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LED Lighting 101

w_r_ranch

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Incandescent era, RIP. Like it or not, it's time to move on... thanks to congressional meddling.

So, what now??? According to a survey by switch manufacturer Lutron, 67% of American adults were unaware of the 'Energy Independence and Security Act' (EISA), passed in 2007 , but only 10% are 'very knowledgeable' about replacement options. Most will probably buy halogens without even noticing. At about $1 apiece they are cheap & they look, feel & function almost exactly like traditional incandescents. But they're only about 25% more efficient (just enough to meet EISA standards). Meanwhile, CFLs (which are inherently flawed & generally unpopular), are steadily losing market share.

That leaves LEDs, which offer the most sustainable, (& IMO exciting) alternative to incandescents. For starters, they're highly efficient... the average efficacy of an LED bulb is 78 lm/w (lumens per watt), compared with around 13 lm/w for an incandescent & approximately 18 lm/w for a halogen equivalent. Yes, LEDs have their shortcomings... Buying an LED bulb doesn't seem as intuitive as picking up an incandescent from your local drug store, & the up-front cost is relatively high. But once you get to know the technology & the incomparable versatility that LEDs offer, you'll view the demise of the incandescent as an opportunity, just as I have.

Aren't LEDs Expensive???
The days of the $30 LED bulb are over. As demand has increased & manufacturing processes have become more streamlined, costs have plummeted. Additionally, utility company rebates have driven the price of many household replacements to below $10; in some regions they cost half that. Sure, that's a long way from the 50-cent incandescent, but consider this: LED bulbs consume one-sixth the energy of incandescents & last up to 25 times longer. Replacing a 60-watt incandescent with an LED equivalent will save you $130 in energy costs over the new bulb's lifetime. The average American household could slash $150 from its annual energy bill by replacing all incandescents with LED bulbs.

What Am I Looking At On The Label???
Today all light bulb packaging carries the Federal Trade Commission's Lighting Facts label, which lets you compare similar bulbs without relying on watts as the sole indicator of performance. It gives information about the bulb's brightness (in lumens); yearly cost (based on 3 hours of daily use), life expectancy (in years), light appearance (aka color temperature) measured in Kelvins (K) & energy consumed (in watts). Just remember, an LED bulb's wattage rating doesn't indicate its brightness, its lumens rating does.

The higher the bulb's color temperature, the cooler its light. A candle glows at a color temperature of 1500 K. That CFL you tried but hated because its light was too harsh was probably running at around 4500 K. LED bulbs marketed as incandescent replacements usually have a color temperature of 2700 K, which is equivalent to typical warm white incandescents.

But that's only part of the story. The quality of a bulb's light also depends on its color accuracy, also known as the color rendering index (CRI). The higher the bulb's CRI, the more realistically it reveals colors.

Incandescent light bulbs have a CRI of 100, but most CFLs & LED bulbs have CRIs in the 80s. According to a recent study by the DOE, only a handful of LED bulbs have CRIs in the 90s, though that will improve as efficacy increases. Note that the CRI is not always listed on the packaging, so you may have to search the manufacturer's website for it.

Is there really any difference between a $5 LED & a $20 LED???
Heck yes. LEDs are very similar to consumer electronics & quality really matters. In order for an LED to function properly & provide an acceptable light output, all of the components must be built to last. It's always a good idea to buy from a manufacturer & retailer that you're confident will stand behind the product. If you'd like to learn more about the components and how cheaply-made LEDs stack up against top-quality product, check out A Tale of Two Bulbs.

These Bulbs Dim, Right???
Yes & No. No all are dimmable. LED bulbs sold as dimmable work acceptably with most newer switches. The best dim to about 5 percent, though at that level some produce a faint buzzing. Make sure you buy a bulb that has been verified to work properly with your switch; check the manufacturer's website for a list of compatible dimmers. If you need to install a new switch, buy something specifically engineered to work with LED bulbs.

What Exactly Is An LED???
The acronym stands for 'light emitting diode'... As indicated by its name, the LED is simply a diode that emits light. A diode is a device that allows current to flow in only one direction. Almost any two conductive materials will form a diode when placed in contact with each other. When electricity is passed through the diode the atoms in one material (within the semiconductor chip) are excited to a higher energy level. The atoms in that first material have too much energy & need to release that energy. The energy is then released as the atoms shed electrons to the other material within the chip. During this energy release light is created. The color of the light from the LED is a function of the materials & processes that make up the chip.
 

w_r_ranch

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As most of you know, once I decided to move to LEDs, I went all in. The following is a compiled synopsis of the various projects:

Oct ?? 2015: Received the 10 Cree LED 100 watt bulbs for the various lamps in both the main & guest houses. They use 18w vs. the old incandescent 100 watt (a savings of 82% on the electric bill) & produce 1600 lumins vs 1380 lumins. Notice the quality & size of the heat-sink, this is the mark of a better LED bulb.

