How and Why Does LED Lighting Affect Your Life?
LED lighting has the highest impact on you and your life other than sunlight. I’m going to share facts that you may not know about lighting:
- Insufficient lighting contributes to seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder) and vitamin D deficiencies.
- Up to 90% of vitamin D comes from exposure to sun – diet alone isn’t a good enough source.
- Vitamin D can prevent or slow down the growth of tumors and even boost survival rates for cancer patients.
- Light, especially blue wavelengths, plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm, commonly known as our body clock.
- Health effects associated with poor lighting include:
- Headache and eyestrain.
- Neck, back, and shoulder strain.
- Falling, tripping, slipping.
- Blue light can increase confidence and boost happiness levels, research suggests.
- Without the Sun’s heat and light, the Earth would be a lifeless ball of ice-coated rock, like many of the moons around Jupiter and Saturn
LED Lighting Replaces Incandescent Sources, Better Than Fluorescent
January 1, 2014 marked the official ban on the manufacture of 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs, after Congress passed a law in 2007. It took 7 years for people to understand that LED lamps were better than the filament incandescent bulbs invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.
One hundred years later, in 1979, California started tightening its energy laws, requiring that fluorescent lighting must be the dominant source of artificial light in kitchens. To pass final inspection, contractors and homeowners used non-dimmable compact fluorescent lamps in fixtures. As soon as they could no longer see the inspector’s tail lights, they removed the CFL’s and replaced them with dimmable incandescents they’d known and loved all their lives.
Manufacturers made it easy to use small-tube fluorescent fixtures for task lighting under wall cabinets, which made working in the kitchen safer. We all hated the artificial “cool white” and “warm white” colors produced by the early fluorescent lamps that made everything look salmon pink or green. We hated the flickering. There had to be a better alternative! But that didn’t start to happen until 2006, when manufacturers started making LED lamps.
The History of LED Lighting
We think of LEDs as new technology. But the history of LEDs goes way back. In 1907, Henry Round reported light emission from a crystal detector. It took another 20 years until Oleg Losev noted that silicon carbide crystal diodes used in radios glowed when excited by electrical current. And in 1939, two Russian scientists patented a silicon carbide electro-luminescent lighting device that’s probably the predecessor to the LEDs we know today.
In the 1960s, LEDs produced a low-efficiency red light that was used widely as indicators on lab equipment. A partnership between Monsanto and Hewlett Packard formed to make LEDs on a wide scale, but it didn’t work out, so Monsanto continued to develop LEDs until General Instrument bought the business in 1979.
I’m surprised about how long it’s taken for manufacturers to adopt LED technology in the lighting industry. Today’s LED technology is used extensively for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. LEDs’ capabilities have improved across the board: increased lifespan, increased brightness and performance, and increased energy efficiency. Now all LED lamps have warranties. National and state government agencies adopted programs and standards that ultimately led to the demise of incandescent lighting.
What’s The Major Upside to LED Lights?
There are many advantages to LED lighting:
- LEDs have an extremely long lifespan relative to every other lighting technology. LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours, and they don’t fail in the same way as older technology. The typical lifespan for a halogen bulb, by comparison, is about 1,200 hours, or 1-5% as long, at best.
- They are extremely energy efficient relative to every other commercially available lighting technology. There are several reasons for this: they waste very little energy in the form of heat, and they emit light directionally. This means that there is no need to redirect or reflect light.
- LEDs have faster switching with no warm-up or cool-down period.
- They have very high light quality. Manufacturers have listened to engineers, and have improved the color that LEDs produce, in temperature and wavelength.
- LEDs can generate the entire spectrum of visible light colors without having to use the traditional color filters required by older lighting solutions.
- They are much smaller than other light sources.
Is there a Downside to LED Lights?
When I first began touting LEDs in 2006, the major argument against buying and using them was the up-front cost of the bulbs. Yes, they were expensive, for sure! A non-dimmable replacement for a standard “A” lamp was at least $35 each. But the technology of LEDs has followed the pattern established by other technology. As soon as people started buying the bulbs, manufacturers took notice and figured out how to produce the diodes at a considerably lower cost. Consequently, this made the investment in LED bulbs more acceptable.
There’s an unlimited selection of LEDs available to replace all kinds of lamps. Incandescent lamps are no longer available. We can buy halogen, CFL, and LED lamps only. There are differences between them, shown in the chart below. What gives LEDs the advantage is that they’re dimmable (like halogen lamps) and they save you money on the annual operating cost.
Light and Color: Why It’s Important
It’s impossible to have color without light! There are two aspects to the color of the light and how we see colors:
- Color temperature
- Color rendering
All of the colors we see are a byproduct of light waves, as they are reflected off or absorbed into an object. An object that reflects back all of the rays of light will appear white. An object that absorbs all of the rays appears black.
Warm, yellowish light, what incandescent lamps typically produced, intensified and enhanced warm colors like red, orange, and yellow, and muted cooler hues. Cool, white light, what fluorescent and halogen lamps produce, works best with blues, violets, and greens.
You’ve probably heard and read about color temperature developed by British physicist William Kelvin in the 1800s. He discovered the color change that occurred when he heated a block of carbon. Starting from a dim red, through shades of yellow and up to a bright blue at the hottest temperature. When you buy a package of bulbs, you’ll be able to tell how warm or cool the light is, which will affect all the colors you see by the Kelvin color temperature.
Color Rendering Index
Another reference you may see is the CRI, or color rendering index. The numbers go from 1 to 100. According to Wikipedia:
“A color rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source.”
