Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are a digital light source. LEDs started life as light indicators in electrical components manufactured by Hewlett Packard. The light is a result of electrons releasing energy in the form of photons better known as electroluminescence.
Their energy efficiency, low maintenance, robustness and long life mean that they are now a bright alternative to the energy-hungry and delicate analogue light sources we all grew up with.
Originally their cost limited their use as an everyday light source. However ever-increasing energy prices combined with improved manufacturing process has made them a viable alternative to Mr Edison's invention.
Today they are used in televisions, traffic lights, car headlights, torches and signs across the world.
Why should I be using LED lighting?
LEDs use less energy. The first and foremost reason for using LEDs is that they can consume up to 85% less energy than traditional lighting. Less energy consumed is good for the environment but it is also good for business too. Less power usage equals more money saved.
LEDs last longer. The average age for a LED light is 10 years. Even then they will only need replacing as their light fades. Over a long period of time their light output gradually dims. They can last longer too; it depends upon the application.
LEDs are much safer - LEDs use low voltage (12-24) volts and are less of a fire risk than light bulbs and particularly neon lighting. LEDs emit no UV and very little heat so they can be used in areas where too much heat is dangerous.
LEDs are easier to maintain. LEDs can be left alone and a quick wipe over once in a while is all they need.
LEDs are solid state. There is no filament or glass to break and they are robust even in wet conditions. They can even be used underwater in some circumstances.
LEDs are easier to dispose of. Although there is no real way to recycle them at the moment they are tiny and therefore easier and less damaging to the environment than disposing glass bulbs and gas-filled tubing.
LEDs are much, much smaller. They can therefore be used in much more creative ways than traditional lighting. For example lightboxes can be slimmer, LEDs can be even be embedded into acrylic panels for certain applications.
I've heard it is more expensive?
Initially LEDs can be more expensive than traditional light bulbs and fluorescent tubes but their benefits more than redress this. Businesses face energy audits and a commitment to reduce their carbon emissions, never mind the need to cut costs. LEDs are part of the answer to these issues.
What do I do with my existing lighting?
Many businesses believe that to upgrade their existing lighting, for example fluorescent tubes in ceiling strip lighting and signage, will be hugely disruptive and expensive. We call it retrofitting. There is a range retrofitting LED products that can use existing analogue light fittings. You get the benefit of less power consumption, low maintenance and long life but you don't have to invest in new light fittings. Changing to LEDs is as easy as changing a bulb.
What are the products out there?
LEDs are made in a variety of colours and shades. Simple electronics can control the brightness and duration of each LED so the effect you can get with an LED product are extremely varied. The market is broadening rapidly.
Simple LED modules Individual modules are usually produced in banks of 4 LEDs but they also come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and usually run off a simple 12v transformer. They can be installed without the need for an electrician.
LEDs can be bought ready fixed into a sheet of plastic or run along the edge of a piece of acrylic which can then be cut to suit the particular application. The tight formation of these LEDs means that a very even area of light can be achieved.
Slimline LED lightboxes
When fluorescent tubes are placed too close to the front of a lightbox you often see a striping effect. Fluorescent tubes are also short lived. If one goes you face an expensive call out for a replacement. LEDs allow for a thinner lightbox and a more even light source for your graphics. Long life and low maintenance means that site visits are much less frequently required. Just an occasional wipe-over should do it!
Retrofitting non-LED products
There are now retrofitting products that simply fit into current fluorescent and light bulb fittings. This is a short to medium term fix when you have a large amount of traditional lighting, like strip lighting, and don't have the budget to change the fittings. You will instantly benefit from the energy savings associated with LED lighting. The most common products are fluorescent tubing replacement units and halogen replacement spot lights.
Neon replacement LED tubing
Neon is an eye-catching way to advertise your business. It is also very expensive to produce, takes high levels of energy to run and is bad for the environment too. Now you can simulate a neon effect with a range of neon tubing replacements. LED tubing can be cut and bent into any shape, much like traditional neon. But, because it runs cold and uses low voltage, can be installed by anyone - you don't need a qualified electrician to connect to the mains.
Low energy LED products LEDs are low voltage and this gives us an opportunity to use solar power cells and wind turbines for the first time. It is now possible to have an illuminated sign that runs off its own power.
Which products should I use?
The LED market is, like all markets, filled with good products and bad products. LED lights are made on a single sheet called a wafer, much like computer chips. As many as 6000 LEDs can come from just one wafer. There are imperfections across the surface of each wafer so individual LEDs are graded once they are pressed out. Quality control differs from manufacturer to manufacturer so it is important to make sure you select a trusted supplier. There is a level of quality with LEDs ranging from the whitest, brightest lights through to the low cost mass produced LEDs that won't last as long or give you the same quality of light.
There is little point investing in the cheapest possible LED lighting when the bulbs are going to have a short life-span. The electronics powering the LEDs are also important factors in the results you get from your LED lighting. Octink has invested considerable time and money into researching and partnering with the best LED suppliers in the UK and Europe. We understand the technology and are knowledgeable about all the products suitable for our customers.
A range of LED lighting products from Octink You can find more information about LED lighting on Octink's website.
William Tyler is the CEO of Octink, an award-winning display specialist. Octink is based in Brentford, London in the UK and provides marketing environments, event branding and sign services from design and production, through to installation and project management.