What is an LED Light Fixture?

What is an LED Light Fixture?
2016-09-28

The term LED gets thrown around so much in the modern lexicon that it is quite easy to use the acronym without actually realizing what it even means. Maybe your household appliances or entertainment systems are using LEDs every day, and you do not even realize it.


So then, what is an LED light fixture exactly? To be precise, LED stands for “light emitted diode,” but what that translates to in more common English is a little more involved. However, according to Energy Star, LED light fixtures are simply semiconductor devices (not good conductors or good insulators) that produce light when an electric current runs through them.  


What is the Origin of LEDs?

As with many of the significant discoveries over the course of history, LEDs came into being quite by accident in 1962 thanks to Nick Holonyak, Jr., a scientist working at GE. However, an extensive article from The Atlantic, mapping the impact of Holonyak’s discovery points out, interestingly enough, he was attempting to develop a laser, not a revolutionary new replacement for the incandescent light bulb. 


The progression of the discovery’s proliferation was fairly slow, although IBM started using LEDs on their equipment as early as 1964. Only in the 70s did LEDs start showing up in some capacities in things like digital watches and by the 80s they were utilized in both traffic lights along with brake lights. Now the technology is everywhere imaginable so prevalent that we hardly even realize it’s there. 


How are LEDs Used Now?

In the present day, LEDs are used in many different capacities and play a vital role in the everyday rhythms of our lives. As was hinted to before, the laundry list is long, but LEDs are found in everything from fans and clocks to microwaves, refrigerators, VCRs, electric razors, and apparently even wallpaper.


In all these cases, LEDs usually are measured by how they function in two different capacities known as illumination and indication. These two terms are fairly self-explanatory. LEDs either illuminate something or they point something out. To add some context, a typical example of each is evident if we use the scenario of driving a car at night. The car’s headlights are illuminating the road up ahead so that you can see what is going on and you don’t crash. Then, when you get ready to switch lanes or make a turn, the blinking of the car’s turn signal is indicating which direction the car is about to go so other drivers can be aware and don’t crash into you. 


Thus, given this definition, but also because it intuitively makes sense, illumination is what we call the light emanating from everyday light fixtures. However, LED light fixtures have not always been around so there are other logical questions you could ask. For instance, how are they different from the long-heralded everyday incandescent lightbulb that was in vogue for so long?


How are LEDs Different?

LED light fixtures are generally highly thought of because they last for an extremely long time in comparison to many alternatives. Bulb.com charts an LED lifespan to be about 50,000 hours. To add some perspective, that’s about 50 times longer than an incandescent light fixture! At that pace, if the light is used approximately 8 hours a day it will last over 15 years. LED light fixtures are also more efficient, using less electricity and producing very little heat which results in their longer life spans. 


Some advantages that people might not consider also include the fact that LED light fixtures do not emit UV or infrared, and they are highly resistant to things like vibrations and cold environments, making them quite resilient. 


On the downside, LEDs are certainly more expensive than alternatives, and that is understandably off-putting for some consumers. However, it’s important to realize that although this technology first came into existence over 50 years ago, in many ways, it’s still a new technology, and so the prices will keep on going down as they already have. Just give it time. Obviously, it’s a case by case basis, and every person is different, but it’s worth considering LEDs for their long-term benefits.


Another important concern is the actual quality of the fixtures themselves because depending on the manufacturer and the retailer it’s important to do your research to make sure that the product is as reliable as possible in meeting the needs of the consumer. LEDs have many perks, but it certainly does not mean they are perfect. It’s not a bad thing to take the time to do some research.


Why LED Light Fixtures Matter?

That brings us to the last point. After all this, you might still be inclined to ask, why do LED light fixtures even matter? And it’s important to ask those types of questions so you can be an informed buyer. Without a doubt, LED light fixtures matter if we want to be an environmentally conscious population because the upside of these lights will significantly reduce consumption of electricity which in term translates into the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as excess waste. 


Something to also think about from a commercial aspect is the duration of LED light fixtures. Yes, they might be more expensive up front, but if you’re thinking in years and not months, the chance is that you will save a lot more with the less frequent maintenance needs and the general durability of the fixtures. So you can save money in the long run and help the environment at the same time. In that way, it’s a win-win for many people.


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