Cree_100w.jpg


Oct 14, 2015: Received the 14 Cree LED 60 watt bulbs last night, so today I cleaned the 7 ceiling fans & installed the new bulbs. I love these LEDs!!! Each bulb puts out 800 lumins vs the old bulb's 325 lumins. Energy saving should be good on these too (from the original 120 watts per fan to 18 watts now).



Oct 18, 2015: Installed the LED floodlights that we received yesterday. Ordered 14 more, which will complete the interior of the house/guest house.


Oct 22, 2015: Finish installing the remaining LED floodlights.





Oct 24, 2015: Since I've been stuck in the house, I've been researching LED ceiling lights for the porches. I have 3 items that are important to me:
  • Minimum equivalent of 100 watts.
  • 5000K color (I don't like yellow light).
  • Must be totally enclosed (to keep the wasps from building their nests in them)

I have settled on the Luminaire DL6D-x13W Can Light Conversion Kit, & have placed an order for 10 of them @ $30/ea. They should pay for themselves in relatively short order (~600 hrs of use) , as we are going from 900 watts total to 130 watts.


Oct 26, 2915: Ordered 5 new heavy cast aluminium floodlight fixtures for the back yard. The shame of it is, I just install the present ones last year, but I don't think they will support the weight of the new LED floodlights.

Oct 31, 2015: Received the new floodlight fixtures yesterday, so this morning I assembled them & soldered the wire connections together. I'm still waiting on the new LED bulbs, but at least I'm ready to roll when they arrive. These are really nice fixtures!!!


Nov 6, 2015: Installed the new backyard floodlight fixtures & the LED bulbs. I can see a big difference in the amount of light & the distance it is thrown!!! These bulbs were not the ones I originally ordered (TCP stopped manufacturing them) so I went with the Kobi KSN9 bulbs instead. The new 20.5 watt LED bulbs produce 1700 lumens vs 1310 for the old 90 watt incandescents. Doing the math, we will save 77.22% on electricity while producing 29.77% more usable light.

Kobi_KSN9 .jpeg


Dec 3, 2015: Since today was warmer (56 degrees & sunny), I figured I'd get started replacing the porch lights with the new LEDs. It took a little longer that I anticipated due to the fact that the wasps are still alive (although somewhat sluggish due to the cold). After removing the old bulbs, I sprayed copious amounts of wasp spray into each enclosure & let if sit for an hour before proceeding (I hate, hate, HATE them dang things - especially the red ones). After that, cleaning & installing the new retrofits was a snap. While the new 13 watt LED retrofits only produce 1030 lumens vs 1310 for the old 90 watt incandescents, we will save 85.55% on electricity.








Next up will be building the custom LED light strips for the kitchen & other built-in cabinets/display cases.
 

Mike

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Do you have any brands or particular amazon links or other you'd recommend using?
 

w_r_ranch

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For 'traditional-styled bulbs' (like those you would use in a lamps, ceiling fixtures/fans), I prefer the ones made by CREE. I ordered the 40W, 60W & 100W bulbs from Amazon. Note: they are available on a 'per unit' basis, as well as multi-packs (which are less expensive per unit).

For the interior floodlights (ceiling cans) I highly recommend the Kobi LED-1600-R40-50 K4L8. This sucker has a massive heatsink!!!

For the exterior floodlights (ceiling cans on the porches), I chose Luminaire DL6D-x13W Can Light Conversion Kit, based on their heavy construction, large heat-sink, 120 degree light dispersal & 'damp location' rating.

For the exterior yard floodlights (under the roof eaves), I went with the Kobi PAR38-1700-NDO-50 K5N9 . These bulbs are specifically made for wet locations & their construction is heavy duty. They have pretty good light dispersal (65 degrees) & the light travels a fair distance.

1000 Bulbs

Affordable Quality Lighting

Flexfire LEDs

J&S Lighting

LED Lights World

Super Bright LEDs

Y Bulbs
 
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w_r_ranch

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While I'm on this subject, don't overlook the 'little' things such as Christmas decorations... 50 years ago, we decorated with large painted incandescent bulbs. They were glorious & HOT, posing a real danger when used on a dry tree. Fast forward a couple of decades & we entered the era of miniature incandescent bulbs (many of which are still in wide use today). While they dramatically use less power than their predecessors, it is time to take the next step... LEDs.

