LED's Explained NRG Illumination Ltd 2017


The very latest LED Technology makes financial sense.

The benefits of LED lighting in yourhome or office are being heralded in local papers, magazines, blogs, the news and the internet. But despite all this there's a surprising amount of misinformation out there so what are the real advantages of upgrading to LEDs?

Lamp Life: LEDs typically last 50,000 hours whilst a traditional halogen lamp has a rated lamp life of 2,000 hours. Even compact fluorescents don't proform much better with a typical lamp lifr of between 5,000 - 10,000 hours (depending on gear type and manufacturer.)

Durability: As LEDs do not have a filament, they are not easily damaged when jarred or bumped (i.e during transport) unlike regular incadescent lamps.

Temperature: LED lamps typically produce 3.4 btu's/hour compared to 85 btu's/hour generated by incadescent lamps.

Good for the Environment: Our LEDs are completely mercuy free.

Highly Efficient: At the time of press, LEDs generate over 100 lumen/watt (although 200 lumen/watt has been achieved in laboratory conditions.)

Conversely an incadescent lamp generates approximately 14 lumen/watt (based on Osram's Halolux lamps) and a compact fluorescent generates 42 lumen/watt (based on Osram's Dulux lamp.) Based on these figures, an LED lamp is up to 86% more efficient.


Average Life: Average life is a figure given to show how long a particular light bulb will last in multiples of 1,000 hours. Your usual halogen bulbs will last, on average, around 2,000 hours which is equivalent to 1 year if the bulbs are illumination for 4 hours a day. Wheras LED bulbs are estimated to last around 30,000 an 50,000 hours which is around 15-25 years.

Base: The base is the fitting at the bottom of the lamp, usually this is printed on thhe base of the bulb or on the packaging. The base is often describedby an alpha numeric code.

Beam Angle: The beam angle describes the spread of light emitted. The beam angles will vary from a wide beam angle to a narrow beam angle. A narrow beam angle will create a very focused ray o flight, usually used in task lighting,lke kitchen cabinet lights, or for decoration. A wide beam angle will create an open, soft spread of light, which makes them the ideal choice for your kitchen lighting and bathroom lighting.

Binning: Binning is a method used by chip manufacturers to sort LEDs with similar characteristics by colour, light output and voltage.

Colour: The colour appearance of an LED refers to the degree of warmth that is associated with the light emitted. Bulbs of low correlated colour appearance gives a warm white light, whereas high correlated colours emit a cool white light.

Colour Temperature: The colour temperature refers to the type of light that is emitted, which is measured in Kelvin (K). The most common types of colour temperature are 'Warm White', which are usually favoured in bedroom an living room lighting. Seconfly there is 'Daylight' or also known as 'Neutral'. This is the most popular as the colour temperature is between cool and warm , whcich gives the purest and whitest form of light. Finally there is 'Cool White', which is more of a crisp white ight with a blue tint. These are more likley to be usedas the bathroom and kitchen lighting, as it creates a clear illumination.

Constant current driver: Constant current driver are electronic components that are used with LED luminaires. Their purpose is to maintain a constant current to the LEDs (in contrast, a transformer maintains a constant voltage). Drivers can be built into the luminaire or mounted remotely, and they often incorporate other functions such as dimming.

CRI: Short for colour-rendering index, CRI is the ability of a light source to show the colours of objects accurately. The higher the CRI, on a 0-100 scale, the move accurately the lamp will render colours. Lamps with poor colour rendering will sidtort some colours, so you may end up with brown socks when you wanted green ones.

DALI: DALI, or also known as digital addressable lighting interface, sets the global standard for lighting communications.

Dimmable: A dimmable LED bulb is one in which the brightness can be varied by the use of a suitable dimmer. A dimmer is the device used to reduce the brightness of a single bulb, or a series of light bulbs.

Emergency Lighting: Emergency lighting is lighting, usually with a back up power supply, that will turn on or continue to function for a specified time in the event of power failure.

IP Rating: An IP rating tells you the amount of protection a piece of equipment has against things getting in. This includes dust, dirt, water and also hands and fingers. For example, an IP22 rating will prevent the insertion of fingers, and will not be damaged if exposed to dripping water.

