Shedding Light on LED Lighting

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Shedding Light on LED Lighting

What’s the big deal with LEDs? Twenty years ago, the big deal was electronic ballasts and T8 lamps. The potential energy savings, along with the promise of better color by using rare-earth phosphor-coated lamps, plus the quieter more efficient electronic ballast promised a better all-around lighting experience.

The LED sales pitch includes similar promises: a more efficient light source, better color rendering options than fluorescent, dimmability, longer life, and less maintenance. As a designer, I don’t want to give up any of the old requirements for glare-free light, clean, shadow-free beams, and warm color options.

So how can you know if you are getting the right LED for your application? Learn the metrics that describe light, then use these measurable, calculable numbers as a checklist to determine whether an LED product you are considering meets the needs of your project.

Metrics That Describe A Light Source

  • Cost
  • Lifetime Cost
  • Warranty
  • Life
  • Lumens per Watt
  • Total Lumen Output
  • Watts, Volts, Input Power, THD
  • UL, ETL, or CSA approval

Just a few years ago, designers needed to understand the strengths and weaknesses of various light sources – incandescent, halogen, ceramic metal halide, fluorescent, or high-pressure sodium – then select the best source for the project. Today, the question is more often, “Which LED should I use in this space?” Answering that question requires us to prioritize the metrics listed above, while understanding that several of our current metrics are limited and inadequate for describing LED lighting. Despite that, using our prioritized list, we must compare and contrast different source options to make the best selection.

To decide “which LED should I use on this project” you must first study the metrics, and next, use your eyeballs to evaluate the non-measurable aspects of a particular product, then finally compare the products based on today’s available metrics and your own personal observations. With potential paybacks of less than one year, diode efficacies approaching 300 lumens per watt, low to no UV wavelength, and better color rendering than most traditional sources, it is easy to see why LEDs are today’s big deal!

What metrics are on your prioritized list? What is your process for selecting a quality LED source from among all of the bad options available today?

Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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