White_LEDs.jpg

MultiColor_LEDs.jpg


Today, LEDs are the undisputed champs of holiday lighting. There is no reason to let concerns over the cost of operation limit you decorating genius. Heck, you could wrap your entire house in LED light strings, making it visible to the International Space Station & still have a pleasantly manageable electric bill.


Consider the following, which is based on 40 days of operation, 8 hrs per day @ $0.119 per kilo-watt-hour (national average):

C9 Incandescent:
Watts per bulb: 7
Watts per 50 bulb string: 350
Seasonal Cost : $13.33

Mini Incandescent:
Watts per bulb: 0.425
Watts per 50 bulb string: 21.25
Seasonal Cost : $8.81

LED:
Watts per bulb: 0.069
Watts per 50 bulb string: 3.45
Seasonal Cost : $0.13
 

ErnieCopp

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Sam, I have started looking for an LED replacement for the floor lamp by my chair. I use the 3-way bulbs that put out about 2000 lumens. The base of the bulb points down, and from what i read, the light would only go up.

I looked all the way through Amazon, and did not see anything big enough that seemed to point the light down or behind the bulb. Are you aware of anything that would work in my situation? It does not need to be dimmable, and i think being on a three click switch would not be a problem. I do not want to replace the floor lamp.

Thanks,
Ernie
 

Mike

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Very valid point about the Christmas lights. We use LED lights on the tree and ice sickle lights on the house, but I'd like to get a lot more lights for the house and use LED there too. Seen a house on TV just yesterday that was really done up and pretty neat all using less than a hair dryer on medium heat - now that's impressive!
 

w_r_ranch

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Sam, I have started looking for an LED replacement for the floor lamp by my chair. I use the 3-way bulbs that put out about 2000 lumens. The base of the bulb points down, and from what i read, the light would only go up.

I looked all the way through Amazon, and did not see anything big enough that seemed to point the light down or behind the bulb. Are you aware of anything that would work in my situation? It does not need to be dimmable, and i think being on a three click switch would not be a problem. I do not want to replace the floor lamp.

Thanks,
Ernie
It depends on the design of your particular floor lamp, Ernie... Many LED manufatures recommend that their bulbs not be installed in an 'enclosed' lamp, which is where the bulb orientation comes into play. While the bulb itself does not get hot, it is the junction/connection of the LED itself & the 'driver' (like a ballast) that does, which is why I talk about the importance of the heat-sink. The heat-sink needs some airflow to assist in dissipating the heat (no airflow = shorter bulb life). This picture should hopefully illustrate what I talking about:


If your floor lamp has reflectors/shades that are open on both ends (similar to a lamp), you will not have a problem due to lack of heat dissipation regardless of the bulb's orientation...
 

ErnieCopp

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Sam, this is an old fashioned floor lamp, cloth shade, over two feet open at the bottom and 8" at top, so lots of ventilation.
One regular base 3 way bulb screws in to a regular socket.. My concern is that the threads are at the bottom of the bulb, and i read where the LED bulbs only shine light to the side opposite the heatsink. So in my case the light might be going to the ceiling instead of shining down where i need it.
Are there any LED bulbs that shine both up and down?

Ernie
 

w_r_ranch

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Not with a lamp base... a 100 watt equivalent is the max at this time.

Remember though, wattage is actually a measure of power consumption... lumens are the measure of actual light. When shopping for a replacement, look at the lumens.
 

ErnieCopp

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Sam, Yes,, i was going by lumens but switched back to Watts because that was on the bulb info you posted.

I hope to get 2000 lumens.. That is what the current one produces on high setting.

Ernie
 

Mike

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I have no problem with the downward light from the Cree bulbs (all of which are omnidirectional)
I bought a few Cree bulbs (like these) several months ago for lamps in the living room and kids lamps and have been very happy with them as well.

I would really like to replace the bulbs in the kitchen as we have several can lights in there that would really help reduce electricity use and all the security lights outside as those use 75w-90w bulbs in each fixture (2 bulbs per fixture).
 

Mike

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Sam you need to get a few of these LED shop lights and let me know your thoughts. I could use some new lights out in the garage and shed. :D
 

w_r_ranch

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There are a few ways to go on this Mike. We have 4' fixtures in the walk-in closets/laundry room & 8' fixtures in the garage... I'll post up the options later when I get home from the vets.

Do you already have existing fixtures installed???
 

w_r_ranch

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If you have existing fixtures, you have 3 options... I would recommend going with 'option C'. I wouldn't mess with option A or option B at all (I only listed them so you are aware of the differences):

Option A: LED tube has an Integrated Driver that Operates on Existing Fluorescent Ballast (aka Direct Fit, Instant Fit)

How it Works
Option A LED tubes have an internal driver that makes it possible for the lights to operate on existing fluorescent ballasts. They plug directly in place of the existing fluorescent lamp.