KWH: The Kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy equal to 1,000 watt-hours. That's what a 1,000W devise used in one hour- or what a 1W device used in 1,000 hours. It 's the 'unit' that shows up on your electricity bill.

Leni: The lighting Energy Numeric Indicator- a measure of the energy predicted to be used by a building's lights, taking into account daylight, operating hours and controls.

LM80: LM-80 can be a useful tool for lighting professionals who are looking to analyze LED products; however it is not a measure of LED system performance or reliability. It only describes how to measure how one part of an LED luminaire- the LED light source- performs over a period of time and under certain set conditions.

Lumens: A lumen (Lm) is the international unit of luminous flux - meaning it is a measure of visable light. Due to LEDs using so little power, measuring these bulbs in Watts it not effective. So instead Lumens are used, as they help indicate the brightness of the bulb.

Lux: Lux is the international unit of illuminance - a measure of how much luminous flux (in lumens) is spread over a given area (in square metres).

Size: The size of he bulb is referring to the length and diameter. A majrity of the time, the LEDs are a 'retro-fit', which means they are designed to be a direct replacement for their halogen equivalent.

Voltage: A volt is a unit of electricity, and can be measured as energy consumption of one joule per electric charge of one coulomb (1V=1J/C)

Wattage: A Watt is a way to measure power, it is equivalent to one joule per second.

10 things you MUST know before you dim LED lamps

It’s very important to check that the proposed dimmer works with the selected LED lamp before committing to a specification. Images and text courtesy of luxreview.com

Some months ago, Lux Review opened this discussion with Dimming LED lamps: the dos and don’ts. Here we delve further into the issue and look at what it means once the decision’s taken to go ahead with a dimmable LED installation.

  • Here are a few things that you need to avoid:
  • Flicker
  • Flashing
  • Stuttering dimming
  • Insufficient dimming
  • Failed LED driver
  • Failed dimmer

These are all inconveniences that are await you should you mismatch the electronics of the LED driver and the dimmer.

Choose the dimming method first

There are thousands of different dimmable LED light fixtures on the market, but only three major types of dimming method: mains dimming, Dali or DMX. (see box, below) So choose what kind of dimming you want before you select any LED luminaires. More lighting control manufacturers are providing lists of LED products that they have tested for compatibility with their equipment and this is a very useful service to any specifier.

Don’t buy cheap drivers

Most lighting control systems offer a variety of dimming protocols, the languages which they use to communicate with the lamp or driver. When you’ve chosen the method that’s right for your installation, you need to get LED drivers which match the performance and the protocol. A common problem lies in the design and build quality of the LED driver, leading to poor performance and occasional failure of either the LED or the dimmer circuitry.

For instance, the digital signaling from a Dali control system cannot always be translated by the driver into the appropriate lighting state that’s required. Beyond a certain level of dimming, the LEDs may simply switch off. But be pragmatic; if you’re only looking for dimming down to 50 per cent there’s no need to search for a driver that will take the lighting down to 5 per cent.

Similarly, where DMX signaling is ideal for colour-change installation, not all RGB drivers can cope with the demands of the system, and that can lead to some very poor colour effects. There’s a simple commercial equation that should be borne in mind: cheap = risky. Avoid cheap specifications, particularly of products like LED tape (see our recent review of LED tape) and always check with the control manufacturer that your preferred LED product is compatible with their system.

Test before you buy

In the domestic and small commercial environment, the lighting specification is very likely to be built around retrofit LED lamps, but the ‘retrofit’ title is becoming a misnomer because there are many new specifications making use of the technology to deliver relatively low-cost installations.

Being designated ‘retrofit’, customers often think that’s all there is to it and will simply swap a tungsten halogen lamp for an LED lamp. It doesn’t help that manufacturers of these LEDs also suggest the same thing on their packaging. But remember that this is an unregulated marketplace, so it’s very important to check that the proposed dimmer works with the selected LED lamp before committing to a specification. Test before you buy.

Although safety standards are still required in the manufacture of the LED because it’s an electrical product, there is no standard based on the performance of an LED. Each manufacturer produces LED products according to their design parameters and comparing two apparently similar products can be a nightmare of dissimilar specification reporting.

