C Kramer Interiors

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1229 E. University Drive
Granger, IN 46530
Phone: (574) 243-7601
Fax: (574) 243-7603

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Monday-Friday: 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
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What is going on with all the newfangled LED lightbulbs that are on the market these days? Good heavens, every time I go to the store there is more variety. Everybody is by now aware that, by law, our old energy hogging incandescent bulbs are being phased out of the market and a new more energy efficient LED technology is being phased in. Did you know this is happening all over the globe, not just here in the USA? Yes, we have yet another change in technology to get used to…sigh.

Our ever evolving technology can feel confusing and hard to keep up with at times but LED tech isn’t all that complicated if we just “shine a spotlight” on a few basic pieces of basic information.

I decided to do some of research; educated myself a bit about LED lighting technology. In the process I came to feel less in the dark, more enlightened as it were (sorry I couldn’t help it). My new found knowledge presents me with an opportunity to share with you, a basic understanding of LED technology! Maybe we all can end up “enlightened” (at least about the artificial light in our lives).

What is LED Anyway?

LED is short for “Light Emitting Diode”. Simply speaking, LED technology sends direct current through an electronic component called a diode, made with semiconductor material. The semiconductor material emits light when direct current passes through. Tweek the specific makeup of the semiconductor material within the diode and you can affect the color temperature of the light emitted. Now that is a pretty nifty trick to be able to do, because now we can change the character of the light in our environs. Plastic or plastic covered glass often shaped like a traditional bulb cover the working parts and help to diffuse the light, keep it cool and protect the components etc.

Transitioning from the Old to the New  

The picture below is of a display at Batteries+Bulbs Plus in Mishawaka. It shows just how much energy savings LED bulbs provide.  A handsome decorative LED retro bulb is on the right. See how it radiates light down, out and up? That’s called omnidirectional. It is using 5 watts of electricity and is over 90% efficient in producing 400 lumens of light. Now look at the center bulb. It is actually an LED bulb too, not a Compact Florescent as labeled. It is also using 5 watts of energy and producing 400 lumens of light...efficiently doing its job.  See how the light from middle LED bulb mostly directs its light in an upward direction and produces a shadow below the bulb? Finally, look at the bulb on the left. It is an incandescent bulb; its filament is also producing 400 lumens of light. Mr. Incandescent is, however, sucking up 61 watts of energy and throwing 90% of it away in heat production, while splashing  10% of light its indiscriminately in all directions.

All three of the bulbs are producing the same amount of light (measured in lumens). Unlike incandescent or CFL bulbs which throw light willy-nilly in all directions, LEDs by nature emit directional light. They have to be engineered to throw light in multiple directions at once.  Directional light is perfect when you want to throw light to a specific spot such as with a desk lamp, highlight a picture, or light an entryway. For a table lamp by your favorite chair, you might want a more multidirectional light source so you would want to choose an LED bulb that has been engineered to produce light that shines multi-directionally like Mr. Incandescent did naturally.

Why do LED bulbs often have that funny looking white base or grid below the bulb part? Even though a Light Emitting Diode is far more efficient in producing light than incandescent or florescent technology, it still gives off a little bit of heat as a by-product of light production. Do you remember those laws of thermodynamics you learned in school? It is simply not possible to devise a perfect light bulb that is one-hundred percent efficient because the law says some heat will escape in the process of producing light. Those efficient little LEDs are quirky in that they are not good at radiating heat on their own like incandescent or florescent light. Because heat buildup shortens their life, they need some help getting rid of it. So, the grid or base you see is actually a heat sink that syphons the heat away from the LED, preserving its life and integrity. As the technology advances and the prices continually come down the size of the heat sinks are shrinking making this type of light more affordable as well as more visually attractive.

Styles of Led Bulbs and Applications

All types of standard use bulbs are now available in LED technology and more styles continue to be developed. It is an exciting field. LED makes possible many fun and creative styles never before seen with lots of design possibilities!
As with any type of outdoor lighting, when using LEDs outside, make sure the bulb is installed in a proper outdoor rated fixture that is protected from any direct moisture. LED bulbs are safe for use in enclosed fixtures. Exposing them to heat could shorten their lifespan.  LED bulbs do not use a filament to produce light consequently they are not subject to vibration problems if used in overhead fan fixtures or garage door opener units. UV black lights, flashlights and grow lights are becoming available especially on line or at specialty lighting stores. Tube and strip lighting, flood and spot lights, ceiling replacement lights, under cabinet strip lighting are all now available in LED technology. Direct replacements for florescent lighting in your existing fixtures are available for a percentage more than a less expensive variety that is only compatible with a LED compatible fixture. Wow! Let’s go shopping!

