When LEDs were first introduced, you may remember that the white LEDs were all a cold, bluish-looking white. The manufacturers quickly figured out that customers loved the long life and energy savings from the LED technology but were requesting a product that looked more like the warm, yellowish-white incandescent lighting color.
There was a high demand for an LED that resembled the traditional incandescent light bulb. The LED manufacturers figured out that they could coat the surface of the LED to make its light resemble the warm, white look of the incandescent bulb. The consistency and uniformity of the white color from light to light is just as important as it is within the LED.
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Understanding LEDs When Designing Your Landscape Lighting
An important factor when designing your landscape lighting is the color quality of the light, or color temperature. The color temperature of a light is the warmth or coolness of the light’s projection. When selecting LED lighting, keep in mind that any fixture 5000k or above will give a cool white appearance, 3500k – 4900k will illuminate bright white, and a fixture below 3500k will project a warm, yellowish white color. It is also important to note that more expensive LEDs that are made with a higher quality, more controlled process have a consistent coating across the surface, making the white color very consistent. Less expensive LEDs are not as consistent and will generally look colder (whiter) in the middle and yellow or even brown as you get closer to the edge of the light. This will create an unappealing light beam projection that will be inconsistent in color and quality.
The Importance of a Quality Lens
(White Lighting) Lens design is a significant part of the consistency of the LED light within beam spread. The lens plays a major factor along with LED coating quality as to the consistency of the color. If a lens is not designed properly, inconsistency in the LED coating will be visible.
Factors in Choosing Quality Products
Integrated vs. LED Bulbs
Integrated LEDs that use an aluminum circuit board to transfer the heat to the light housing (fixture) and out to the world are the optimal design to transfer heat away from the LED. Solid metal contact from the LED out to the fixture and ultimately into the atmosphere is the best design for LED life.
Bulbs do a poor job of conducting heat away from the LED. Many LED bulbs are designed with fins to help conduct heat away from the LED. However, in landscape lighting fixtures, the fins are sealed in a metal housing, creating an oven effect. This leaves the air inside the fixture (oven) to be the main conduit to conduct the heat from the bulb to the fixture. Air is a terrible heat-conducting medium. In fact, aluminum is 9000 times better at conducting heat than air! However, this bulb technology does make it easy to change out the LEDs when they fail.
How LEDs are Made/LED Binning
During the manufacturing process, it is hard to control the coating to create a consistent color from LED to LED. The more control that is maintained, the more expensive the process is to conduct. LED manufacturers manage this with a process called “binning.” Binning is a sorting process. Once the LEDs are manufactured, they are sorted by color. For example, for the LED manufacturer we use in our products, there are 27 different “bins” or color sorts in the LED lighting solely for the white color 2700K. That’s right, 27 different colors of 2700K. The tighter the range of color you want to buy, the more expensive the LED becomes. For instance, if you want a batch of LEDs and do not care which bin of the 27 colors it comes from, that is much cheaper than buying bin #3 only. However, your colors from light to light will vary. Purchasing single bin LEDs is the most expensive option, but it provides the highest consistency of white color.
Today’s Technological Advancements
Selectable White LED Options
The latest trend in LED technology is to include multiple colors of white temperature LEDs within the light and let the customer select the color option they prefer once the light is installed. This is a much more user-friendly option and allows an unsure customer to decide after they purchase the product instead of guessing on the color they will prefer prior to the purchase.
With the introduction of LED lighting, manufacturers can now offer unique products that offer adjustable white temperature settings, vivid colors, and brightness options. In addition to looking great, LED lights are also more energy efficient and last 25 – 30 times longer than traditional light bulbs making the perfect choice to illuminate your landscape while reducing your energy costs. There are many factors that affect LED clarity and color temperature, but knowing what options are available will assist you in choosing the landscape lighting that is perfect for your outdoor space.
Chris McCoy is the founder of Haven Lighting. Haven Lighting is the leading manufacturer of smart Wi-Fi enabled landscape lighting systems, featuring unique LED products with unparalleled brightness, vivid color, and white temperature adjustment