows from one part of the junction to the other, light is generated efficiently. In an LED, light is created in a much more efficient way, resulting in less energy needed for the same amount of light then that produced by fluorescent or incandescent bulbs.
For years, LEDs were used only as indicators on electronic equipment panels. But over the past 10 years significant new research, materials and designs have changed LEDs a great deal, with new color ranges and more brightness that have allowed them to move into new areas of use, and they are quickly becoming a mainstream replacement for incandescent, fluorescent and sodium-type lighting technologies.
Titan LED, located in Moorpark, has been leading the way, providing LED-based light fixtures, mostly in commercial applications, for new installations and for replacement of existing ones. Titan says that by using LED-based lighting, the lamp can give a better quality of light, last much longer, run cooler and cost less to operate. Let’s look at each of these claims.
“Titan’s LED Household and Par Lamps are UL-rated and feature significant savings of 75 [percent]-80 percent,” commented Titan LED’s President, CEO and founder Brian Hennessy.
Both the incandescent and fluorescent-based light bulb has often been referred to as a “heater that happens to put out some light.” The heat you feel coming off these bulbs is coming from a really hot filament that actually is wasting energy. LEDs, on the other hand, produce light with little heat. That saves energy, sometimes using 75 percent less energy to produce the same light as incandescent light bulbs. Because LEDs themselves run much cooler then incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes, LED lighting reduces the need for the amount of air conditioning needed to cool a building. As another way to save on energy, LED light fixtures can be directed to shine their light in a certain direction and don’t need reflectors to capture the light coming from the top or sides of bulbs or tubes.
Light coming off an LED is more uniform than that off a traditional light bulb. Considering the example of a traffic signal, lights using a filament bulb tended to have a bright or “hot spot” in the middle, which is the bulb itself, and then fade out toward the outer edge, which is actually light reflected off a mirror-like, bowl shape dish behind the bulb. These lamps use lenses to try to even out the dispersal of light from the bulb and reflector. Today’s LED-based traffic signals, as a simple and obvious example of the change from filament to LED light, use an array of about 120 individual LEDs on a disk to provide a brighter, more uniform light, do not require the front diffuser lens and are much easier to see from a distance, in rain or in fog or snow, than filament light bulbs.
Another advantage is that LEDs are often used in large numbers, and they don’t fail (burn out) all at once if damaged. A filament bulb can burn out or shatter whereas the LED array continues to function even if some of its elements are broken. Another facet is the long-life aspect of LEDs. LEDs purchased for the home may last as long as 50,000 to 100,000 hours. In other words, if you leave your LED lamp on four hours every day, it will last for anywhere from 35 to 65 years! With such lifespans, LED lights nearly eliminate the frequent need to be replaced, such as is the case with filament bulbs, fluorescent tubes and sodium bulbs. LEDs are solid and cannot break when dropped or shaken.
As Titan LED points out, LED lights are environmentally friendly. Unlike fluorescent tubes or the compact fluorescent lights (CFL), LED do not need special disposal as they do not contain mercury or other toxic materials.
Titan LED has a very broad range of LED-based commercial lighting solutions for parking lots, outdoor courts and sport fields, gymnasiums, auditoriums, parking lots and more. Its most active sales are the installation of new lights and retrofitting the classic 4-foot fluorescent fixtures found in most offices and industrial spaces today. Seventy percent of Titan LED’s lamps and 100 percent of it 4-foot LED florescent tube replacement lamps are manufactured in the United States.
Plugged In is a new monthly column focused on new technology in and around Ventura County, and it will be featured the second week of every month. Plugged In authors Bridge Carney and Karl Geiger are chair and past chair, respectively, for the Ventura Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE], the world’s largest professional organization, with more than 800 local members in Ventura County. Please find them at www.ieee-bv.org.