Use dimmers designed for LEDs

Most domestic dimmers are still designed for tungsten loads, typically rated at 250W and 400W, which is far higher than the electrical loading of the LED lamps taking over from them. Some domestic dimmers cannot ‘read’ the low loading of a LED lamp, so requiring an additional electrical load to be connected in order that the light will be recognized by the dimmer, contrary to any desire to reduce energy consumption, of course.

The simple answer is to use only those dimmers that have been designed for LED loads. More of these dimmers are becoming available, and are designed to operate at far lower loads. There is also a new style of intelligent dimmers – such as the Hamilton LEDstat – that take full advantage of new electronic technology, enabling it to match its performance with the requirements of the connected LED lamps.

Check the LED lamp fits – many don’t

All retrofit lamps are intended to replace an existing filament lamp, tungsten or tungsten halogen. That means that there are alternatives across the range, from the ordinary GLS lamp (the light bulb), to directional lamps for spotlighting and even chandelier-style candle lamps, some of which work to great, sparkling, effect. The inherent problem in every retrofit lamp is the limitation on physical size.

A retrofit lamp is no good if it doesn’t fit in the intended light fixture. And however perverse this may sound, that essential feature of a retrofit lamp hasn’t stopped some LED lamp manufacturers from producing lamps that simply don’t fit. It might make for a better engineered product, but it may not fit into the required fixture – so it’s good to check.

Only buy brands you trust

All of the LED circuitry, usually found in a separate driver housing in the more upmarket architectural luminaires, has to be contained within the given physical space of a retrofit lamp. And if the lamp is dimmable (and please remember that not all of them are) that means that the dimming components must also be housed in the same tiny space. This can cause thermal and mechanical stress and seriously affect the life of the lamp.

Buying anything with confidence means knowing the provenance of the product, and this is of primary importance when purchasing LED retrofit lamps. Either trust the brand, or trust that the company that you’re buying from has done the necessary investigations into the product’s quality. Never buy on-line unless you know the product or the company.

Be super cautious of GU10 lamps

courtesy of luxreview.com

GU10 LED lamps are replacements for mains voltage tungsten halogen lamps and are probably the single most popular of all LED retrofit lamps. The ubiquity of the downlighter has ensured that this lamp will survive long after the ‘retrofit’ tag becomes meaningless.

A dimmable GU10 lamp is a very busy piece of equipment indeed. Every LED source is an SELV (safety extra low voltage) device, so the GU10 also needs to house a transformer, as well as its dimmable driver components.

Because of the unregulated nature of LED manufacture, ensuring product worthiness of these GU10 lamps is an absolute priority. If you’re looking for a dimmable version, it’s all the more important to know what you’re buying and to trust who you’re buying from. Start by checking out our recent review of GU10 lamps.

Only use a LED MR16 LED if it comes with its own separate driver

courtesy of luxreview.com

There is an alternative to the GU10 lamp but it tends to be sidelined because it suffers from the same problem as the original low voltage lamps – it requires a separate component.

The LED MR16 lamp is the LED retrofit for the 12V tungsten halogen lamp. Although the 12V tungsten halogen lamp was superior to the GU10 mains voltage halogen alternative, it lost ground to the GU10 because it was more expensive, requiring a transformer that had to be mounted close by, usually in the ceiling void adjacent to the downlight containing the lamp.

The low-voltage MR16 LED lamp is also a superior lamp to the GU10 lamp because there is less stress in the lamp housing as the transformer electronics are remote from the housing. But there is a risk of this benefit being outweighed by a disadvantage. Most MR16 LED lamps are advertised as being compatible with tungsten halogen transformers and this is not necessarily the case. Electronic incompatibility rules supreme in these circuits and there have been plenty of flashing LEDs in evidence to demonstrate that truth.

The best way to use a dimmable LED MR16 lamp is to select a lamp that is supplied with its own remote driver housing. This provides the additional benefit of removing even more circuitry from the lamp housing so leaving maximum space for the light source to do its work.

