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Bright Spark – LED lighting

Carl Johnson - Electrical Technician

How does LED lighting work - and how can it save you money?

Has traditional lighting had its day? It may have taken 100 years of development, but LED lighting is finally offering an affordable energy-saving alternative.

Unless you only work outdoors and only in the daytime, it’s likely your workplace will need some form of illumination. From candles and gas lamps to modern bulbs and strip lighting, offices and industry have seen several developments that have helped to shed light on our business activities – and our homes.

Today, many businesses are waking up to the benefits of LED lighting, but how does it actually work and how can it save you money?

What does LED stand for?

LED stands for light-emitting diode. A diode is a component that conducts electric current in only one direction – this protects a circuit and prevents damage from electricity flowing the wrong way.

What kind of lighting can LED lights replace?

LED lights have been used for some time in digital watches and clocks, circuit boards, traffic lights and for Christmas lights.

As well as standard light bulbs, LED lighting can also replace halogen lighting, such as spot lights in a kitchen, or fluorescent tube strip lighting commonly found in offices, shops and other professional environments.

How does LED lighting work?

Standard electric light bulbs have a filament in a vacuum, but LEDs emit light from a semiconductor in which electrons are moving around. This is known as SSL (solid-state lighting) technology and is brighter to the human eye than traditional bulbs.

When LED lights first came in, they tended to produce a cold, blue light that wasn’t particularly strong. However, advances in recent years have allowed cheaper and more effective LED lighting to appear on the market.

What are the benefits of LED lighting over more traditional lighting?

Because they emit more lumens (or light visible to the human eye) per watt than traditional bulbs, LED lights require significantly less energy to provide the same level of lighting.

The newest LED lights on the market produce approximately 100 lumens per watt of power input, compared with around 12 lumens from filament bulbs and halogen spotlights. This means that an LED can produce the same amount of light as a traditional bulb while only using around 12% of the energy.

A 3 watt LED light will generally emit around the same amount of light as a 25-30 watt filament bulb, although some comparisons market their LED lighting as even more powerful than this.

Standard incandescent bulbs also lose a lot of their energy as heat. This means that you end up paying more on your energy bills and, in places where this additional heat is undesirable, you have to mitigate against it. Even if you want a room to be warmer, using excess heat from lighting isn’t the most effective way to go about it, especially as heat rises so the warmth tends to stay where the lights are, at ceiling level.

LED lights will also last for a lot longer than incandescent bulbs. At present they have a lifespan of around 20 years and advances in technology may well increase this further.

Finally, LEDs naturally produce light across the spectrum. This means you don’t need coloured bulbs for different hues, although manufacturers often match the bulb colour to the LED colour. Warm or soft whites are closest to traditional home lighting yellows; bright white will come closer to matching daylight for an office environment.

Any downsides to LED?

LED lights cost more than low-energy bulbs and are quite a bit more expensive than standard bulbs. However the annual savings on your electricity bill will far outweigh the difference in the initial outlay – plus your LED lights will last for longer.

LED lights are not suitable for every environment. In particularly cold environments there is a risk that ice could build up on LED bulbs as they don’t release as much heat as traditional bulbs, in which case the unit may need a heating element adding.


If you haven’t been impressed with earlier versions of LED lighting in your workplace or home, talk to a qualified electrician – you may be surprised how much LED lighting has advanced in the past two or three years. An experienced electrical engineer will be able to run you through the best options for the area you are looking to light and advise you on potential energy savings.


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