Though not the newest thing around, more recently, a growing lighting trend has really started to take a foothold in the industry. What trend might this be? None other than LED technology. Also known as a light emitting diode, these tiny glowing points still hold untold potential to transform the way we think about and work with light. As the first in a series of posts about this newcomer to the lighting scene, we hope this article will open the door to understanding how to specify and work with LED's.

If you've spent anytime perusing Illuminate, you have no doubt come across a pattern that we tend to gravitate towards fluorescent lighting. What you might not know is that we only work with fluorescent lighting or LED's because of the physical proximity to our materials. We have learned over time that the heat expended by incandescent lamps is actually enough to burn or melt the surrounding decorative fixture.

So if we all know that compact fluorescents are a tried and true technology, why take a risk on this still up and coming technology? Well, a few reasons...

Lamp Life

I know we've all heard the hype about a CFL (compact fluorescent) lasting for years years - "Sick of changing your lightbulbs every 750 hours? With a CFL you only have to do it every 10,000 hours!" and so on...

Now imagine that same argument, but something a little more like this "Sick of changing your lightbulbs every 10,000 hours? With an LED you only have to do it every 50,000 hours" - and just to offer some perspective: if the lamp was running 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, you are still looking at over 11 years before needing to replace a lightbulb!

Aside from just the cost of the lamps - think of the maintenance costs involved with relamping - perhaps it is getting a scissor lift in a public space to reach 25 feet up in the air, perhaps it is a complex and delicate fixture to relamp, or perhaps it is both. Either way, it can easily become quite a process to simply change a lightbulb, and a process that is best repeated as seldom as possible - hence the benefit of a 50,000 hour lifespan!

A Little Better All The Time

If you have not checked in with the lighting community for awhile, you may have heard that LED's do not have a good color temperature, and that the quality of light just isn't as good. Though this may have proven true in the past, the development of LED technology is moving forward so quickly, that everyday brings new advancements and improvements to LED light.

Color Temperature: As a closeted incandescent lover, color temperature is something that has always remained near and dear to me. Staying close to the lighting industry over the past five years, I have watched LED's go from a seesaw of frigid color temperatures and strangely pink-reddish hues to that perfectly balanced brilliant white that we feature in our LED fixture lines. It has been a long journey for LED's, but one that was definitely worth the wait.

Color Rendering Index: While some of you probably know about color temperature and the impact it can have upon the surrounding environment, very few of you might know about Color Rendering Index or CRI. Almost more important than color temperature, CRI is the ability of an artificial light source to reproduce the colors of an object it illuminates in comparison to sunlight. Or, in laymen's terms, how good do colors look when illuminated by a lightbulb?

If you've ever tried to find your green car in a garage lit with metal halide lamps, only to find it's the grayish beige one, you'll know exactly how important CRI can be. Over the years, LED's have not had the best reputation for CRI. More recently, however, LED's have not only met, but in some cases surpassed the accepted standards set forth by CFL's. In short, LED's are now rendering as well as CFL's, and with the continual development of the technology, will only get better.

And speaking of getting better, be sure to check back often for a growing library of information about this ever-changing technology. There is a lot to know and understand about LED lighting, but the tradeoff is some pretty spectacular lighting opportunities that you just can't get with any other type of light source.