As an energy company, we get lots of questions about how to conserve energy and protect the planet—they’re why we offer so many green options to customers. And we know LED lighting is one of the best ways to do both of those things. So this week, we’ll be answering five of the most common LED questions in case you, too, want to know more about these awesome energy savers.
What is an LED and How Does It Work?
LED stands for light-emitting diode. Each LED light is made of one or more tiny crystal semiconductors that give off light when hit with a current of electricity, a process known as electroluminescence. As light projects from these diodes, it passes through a chemical coating that improves quality and helps determine color.
Unlike incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, LEDs don’t heat a filament or use gas to produce light. So they’re relatively cool running, which makes them the most efficient of the three. They bring energy use down, and they last longer.
How and When Were LEDs Invented?
In the early 1900s, scientists working with radios discovered the principle of electroluminescence—mentioned above—while working with silicone carbide and a thin copper wire in radio tubes. The discovery was tinkered with for a few years, but the first patented LED technology didn’t become realized until the early 1960s. That’s when a couple of researchers at Texas Instruments, experimenting with Lasers, made an infrared LED—too bad humans can’t see in the infrared spectrum with the naked eye. In 1962, engineer Nick Holonyack invented the first visible light LED while he was working with General Electric Company—it only produced red light.
In the 1970s, a few companies began mass producing LEDs, though they were mostly used for indicator lights on machinery back then. It would take another few decades of research—and new colors—to make LEDs effective enough as lightbulbs for general use in homes and businesses. In the early 2000s, companies developed and began to produce LED bulbs that put out as much as 100 lumens per watt, making them powerful enough to garner widespread appeal. Today, you can find LEDs on machinery, in most electronic devices—including your TV and monitor screens—and as lightbulbs for general home and office lighting.
How Long do LEDs Last?
LEDS last a lot longer that your standard incandescent or fluorescent lightbulbs. The U.S. Department of Energy says a good LED bulb should last between 30,000 and 50,000 hours. That’s (at 50,000 hours) about 50 times longer than a regular incandescent bulb and up to 10 times longer than a standard Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL).
Are LEDs Safe?
Yes, they are. LEDs require less voltage that standard bulbs and run cooler, so that, alone, makes them safer than the alternatives. But they also don’t emit UV or infrared radiation like those other bulbs, nor do they contain mercury, contained in many fluorescent lights. And they’re super durable, with many using shatter-proof clear resins in place of glass. They’re so safe, in fact, it’s OK to throw them out with the trash when they stop working years after you purchase them.
Can LEDs Be Recycled?
Yes, they can, though you may have to do a little digging to find out where. Many local waste collection operations aren’t equipped to process LEDs, so you might have to check around to find a recycling center in your area that takes them, if you want to do it locally. If you don’t mind shipping them out, there are recycling companies who’ll let you mail old LEDs in. Some will even send you a prepaid box to send them out it. The Home Depot accepts LED light strings as part of their recycling program.
How Much Do LEDs Cost?
LED prices vary, depending on what you need and want. But generally speaking, they do cost more than a standard incandescent or CFL. But that’s only in the short term. LEDs last longer, so that’s money you won’t have to spend on regularly replacing bulbs. It saves you a little time, too, as you won’t have to be on ladders changing them out very often. And, perhaps most importantly, they use a lot less electricity, which means more money in your pocket. Some estimates show them as much as 75% more efficient, which is big savings in the long run.
The federally run website energy.gov, as an example, says the average person who lights a tree inside during the holidays will spend about $10 in electricity every 40 days when using incandescent string lights. LEDs come in at well under a dollar for the same period.
We hope these helped answer a few common LED questions for you. At Infinite Energy, we we’re always looking for ways to help you save and be more efficient, and we know LEDs are a great way to do that.