The inexorable rise of LED lighting

It’s a little over 50 years since the first visible LED was demonstrated as a tiny red glow. In more recent years, the performance of LED lighting has improved to such an extent that they are found in every conceivable application from replacing halogen lamps in domestic downlighting to bedhead medical lights and hazardous area floodlighting. Better energy efficiency, reliability and controllability are driving this trend.


The most common type of LED lamp seen around the home is the type that fits a standard light socket and looks like an old incandescent light bulb – these are referred to as General Lighting Service (GLS) lamps. Today, they come in all the popular fittings and wattages, for indoor and outdoor use, but not all are dimmable. 


Verbatim offers up to 40,000 hours and is rated to IP65 for use outside. However, there is some talk about how exactly manufacturers measure lifetime for this type of lamp – is it when the bulb’s brightness is below 100%, below 70%, or when it goes off completely? Research may be required to ensure you are comparing like with like if you are selecting based on lifetime alone.


To replace halogen capsules typically used for display and accent light features in the home, LED capsule lamps are available in both G9 and G4 fittings. They can be made to offer a uniform light distribution like the older halogen bulbs, and with a similar colour, like this one from Sylvania.

In today’s vehicles, LEDs have been adopted for virtually all lighting applications because of their long lifetime and vibration resistance; they also offer space savings. LED lighting for the Automotive sector comes in two main form factors – festoon lamps and wedge bulbs – both of which are specialised fittings used historically for filament bulbs. Screw-in bulbs are never used in vehicles because they tend to come loose under vibration.


Festoon lamps, like this one from JKL, are used for number plate illumination and side position lights, as well as interior lighting and reading lamps. They are tubular and usually contain several LEDs for brightness.



Wedge lamps, which are push-fit, are used for things like brake lights as well as some interior lighting in vehicles. This Osram LED wedge bulb offers 80% less energy consumption than filament bulbs and last up to 5000 h. It also delivers a perfect homogenous light because of its modern diffuser material.

For commercial and industrial use, every kind of lighting form factor can now be replaced with LED technology.

LED reflector lamps are commonly used to replace halogen reflector lamps for continuous lighting in shops and offices, for floodlighting, and as architectural accent lighting. Since they are intended for continuous use, they need to include a level of thermal management in order to keep temperatures down and lifetimes up. The Osram Parathom series, for example, is ideal for downlighting walkways and stairs in shops, museums and the hospitality industry. 



Text Box:  To replace linear fluorescent tubes, which contain hazardous substances like mercury and are therefore difficult to dispose of, equivalent LED tubes can be retrofitted to standard existing luminaires. RS stocks a wide range of LED tube lights from Sylvania, including this 150-mm, 32-W, 3000-lm model, as well as a range from Philips, Osram, Toshiba and others.

Where very high brightness is required, LED lamp makers can put large amounts of LEDs into the same product to form an LED cluster lamp. These cluster lamps come in a diverse variety of form factors.

Some, for general lighting use, come with a standard BA15d bayonet fitting. Those intended for the replacement of high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps may come with a more specialist fitting, like E40. HID lamps are used for lighting large areas like warehouses and car parks, as well as for backlighting in some LCD or DLP TVs, plus indoor gardening. This RS one, intended to replace high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH) lamps, has a cooling fan in the base to aid heat dissipation and help to prolong the LEDs lifetime.

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As well as lighting, LEDs are also widely used as indicator lamps in industrial process and control applications. The ubiquitous stack of beacons, or tower light of different coloured status indicators can of course be lit by LEDs. They are typically white LED bulbs, like this one from RS, behind a coloured plastic enclosure, but red, green, yellow and blue are typically available too. RS’s range is vibration and shock proof to suit the industrial environment.

Smaller LED indicator lamps used in things like control panels or car dashboards are also readily available in a wide variety of colours. This type of product is often just one LED (single-chip type) with a current limiting resistor attached to a fitting. They do come in multi-chip versions too, like this one from RS, which contains 8 LED chips.

In summary, LED lights are available for just about any type of home, automotive, commercial or industrial light fixture or fitting, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, please contact RS.

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