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01/07/12 Choosing LED Lights Based on Lumens and Wattage

Article- January 2012 By Larson

LED Spreader Light for Boats

Larson Electronics LED Spreader Light for Boats


Making the decision to try LEDs in place of more traditional lighting like incandescent or fluorescents can sometimes seem like anything but an easy task. LED technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, and approximately every four months manufacturers announce another significant advancement. Although initially LEDs were plagued with a variety of issues that prevented easy acceptance from consumers seeking a practical and effective alternative to inefficient lighting, these issues have for the most part been resolved. Color quality, output and practical application have for the most part been addressed, and now manufacturers are free to put more research and development into the overall output and cost effectiveness of the LED. Therein lies the rub, however.


With LED developers now able to more fully focus their attention on the power and efficiency aspects of LEDs, bringing viable LED products to market has become difficult due to consumer unwillingness to commit to a version of LED technology which appears to become obsolete in less than a year as improved versions appear. Adding to the confusion is the lack of standardization among LED manufacturers and an easy way to reference the output and quality of light produced by LEDs compared to the lighting types that most consumers have become accustomed to. With no simple way to compare just how effective a particular LED fixture will be in replacing an existing incandescent or fluorescent fixture, consumers tend to simply stay with the lighting they are most familiar with.

Right now, choosing LEDs may seem like a difficult process for some but in reality, it is only necessary for the average consumer to understand a few main salient points in order to make an effective choice.




First and foremost, consumers will do well to stick with considering only reputable and established manufacturers of lighting equipment. While there are literally hundreds of new LED manufacturers and distributors appearing globally, only a few really have the ability to develop and produce LEDs that can reliably perform as advertised. Consumer groups have found that among many LED producers, most products do not live up to the manufacturers claims, and represent little if any improvement over fluorescent lighting. Among the largest and longest established producers such as Cree or Philips, however, standards tend to even out and meet or exceed advertised performance. This is likely because these developers not only possess the experience and knowledge base needed for effective development, they also have the resources established for effective manufacture and quality control as well.



For the most part, LED products produced by third parties and manufactured in countries such as China tend to be of lower grade and fail to meet many of their claimed performance specifications. It is also worth noting that LEDs and fixtures are often a joining of two or more manufacturers' products in order to keep production costs low. As a result, many LEDs used in specialized devices and fixtures may come from one manufacturer, while the electronics driving the LEDs and the housing may come from another. Fortunately, the more reputable producers have made advertising the makers of their included LEDs a part of their efforts to entice customers to their brand, which can make choosing a fixture based on the reputation of the manufacturer much easier. For example, company A may offer an LED spreader light for boats, and in their description or specifications state that they use CREE LEDs in their product. In this way, the consumer knows they are purchasing a product with a reputable background and can put some degree of faith in their purchase without worrying that their parts may have been developed overseas where quality control and standards are lower.


Lumens versus Watts

The biggest problems consumers face with choosing among the many LED products available is the lack of easy comparison between LEDs, incandescent bulbs, and fluorescent lights. Since LEDs are in reality a radical departure from traditional lighting methods, how they produce light and measuring their output is different as well. It is not enough to simply compare wattages or total lumens produced, and consumers must understand that how well a light performs is going to be determined in large part by how effectively a manufacturer has managed to match a particular LED product to a particular application. For instance, a 14 watt LED bulb may be advertised as being the equivalent of a 50 watt halogen, while the 50 watt halogen incandescent light will be advertised as producing 1200 lumens, yet the LED only produces 800 lumens. This is because without any real standards in place, some less reputable manufacturers take extraneous measurements into consideration in order to promote their product as being of higher quality.


This is where the lack of standardization among lighting technologies and manufacturers really rears its head and makes things difficult. Generally speaking, the days of determining brightness simply by choosing among different wattages and even lumens are coming to a close. While it used to be that a 40 watt lamp was brighter than a 25 watt, this is no longer the case with LEDs. With LEDs, it is necessary to include luminous output or how many total lumens a lamp produces and compare this against the watts it uses compared to the bulb it is intended to replace. As an example, a 20 watt LED bulb from a reputable manufacturer will produce about 60 lumens per watt, for a total of 1200 lumens. A 50 watt halogen will produce about 25 lumens per watt, for a total of 1250 lumens. So, as we can see, the 20 watt LED rather than the 14 watt mentioned earlier would be a better replacement for the 50 watt halogen. More importantly, we thus can get a better idea of how to choose among bulbs by multiplying lumens per watt in order to get a truer comparison. 



Currently, there has not been any simple standardized measure devised in order to make comparisons easy for the consumer interested only in saving money without compromising on light quality. The federal government has made it mandatory that lighting manufacturers include total lumens produced on their product packages, which makes choosing somewhat easier, but it is still possible for consumers to be misled by claims made from non standardized measures of performance.

The best bet for the informed consumer is to make note of the total lumens produced by their current favored light bulbs, and choose LEDs according to how well established the manufacturer is and the total lumens produced by their products.

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