The Dummies Guide to LED Bulbs

A Short but Sweet Introduction

LEDs are the little inconspicuous lights you’re probably used to seeing in modern appliances, signs and entertainment devices. They are made up of three different component groups: the optical components, the electrical components, and the thermal and mechanical components.

Interestingly enough, LEDs are not white light sources, like fluorescent and incandescent lights, their light is monochromatic, which is why it is so useful in coloured applications, such as in signage and traffic lights.

LEDs are considered the superior forms of lighting in terms of four major performance indicators. The first performance indicator is their brightness and efficacy, which means the amount of light they emit, and the amount of light they emit in relation to the wattage they require to function. The second indicator is colour temperature (of which LEDs have three) and colour consistency. Modern LEDs are outperforming CFLs in terms of colour temperature and consistency. The third indicator is their lifetime or lifespan. LEDs outperform other traditional forms of lighting by a very large margin. The fourth indicator is light distribution. LEDs can be directional, such as the case with a candelabra-type bulb or omni-directional lighting angles.

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the basics governing LED lighting technology, and what it offers to the home owner.

Understanding SSL or Solid-State Lighting

The major difference between LEDs and traditional lighting is that an incandescent light will emit light from a vacuum, and a CFL will do so from a gas. An SSL or LED bulb will emit light from solid matter, namely a semi-conductor.

To simplify the technology into laymen’s terms; an LED emits light because of the movement of electrons through its semiconductor.

So What’s a Semi-Conductor?

A semi-conductor is comprised of a component containing negative and positive magnetic charges. There are holes in the positive layer which are the openings for the electrons to move through. The negative layer has the electrons moving around inside it.

When the semi-conductor is struck, the flow of electrons is activated and moves from the negative to the positive layer. As the electrons are activated, they emit light as they make the transition.

When LEDs were first made commercially available, they were dimmer than the traditional bulbs because the solid structure trapped light inside rather than emitting it all into the room.

In the last few years innovators have addressed this challenge and LEDs are now much brighter than their predecessors.

LEDs and Heat Emissions

Surface mount, or SMD LEDs, may be small but they generate a fair amount of heat. This heat must be directed away from the LED structure so as not to damage the bulb or reduce its lifespan.

One of the ways manufacturers have addressed this is to incorporate fins in a ceramic or aluminium body. This increases the surface area and allows the heat more room for dissipation.

When heat generation in the bulb is exceptionally high, the manufacturers use a high number of fins, or thinner fins. In some of the newer LEDs, liquid may be used to address the need for heat dispersion.

Understanding Colour Temperature

LEDs are usually available in three different colour temperatures: warm, cool and daylight. The range for warm white is 2700k to 3300k, the range for daylight white is 4200k to 4500k and the range for cool white is 5500k to 7000k.

The lower numbers correlate to warmer colour temperatures. In terms of decorating tips, and integrating LEDs into your home, warmer LEDs are best suited to warmer colours and textures, while daylight and cool shades work best with cooler colours and textures.

Understanding LED Base Sizes

Most LED bulbs are a standard size, and the most popular medium size is the E27 base. When it comes to candelabra bulbs, the E12 is the most common replacement type. T8 is the LED replacement for fluorescent tube replacements. The GU10 downlight spotlight bulb is the best replacement for recessed lighting in your in-ceiling fixtures. If you are not sure what bulb to replace your traditional lights with, it is best to speak to a specialist.

The Major Pros and Cons of LED Lighting Technology


Lower Energy Consumption: SSL or LED lighting loses significantly less energy from heating, when compared with other lighting technologies that use filaments, vacuums or plasma tubes.

Little to No Maintenance Required: Today a standard LED bulb will last 20 to 30 years before it needs replacement. Your typical incandescent light will probably last 750 hours, while an LED can go on for up to 30,000 to 50,000 hours. When replacement becomes necessary, it won’t be a maintenance crisis; instead of going out completely and leaving you in the dark, an LED will lose its brightness gradually, so you have plenty of time to get to your trusted LED provider and stock up.

The Con: Short Term Cost vs Long Term Savings

While LEDs have come down in price dramatically over the years, they are still priced higher than traditional bulbs: The extra initial investment makes changing all the bulbs in your home to LED more expensive than if you were simply replacing them with like-bulbs. The counter-argument, however; is that they do repay the initial cost in the first six months, but you’ve got to sacrifice a little in the short term for a longer term return.

LED Technology and The Future

Researchers estimate the wide spread use of LED technology can cut our global energy consumption in half, as soon as 2030. This is beneficial for money savings and reducing carbon emissions.

Not only are LEDs practically sized, shatter resistant, useful in warm and cold temperatures and switch on instantly, they’re also dimmable and used in many different lighting applications outside of home and commercial lighting.

To get the most from your LEDs, you should speak with an LED lighting specialist like the ones at LightRabbit. You can make the best replacement choices for your home or office, and ensure you get maximum output for your money when you embrace the intelligence of the LED.

Shop LED Lights

Read more LED Lighting Help and Advice in our Buying Guides Section by clicking here or check out which LED bulbs you need with our handy LED Bulb Base Selector Page by clicking here. You can find more specific domestic LED lighting advice by clicking here..

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