What LED bulbs manufacturers don’t tell us?

Lately I’ve noticed, everyone praises LEDs. Some praise them for their cost efficiency, some for safety, some for eco-friendliness, etc. So I’ve decided to shed some light on this matter and to find out if everything is really so perfect about them.

Actually it isn’t. During my research I’ve learned some facts that LEDs’ manufacturers prefer not to tell us. To which features you should pay attention not to get fooled when buying LEDs? Here is my list:

  1. Flickering

«LEDs don’t flicker» – you’re more likely to hear that in every shop. Flickering is high-frequency brightness fluctuations unnoticeable for our brain but harmful for our eyes. It’s one of the disadvantages of CFLs-they ripple because of working on alternating current. LEDs use direct current so they don’t flicker.

That’s true. But only for high quality LEDs with appropriate drivers. Such bulbs are not the cheapest ones. So if you want to spare money – get your eyes ready! Cheap LEDs flicker just like CFLs.

Do it smart:

First of all, pay attention to a manufacturer. Philips, GE, Jooby and Osram are in my personal “reliable LED-makers” list. But even these producers (except Jooby) have slightly flickering models, so determining the bulb’s ripple level will be a right thing to do. If it is under 5% the light is absolutely safe. 20% is the highest permissible level.

You can also try to check the lamp by pointing your camera objective on it. If it has no flicker-suppression system, the image will be distorted just like on this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7r_-cOqN_Y. But this method won’t give you a 100% successful result so don’t rely on it too much.

  1. Psychological effects

Some prefer LED bulbs as they make colors look natural when lightened. That creates a daylight effect. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. Cold, close to natural light increases serotonin secretion. That improves our working capacity but leads to insomnia.

Do it smart:

Warm light for house, cold light for office. That’s simple!

  1. LEDs don’t heat up

Actually, they do. Even though the bulb surface remains cool, the heat is produced in the base when the current flows through p-n junction. It can damage wiring and other related mechanisms.

Do it smart:

You need to make sure that the bulb has a good heat sink. In low-wattage bulbs a housing and a PCB plate are doing all the job. For more powerful LED you’ll need an additional radiator.

Most of manufacturers take thermal characteristics into an account, so there is nothing for us to do except avoiding to place the bulb in an enclosed housing. But if we dig deep enough we’ll find another unpleasant effect which is a reason of LED’s heating.

  1. Is it really so energy efficient?

The apparent power in alternating current circuits is divided into two portions. The portion of power that results in net transfer of energy in one direction is known as active power. The portion of power which returns to the source in each cycle is known as reactive power. More about it you can read in a corresponding Wikipedia article- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_power
Reactive power doesn’t produce useful work and heats up the bulb. So the bigger is a reactive power portion the less effective is bulb’s energy consumption.

Do it smart:

Pay attention to power factor. This characteristic measures active/reactive power ratio.  If it is higher than 0,85 the lamp may be considered as an efficient one.

  1. Good solution for outdoor lighting

Well… Let’s imagine we’ve found our “ideal” LED streetlights with high power factor, low ripple level and good color rendering index. But there still is one thing we haven’t considered – the weather.

In wintertime LEDs’ thermal characteristics may play a bad joke on us. Because the lamp’s surface doesn’t heat up it usually becomes covered with snow. It’s not a big problem in city but may cause accidents on highways.

Do it smart:

You should choose the streetlights with weather-resistant design and an appropriate coating. One of the most sustainable solutions I’ve seen is Cobra by Jooby.

Let’s end with criticism now! Even though it has some disadvantages, LED technology has much more benefits than its obsolete analogs. In future it will also become much cheaper.

But now we should be cautious and smart enough to find a really good product. Ads won’t show us the real product – just its advantages. Knowing about the disadvantages will help you not to get cheated. So I hope my research was useful. Now I wish you good luck in your search!