What this means to us is the ability to match colors. Hundreds, maybe thousands of times in the past 35 years, I’ve known frustrated homeowners who went shopping in showrooms lit with fluorescent or other light sources. They thought they found a product with the perfect color to match their interior, only to discover that the light in their homes is much different. Of course, the products weren’t what they wanted.
Watts and Lumens
There are two more numbers on light bulb packaging, the watts, and lumen output. We’re all familiar with watt reference, the amount of energy that a light source consumes. We’ve associated a certain level of brightness with 60 watts of incandescent light. We can’t do that anymore, because we have LEDs that give us more light with fewer watts. Instead, we need a measurement for visible light energy – lumens. Lumens per watt is a measure of how well a light source converts energy (watts) into light (lumens). Tungsten filament incandescent bulbs produced about 15 lumens/watt. LED technology can produce about 60 lumens per watt. In other words, LEDs are about 4 times more efficient at producing light than incandescent bulbs. This 4-1 ratio is a rough guide of how to calculate what LED bulb to use when replacing an incandescent bulb.
LED Lighting Options
As I said earlier, manufacturers have been on board with LEDs since 2008. Here are the nine different kinds of LED bulbs that are available on one of my favorite sites, 1000 Bulbs:
- Standard Shape A19 – Designed to give the appearance and pattern of a standard incandescent bulb. Standard and A-shape LED bulbs fit the same sockets and fixtures as your current household lights.
- 3-Way LED – A three-way bulb is a light bulb that has three brightness settings instead of the standard on or off. If your lamp or fixture says it requires a three-way bulb, this is the category for you.
- Vintage LED Bulbs – Vintage reproduction bulbs are now available with LED filament. They have a warm orange glow with lower light levels to mimic the style of a vintage bulb on a dimmer as it transitions from yellow to orange. These Edison-style and Victorian-style bulbs make great collector items. Order yours today to make your own steampunk lighting.
- Wet Location LED Bulbs – A wet location UL rating means these LED light bulbs can be used in humid indoor areas or outdoors where water may drop or flow against the bulb or fixture.
- Decorative LED Bulbs – Browse LED globe lights ranging from 3 in. to 1.5 in. diameters or find LED replacement bulbs for your chandelier light bulbs. The long life of LEDs means less time on the ladder changing burnt-out bulbs. Many LED chandelier lights are dimmer switch compatible and come in a range of color temperature so you can still enjoy the ambiance of traditional bulbs but the energy savings of LEDs.
- LED Tubes – LED tubes are the emerging standard for commercial and household lighting. Ranging in size from T5 to T12 and a variety of color temperatures, these LED tubes are an easy way to upgrade to energy-efficient lighting. Some of them work with or without an existing ballast, making the transition to LED lighting easier than ever. These LED tubes emit the same amount of light as fluorescent T8s while using a fraction of the power and lasting up to three times longer. LED tubes are especially effective in cold areas like refrigeration lockers where fluorescent tubes are less efficient at producing light.
- LED Tape Lights – For accents, alcove, and backlighting, LED tape light is a fantastic choice. More flexible than rope light and bright enough for accent illumination, a strip of LED tape light can bring any place to life. There are countless uses and applications for this easily installed new light source.
- Shatter Resistant LED Bulbs – Dipped in a special coating, these bulbs may still break if dropped, but they won’t shatter into pieces and fly across your floor. We recommend not dropping them, but if you do, these make cleanup quite a bit easier.
- LED Night Lights – Keep the monsters away with LED night lights. Motion-activated, and battery-powered, these LED bulbs will light the way to the bathroom or give reassurance that nothing is lurking under the bed when your child needs to reach for a dropped retainer or teddy bear. Mounted using tape or screws, light only the area you need without waking sleeping babies.
- Reflectors – From the powerful flood and spotlights to home-bound recessed or track lights, reflectors find excellent use indoors or out. LED reflector lamps can provide the same brilliance for less energy and will create far less heat than an incandescent or halogen lamp. As a bonus, they have a higher CRI than fluorescent reflectors for better colors. – Vintage reproduction bulbs are now available with LED filament. They have a warm orange glow with lower light levels to mimic the style of a vintage bulb on a dimmer as it transitions from yellow to orange. These Edison-style and Victorian-style bulbs make great collector items. Order yours today to make your own steampunk lighting.
A Personal Testimonial About LED Lighting
When we built our dream home 11 years ago, I wanted to use dimmable indirect lighting in the main hallway, the dining room, living room, and kitchen. At that time, LED strip lighting was prohibitively expensive, about $40 per foot. So my “techie” husband figured out how to build the strips using individual LEDs on “perf” board. The electrician installed switched outlets in each of the recessed coffers to make installation easy for us. Eleven years and about 35,000 hours later, the lights are still working perfectly. When we decide to replace the LEDs, we’re going to use commercially-available strip lighting that sells for about $2.50 per foot! You can see pictures of our home in my portfolio.
Lighting technology can impact your life. The technology really isn’t difficult when it’s explained in terms that we can learn and understand. The bottom line is by exchanging all of your existing fluorescent and halogen bulbs for LEDs, you’re getting the following advantages:
- No mercury, a cleaner alternative to fluorescent and CFL lamps.
- A lifespan that is 20 times longer than traditional lighting products.
- Light quality equal or superior to traditional lighting products.
- Energy consumption that’s lower than any lighting product to date – you save money!
Listen to the “Today’s Home” Podcast: LED Lighting — The Highest Impact On Your Life
See Before and After Pictures of the Kitchen featured in this article.
Call me today to talk about remodeling your home that will include improvement of your lighting!
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is an Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling,” and the recipient of many design awards.
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