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The Future of Lighting - 20/01/2022

LED - The Future of Lighting

There are so many lighting options these days that it can be quite a daunting task finding the right solution for your environment. Halogen and fluorescent lamps and tubes are being rapidly phased out in favour of LED lighting, but what makes LED so appealing?

LEDs, Halogens, and Fluorescents - Key Points

You will undoubtedly be aware that LEDs have overtaken traditional lamps within the lighting industry, but even though LEDs can have a higher upfront cost, there are long-term benefits that make them clearly worth the investment.

It is remarkable to think that the commercialisation of incandescent bulbs by Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison was less than 150 years ago in the latter part of the 19th century. However, incandescent bulbs were the first casualty from the traditional line-up of incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lamps, having been banned from sale in 2018. The UK Government published a press release in June 2021 to advise halogen lamps would be banned from September 2021, and fluorescent lamps from September 2023. However, the Lighting Industry Association (LIA) later clarified that only certain types of lamp are actually included in the ban.

Technology may have advanced a long way since the days of Swan and Edison, but the ability to cheaply mass-produce traditional lamps has kept them viable in the marketplace. However, the energy efficiency of LED lamps and fittings offers an unmissable opportunity to businesses and governments around the world finding themselves under pressure to meet the challenge of climate change.

It should be noted that although UK regulations ban the manufacture and import of certain traditional lamps, any stock currently held by your friendly local wholesaler is still legally available to buy!

Halogen Lamps

Halogen lamps are an evolution of the standard incandescent bulb, where the addition of halogen gas sets up a reaction that causes evaporated tungsten from the filament to return to the filament rather than accumulating on the inside of the lamp. This extends the life of the filament and helps prevent blackening of the lamp. Halogen lamps can operate at higher temperatures, provide bright light, and illuminate immediately from being switched on. This led to them being widely used in floodlighting and display lighting, although LED lamps and fittings have largely replaced them in recent years. While more energy efficient over incandescent bulbs, they do not hold a candle to LED lamps (if you’ll permit the pun).

Halogen lamps are around 85% less efficient than LEDs as most of their energy is wasted as heat energy, making them more costly in the long run, not to mention uncomfortable for people who have to work near them all day! They need careful handling, both because of the heat they produce during use, and because oils carried on the skin can weaken the glass and shorten the lifespan of the bulb.

Fluorescent Lamps

Low-pressure mercury-vapour gas-discharge lamps - something of a mouthful, and from the name alone they sound quite dangerous... and to an extent, they are! Fluorescent lamps and tubes work by exciting mercury vapour with electricity, which generates ultraviolet light. The UV light reacts with a layer of phosphor that coats the inside of the lamp, generating the visible light we see. Unfortunately, mercury is quite unpleasant so fluorescent lamps need to be disposed of properly, and broken lamps present a health hazard. As a side note, we provide a service to safely collect and dispose of used fluorescent tubes should you need it.

A fluorescent lamps (and its somewhat shorter cousin the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL) is far more energy-efficient than a traditional incandescent light bulb or a halogen lamp, but still cannot match the efficiency of LED in terms of lumens output per watt.

Although fluorescent lamps have historically been cheaper than LED lamps, they lose their energy efficiency over time, requiring more and more voltage for the same amount of light. Eventually the voltage exceeds the fixed resistance of the ballast (which is required to regulate the flow of current in a fluorescent lamp to stop it from self-destructing!) causing the lamp to fail and need replacement. Finally, the light is omnidirectional, which is not always an advantage, for example when a fluorescent tube is ceiling mounted; in this case, the half of the light pointing at the ceiling is wasted unless otherwise reflected back out of the fitting.

LED Lamps

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) produce light through the recombination of electrons and electron holes in a semiconductor. It sounds complicated and it is, but basically if a semiconductor contains impurities (intentionally, via a process called doping) then additional free electrons can be added, as well as holes where free electrons can go. Free electrons can "fall into" available holes releasing light energy in the form of photons. As a long-term investment LED lamps have a number of advantages, including a long lifespan (up to 50,000 hours), lower maintenance costs, and lower energy bills. LED lamps can be more expensive than traditional lamps, but have become much more affordable in recent years.

Due to their small size, LEDs can be used in a variety of lamps and light fittings, making them incredibly versatile. Many modern fittings are now colour selectable (also known as correlated colour temperature, or CCT), allowing installers to switch between two or more different colours of white for a cooler or warmer effect. Colour temperature, often measured in degrees Kelvin can affect how light is perceived by the observer. Lamps at the warm end of the spectrum (around 2700K) are usually used in relaxed settings, such as living rooms, bedrooms and restaurants. By contrast, lamps at the cool end of the spectrum (4000K and above) are usually associated with professional environments. Very cool light, often referred to as daylight (around 6500K) can be uncomfortable to work in, often feeling very clinical. Colour temperature is separate from colour rendering index (CRI), which is important if you need accurate colour rendition, for example in hospitals or in the textiles or printing industries.

Some other benefits of LEDs are their vast spectrum of visible light colours and light quality, making them versatile for many applications including ambient lighting, display lighting and accent lighting. Their brightness, energy efficiency and ability to illuminate immediately from switch-on has made them ideal for floodlighting and street lighting.

It’s also worth noting that with regards traditional lighting, it was common to measure the performance of the lamp in watts, however with LED lamps and fittings the lumens output is one of the important factors to consider.

In Summary

  • LED lamps are vastly superior to other lighting solutions, in terms of versatility and efficiency
  • Inefficient lighting solutions are being phased out by governments around the world
  • You could be saving money by investing in LED lighting solutions today

LED with graph behind it, line on graph going higher from left to right

Where possible, you should definitely consider switching your current lighting to LED lamps and fittings, as the long-term investment is just too good to ignore. As halogen and fluorescent lamps become scarcer, the cost saving that once made them attractive will disappear, while the cost of LED lighting will continue to decrease over time. The long lifespan of LED can reduce the frequency of replacing bulbs and tubes, and of course, there are the ongoing savings of using less power at a time where energy prices look set to go nowhere but skywards. Overall, it seems a much wiser bet to go for the versatile and extremely energy-efficient LED option.

We can help you with your lighting requirements, including lighting surveys and used lamp collections - get in touch!

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