Pros
Super-easy installation: Just switch out the old fluorescent tubes for LEDs & you’re done. No other modifications are required.
Varying Light levels/energy consumption: Fluorescent ballasts have varying ballast factors & since this type uses the existing fluorescent ballast, the wattage & lumen output will vary by ballast factor. Thus giving you the ability to increase or decrease energy consumption & light levels easily.

Cons
Shorter lifespans: The life of these type LEDs is dependent on the longevity of the ballast. This can result in more maintenance costs as compared to other LEDs, since you may need to replace the ballast before you’ve reached the lifetime of the LED.
Not compatible with all linear fluorescent ballasts: Compatibility varies, so check that the make & model of your current fluorescent fixtures are acceptable. Traditionally this type LED tube only worked on instant start electronic ballasts, however as technology has advanced, many now operate on program start & dimming ballasts. Some even claim to work on T12 or T8 magnetic ballasts.
Not as efficient: Some power is lost from integration with the ballast. Also, dimming & other types of energy-saving functionalities are limited​

Option B: LED tube has an Internal Driver & is Wired to Main Voltage Bypassing the Existing Fluorescent Ballast (aka Bypass, Internal Driver)

How it Works
Option B LED Tubes, the ballasts are removed from the fixture or bypassed & the sockets are wired directly to the line voltage. Typically only one socket end has the line voltage & the other end is there to hold the lamp in place. Many fluorescent fixtures have shunted sockets so often times you will need to replace the line voltage socket to a non-shunted socket.​

Pros
No power loss: Unlike option A bulbs, these LEDs are more efficient, since no power is wasted in the ballast.
Less long term maintenance costs: By eliminating the ballast you have one less part to maintain in the future.
Options: This type has the most options in terms of bulb length (2′ to 6′) & assortment of wattage/lumen packages, specifically for the 4′ options.

Cons
Electrical modifications are required: Modifications include, removing the ballasts, replacing the sockets (possibly) & connecting fixture input wires to the sockets. Strict safety measures are necessary as installers could be exposed to main voltage while connecting sockets to power wires.
Limited dimming: Even without the ballast, these lights have few dimming options.
Higher installation costs: The rewiring, removal & added safety steps result in longer installation times (i.e. more expensive).​

Option C: LED tube has an External Driver (aka Remote Driver)

How it Works
Unlike option B tubes that have an internal driver, option C lights use a remote driver to power the LED. The ballasts are removed, which means electrical modifications are still required. However, the operation is much safer, since the low-voltage driver is hooked to the sockets & not the line voltage. One driver can power multiple LED tubes. This system is similar to how fluorescent tubes operate now (ballast & lamps).​

Pros
Most efficient: These type of tubes are more efficient than any other T8 LED tube.
Highly compatible: Virtually any fluorescent fixture can be modified to work with these lights.
Increased functionality: They are dimmable & work wonderfully with dimmers.

Cons
Most Expensive Option: Similar to option B tubes, these lights require more extensive installation but cost more. However, you can recoup some of this cost through the tubes’ efficiency and/or by using dimmers.

If you don't have existing fixtures or you want to buy new ones, I'll list those next... I plan on replacing our fixtures entirely & these are the ones I am planning on using.



 
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Mike

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I am in both categories really. I have an existing fixture over my work bench in the garage and I then have four incandescent ceiling outlets with CFL's in them at the moment. The shed currently has no lights, but that will change this summer hopefully.

Ideally I'd like to remove the old ceiling light sockets in the garage and replace them with new fixtures - probably like the ones I've listed just above.
 

Mike

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Sam, one of my security motion lights (2 bulbs in each fixture) blew a bulb. I know I can get LED bulb replacements but wanted to see what you thought about doing that or getting a whole new fixture? If new, it would need to be motion activated.
 

w_r_ranch

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Mike

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I might just regret doing this but I was at Costco the other day and seen these lights and thinking about giving them a try.



All aluminum design, 2,100 lumens, and 5 year warranty for less than $40 or just over $45 at Amazon.

I certainly agree you get what you pay for but I'm thinking something like this might work just fine to cover the shed.
 

w_r_ranch

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I'd get them Mike, & use them to replace all your existing yard light as well. At that price, they will pay for themselves in short order.
 

Mr_Yan

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In all of this did you change any flashlights over to LED?

I have one "traditional" MagLite and two LED MagLites. I've toyed with getting a replacement LED for the "traditional" bulb.
 

w_r_ranch

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I have one good LED 'lantern' which I keep in my hunting bag, the rest of the lanterns are just regular bulbs that I keep in each vehicle. Flashlights are all regular bulbs as well...
 

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