Never mix and match

It’s never a good idea to mix LEDs from different manufacturers on the same dimming circuit. On the basis that every LED will have its own design of electronic circuitry, the dimmer probably won’t be capable of providing a common signal to each light source. This is a recipe for flicker and hum. While this restriction may be a headache for some of the more creative schemes, it’s a sound precautionary measure. And if it icreative schemes, but demonstrate that truth. source to do its work.ox). s essential to the scheme, we recommend that you mock-up the entire circuit on a workbench to test the design.

Because there are no performance standards for LED lamps and drivers it’s impossible to know whether future replacement equipment will operate in the same way as those originally installed, even if the new lamps are from the same company and carry the same part number. The same compatibility checking process has to start again, though it’s probably safe to assume that the dimming equipment won’t be compromised.

And when it comes to an isolated lamp failure in a circuit, the expensive news is that it’s best to change all of the lamps on that circuit to prevent a mismatch in circuit characteristics. It’s a damage limitation exercise and ensures that, with the proper checks mentioned above, the installation will continue to perform as required.

Check, check and check again

The message that is heard repeatedly is not to assume and always to check. The days when a filament lamp could be dimmed by almost anything and would always perform in the same way are gone. We are now in a world where electronic circuitry speaks to electronic circuitry and there is no over-arching standard yet in place to guarantee a unified performance.

So check: Speak to the lighting control manufacturer. Have they tested the LED that you’d like to use and are they happy to see their equipment connected to it?

If you’re able, run a test yourself in as close to the operating conditions as possible.

Check minimum dimmer loadings if the dimmer is required to control just one of two LED lamps and, if so, test it yourself. And, if necessary, be prepared to adjust the scheme design to keep the LED-dimmer interface within safe operational bounds.

IP Ratings Explained

LED Strip Installation Explained

The three main dimming methods

The three dimming protocols are typically available from all of the major lighting control companies and it’s becoming more usual for control units to be capable of providing a mix of all three protocols, either as a bespoke project fabrication or post-installation via the system programming.

Mains dimming

Mains dimming is the oldest dimming protocol and is the type most likely to be seen in the home, as well as in shops, bars and restaurants. The system relies on reducing the voltage that reaches the LED fixture, typically by ‘chopping-out’ parts of the alternating voltage. Mains dimming was designed originally for filament lamps, when a simple voltage reduction meant a lower light output; it does not work naturally with the electronics of an LED driver, though manufacturers of LEDs have worked hard to come up with circuit designs that work sufficiently well. Lighting control manufacturers often incorporate mains dimming modules into their equipment.


DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) is generally used to provide area lighting control over a number of lighting circuits. It relies on an additional two-core cable connection between the dimmer control and the LED driver. It’s worth noting that there is a growing number of Dali-based dimming options for the domestic market. The LED driver is linked to a push-button controller (a retractive switch) at the wall, using a two-core cable. As there’s nothing clever in the control beyond a spring-loaded connector, there can be no problem with component compatibility; it’s all going on inside the driver. But it’s always wise to confirm the ability of the driver to provide those low lighting levels before committing to a specification.


DMX (Digital Multiplex) was developed originally for the entertainment world, where it’s used to provide dynamic lighting effects across very many lighting channels. In the architectural world, DMX works best for colour-changing and effects illumination, so there is a very close tie-in to LED performance. What the entertainment world knows very well and the general electrical installer may not know, is that the signal cables between the control unit and the LED driver needs to be a special data cable, properly screened to protect the cores from spurious electrical signals from adjacent cables.

Analogue dimming (0 - 10v signalling)

As the world turns to the benefits of digital its easy to forget that there is still a simple and reliable system of dimming available. Analogue dimming uses a DC signal (0 - 10v) between the control plate and the LED driver. As the signal voltage changes, so does the light output. Analogue dimming only works on a single channel basis, so a multi-circuit installation would require separate cables between each dimmer control and associated light fixture(s), whereas signal cabling for digital dimming can be provided by a 'daisy-chain' of signal cables to connect between fixtures with different addresses.

NRG Illumination Ltd. Unit 3-4 Bradfield Road. Finedon Road Industrial Estate. Wellingborough. NN8 4HB - Tel: +44 (0) 1933 272100 Fax: +44 (0) 1933 272110 @: sales@nrg.ltd

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