Color Temperature…Let’s Talk Kelvins

Did you know that a standard LED light bulb does not produce ultraviolet light so bugs are not attracted to it? Remember how when LED lights first came out (I especially remember those first ugly bluish LED Christmas tree lights) they looked so stark and unappealing? Well not anymore! LED lighting is now available in a full range of natural light temperatures. They range from warm white at 2400 Kelvin which the eye perceives as more soft yellowish light all the way up to a cooler daylight at 5000 Kelvin which is perceived by the eye as more blueish white color. Finally we can pick the color tone we like the best.  Now days light intensity, color, and direction can be tailored for each specific area in the home or office. That is what I call exciting!

How to Gauge Light Output in Lumens Instead of Watts – Getting Used to the New Lingo

With an LED bulb it is easier to think of the bulb in relationship to the amount of light output (lumens) instead of the amount of energy (watts) used. Below is a handy chart to get started thinking in lumens!

40 WATTS      400 LUMENS    7 WATTS
60 WATTS    800 LUMENS    9 WATTS
75 WATTS    1100 LUMENS    11 WATTS
100 WATTS    1600 LUMENS    16 WATTS

 A good quality LED bulb should come with at least a three year warranty. Prices are way down. As an example, expect to pay about five dollars for a bulb that would replace a standard 40 or 60 watt incandescent. When they first came out they were forty dollars so that is pretty amazing. Three-way LED bulbs are readily available and can be used in a standard three-way lamp base with no adjustments necessary. Some light switch dimmers may not be compatible with dimmable LED bulbs and might need to be replaced with a LED compatible dimmer switch. If your dimmer switch is not playing nice with your light fixture you will know right away because it will make a funny humming sound when you activate the dimmer. Simply replace the old dimmer switch with one labeled compatible with your bulb. Do think about where your new LED bulb will be placed and how you expect it to perform. Choosing the correct bulb and fixture for each application creates a much more pleasing result.

Reasons to Use  

LED technology uses less energy (watts) to produce the same amount of light (lumens) than older technology i.e. it burns cooler therefore costs less to run. The extra initial expense of a LED is offset within about a year of regular use. If they last twenty-five years as expected, you can see the advantage. They are warm to the touch but not hot. LED bulbs are not overly fragile. Although I would not recommend dropping one on purpose, I have dropped one on occasion and haven’t had one break. LED lights don’t require a warm up time to reach full capacity as with florescent bulbs. They are instant on and bright immediately. Turning them on and off a lot does not shorten their lifespan.  And last but not least, they aren’t making the incandescent ones anymore!

Longevity and Disposal

LED bulbs don’t actually burn out as such. As long as the electronics stays intact, as they age, the amount of light produced (lumens) decreases and the color of the light (kelvins) can shift. The estimated lifespan of a bulb at this point is based on a prediction of when the light output will decrease by 30 percent (which is when it is predicted one would notice the difference) which can take about 25 years. Because LED technology is so new and we haven’t lived with them for twenty, thirty years no one knows for sure! By that time we find out, I shall be wondering whether it is my LED bulb that is changing color and getting dim or whether it is my cataracts causing the problem!

LED bulbs are classified as non-hazardous (are you not recycling your CFL bulbs, because those are rated hazardous; they have mercury in them…but I digress) and LEDs presently represent less than one tenth of one percent of the lighting waste stream. At this juncture we are being told to throw them away if they stop producing light. Much of the bulk of the product is recyclable plastics in the form of heat sinks and shells, so maybe down the line it will become economically viable to recycle them. (To read more about proper disposal of various types of light bulbs follow the link at the end of this article).

Here Are a Few Handy Terms You Might Hear Bantered About When Talking LED Technology

LED: Light Emitting Diode.
DIODE: A specialized electronic component used for a variety of purposes. It is made with semiconductor materials.
SEMICONDUCTOR: A solid substance used in electronics. It has conductivity between that of an insulator and that of metal. That is why it is named “semi”. Silicon is a notable semiconductor material. The composition of the material used is what changes the color of the light emitted from your LED light bulb.
KELVIN: A measurement of light temperature. Our eyes perceive this temperature as reflected color.
WATT: A unit used to measure the rate at which energy is consumed.
LUMEN: A unit used to measure the amount of light passing through a given area per second.

See there? Now that we are enlightened with a few basic pieces of information we are hopefully no longer in the dark about LED lighting! Remember it’s as simple as lumens and kelvins. How bright do you want it, and what color?  Edison and Tesla would be so proud!

I send a “1600 lumens” thank you to Robert Campbell at Batteries + Bulbs Plus on W. Douglas Road, Mishawaka for letting me take pictures of his displays, and for sharing with me his knowledge of and enthusiasm for LED technology!

Feel free to give Mindy, Tracy, Richard or Chris a call for your interior design needs and remember… VALUE YOUR HOME!
Katherine @ Chris Kramer Interiors





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