The Ultimate LED Guide
Making decisions about lighting is harder than it’s ever been before, due in part to the high saturation of new Lighting product types and technologies. Unequivocally the latest and greatest of these new lighting technologies is L.E.D., or Light Emitting Diode. As the market is becoming more and more flooded with the latest LED products, it can be difficult for contractors to know exactly how this new technology applies to projects that would normally be done with traditional lighting techniques. So how does one demystify this new technology and make it applicable in the field today?
The old saying goes that knowledge is power, and this is particularly important in this new and sometimes confusing transitional era.
Switching to LED
So here’s one of the most important questions regarding this new LED era: what are some of the major differences between LED and other light sources like CFL, Incandescent, and HID? In order to replace something old with something new, you first need to know what the best fit is for a replacement. For example, imagine you’re trying to upgrade your electric range with a gas one. Obviously, this process would be more complicated than just replacing one with the other. Even though both technologies are designed for the same purpose, there are fundamental differences between them. Installing a gas range requires a few additional steps. You need a gas source and a line to that source in order for it to work. The operation and specific application of a gas stove is also different than an electric one. Similarly, if you simply replace your Fluorescent High Bay fixture with an LED Fixture you may not get the exact results that you expected. The color range might be different than the previous fixture, or the delivered light may be too bright or not bright enough. To ensure that this doesn’t happen the person installing has to understand the difference between LED Lighting and Fluorescent Lighting. A fundamental understanding of correlation is integral for using the right lights for the right application.
It’s all in the Specs
What do Lumens and Wattage have to do with LED lighting applications? Well, quite a lot actually. Let’s start with why Lumens are so important. Back in the day, before LEDs, there was one lighting specification that really mattered: wattage. Everyone knows that a 60-Watt incandescent bulb is brighter than a 40-Watt bulb, and people would traditionally make their lighting decisions based on wattage. However, with the wide use of LED technology today, wattage simply isn’t as relevant anymore. This is because wattage is solely the measurement of energy consumption, and one of the main reasons that LEDs are so widespread today is because of their lowered energy consumption. Therefore, a bulb or fixture’s wattage shouldn’t be a deciding factor when looking for the right product for a particular lighting application.
That’s where Lumens come in. So what exactly is a Lumen? Well, if a single candle were placed in a sphere with a radius of one foot, then one lumen is the amount of light that reaches every point on the surface of the sphere. Essentially, Lumens are the measurement of brightness represented in a nominal form. So instead of power consumption, LED lights are measured and categorized by lumens, the actual delivered light. Lumen output is going to remain a constant form of measurement no matter the wattage of the bulb or fixture.
Another major decision-based factor when purchasing an LED fixture or Bulb is the CRI, or Color Rendering Index. Basically the Color Rendering Index of a given bulb or fixture describes how well the color of an object appears to the human eye as described from 0-100. Therefore, the higher the CRI the more accurate that a light source is at rendering color. As of today there is no LED light source that can render a CRI of 100. Some LED’s are able to reach a CRI around 90, and they are generally more expensive.
The Importance of Color
In addition to CRI, the Correlated Color Temperature (or CCT) of a given LED Bulb or fixture is also a major player when it comes to determining factors. CCT is a little more straightforward than the CRI index because it is a much more visible factor. The color temperature is a measure of the light source’s color appearance. The measurement in Kelvin for lighting color goes from 1000K to 9000K. “Cool” colors have higher Kelvin temperatures ranging from 3600K-5500K. Whereas the “Warmer” LED color temps are around 2700K-3500K. Being aware of these CCT guidelines can help you choose lighting that best fits your needs. For instance, a higher CCT would be desirable for providing a cool blue or white light for an office setting or a warehouse, whereas a lower CCT would be better for providing a warmer reddish or orange tint in an atmospheric restaurant or a cozy home.
Informed Decision Making
All of these factors come into play in very important ways when making decisions about lighting. If you get the color temperature right but don’t deliver enough lumens, then the product won’t meet your functional needs. Likewise, if you get the lumens right but don’t have the correct CCT, this misinformed decision could impact the success of your endeavor. Knowing what to look for and what the specs actually say about a given lighting device is one of the most important steps when it comes to switching over to LED, and it is a factor that a lot of contractors overlook. When it comes to making decisions about lighting, even some basic knowledge can result in big advantages that leave you looking like an expert!
Visit Wholesale Contractor Supply to browse LED products
–Written by Dane Gustafson