Friday Facts – 20 Really Awesome Facts about LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) Everyone Should Know


20 facts on LEDs?!  Jim, are you CRAZY?  I just might be!  Let’s call it Friday Facts!

Happy Friday everyone — I am going absolutely LED nuts around here lately, as I’ve replaced most of the incandescent lamps in our house with their LED A-lamp equivalents.  Surprisingly enough, I haven’t lost my hair, found the need to eat bugs, or lost any sleep because of screwed-up circadian rhythms, as some claim are side-effects of LED A-lamps.  Oh, that burns me brighter than an Alpha 18K in Dallas in the summer!

Friday Facts time!  20 Really Awesome Facts about LEDs, or Light-Emitting Diodes!

  1. When LED light is used in delicatessen displays and in places with fresh food, it has been proven to breed significantly less bacteria than their halogen or fluorescent counterparts.  Consider that next time you’re getting stuff for sandwiches!  I would say that significantly NO bacteria is the right amount for my sandwiches!
  2. Remember the name Nick Holonyak, Jr. – he is the father of the visible light LED.  Nick invented the LED while working for General Electric in 1962.  This “new thing” that’s come onto the retail market over the last 5 years has been around since the mid-1960s!
  3. Next time you see a blue LED, think of Shuji Nakamura, the inventor of the blue LED, back in 1994.  Nakamura, who was working for Nichia Corporation at the time, got a $200 bonus for his discovery – while Nichia made more money than is in Scrooge McDuck’s swimming pool!  Nakamura never signed a non-disclosure for Nichia, and in 2001 he sued for $189 million.  The Japanese courts awarded him more money than any other Japanese company ever had to pay in court:  $8.1 million.  So the inventor of the blue LED got $8,100,200 for his invention that we all use everywhere!
  4. Most blue and green LEDs use a mixture of Gallium Nitride and Indium Nitride to get the blue, called Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN).  By varying the amount of Indium in the mix, the color of blue varies.
  5. Most red, orange, and yellow LEDs use variants of Gallium Phosphide (GaP) Gallium Arsenide Phosphide (GaAsP) to get their hues.
  6. White LEDs work quite like fluorescent lamps work with respect to color; a blue or ultraviolet LED is coated with a phosphor that emits photons from the ultraviolet frequencies when the LED is energized.
  7. The Monsanto Corporation was the first company to mass-produce red LEDs for the industry, mostly as replacement lights for indicators and seven-segment displays.
  8. An incandescent lamp converts about 9-10% of the energy fed to it into light, whereas LEDs convert nearly 100% of the energy they consume as light.
  9. The lighting industries as a whole are pushing LEDs to replace incandescent sources in a variety of applications, but the first time that LEDs actually did displace incandescent lamps was in vehicle brake lights, signal lights, and traffic lightsback in 1987!
  10. If the entire United States would replace only 50% of the existing incandescent Christmas lights around the holidays, the potential energy cost savings starts around $17.2 billion dollars.
  11. Heat generated by an LED source is a real enemy to the quality of that LED source.  LEDs are subject to the cooling method designed into the lamp or fixture — if the cooling is good, the LED will maintain a decent output over its lamp life.  If the cooling is poor, the lamp is subject to considerably higher lumen depreciation over its lifetime, or even total failure over time.
  12. If you’ve ever had a porch, you’ve had a porch light, and you’ve had bugs all over that porch light.  Switch to LED in the porch light and you’ll notice considerably fewer bugs, if not a complete decrease in your porch bug population!  Why, do you ask?  It’s because incandescent lamps and CFLs produce copious amounts of ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation, which bugs love more than Kim Kardashian loves mascara!
  13. LED headlights might be one of the most annoying, blinding things on the road, but they’re actually quite safe for driving – LED headlights render colors you see in their beams better, which gives you better awareness of your surroundings on the road.  They’re totally worth it!
  14. Due to the physics involved, LED lamps have what we call Instant On — unlike their incandescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) counterparts.  What this means is that you can switch an LED lamp on and you get the full brightness of that light instantly.  Think about this next time you need to place a lamp in a part of your house or office that gets turned on and off frequently — incandescent lamps and CFLs experience significantly less lamp life from being switched on and off frequently, and CFLs in particular can experience greatly reduced lamp life if they are switched off and back on within 15 minutes of heating up!
  15. Most LED A-lamp replacement bulbs are relatively cool to the touch, whereas their incandescent and halogen counterparts will most definitely leave you with a first or second degree burn.  Maximum operating temperature for most residential A-lamp type bulbs is around 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit, where halogen lamps run around 600-700 F to the touch and their incandescent cousins run around 375-400 F to the touch!  OUCH!
  16. If you think about incandescent lamp life (around 1000 hours) and compact fluorescent lamp life (around 10,000 hours),  It’s not hard to see how LEDs are making the grade in retail markets.  A majority of residential/commercial LED A-lamp manufacturers claim a whopping 50,000 hours lamp life on average, with newer models claiming up to 100,000 hours.  If this sounds impressive, it is!  Consider your usage on just the 50,000 hour varieties:
    If you use your LED bulb for 24 hours a day, every day, that bulb is rated to last 6 solid years!
    If you use your LED bulb for 8 hours a day, every day, that bulb is rated to last 17 years!!
    If you use your LED bulb for only 4 hours per day, that bulb is rated to last 17 years!!!
  17. LEDs contain NO MERCURY at all — and over 95% of an LED is recyclable.  Compare this to the wasteful design of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which not only contain Mercury, but also create a large portion of electronic waste due to their design — the fluorescent tube portion of a CFL ceases to work long before the ballast inside the CFL or its other electronic components are ready to die.  This alone creates tons of waste every month.
  18. LED lamps on average are not subject to serious damage from external shock – which translates into “oops, I dropped my LED lamp onto the floor while I was changing it!”  If you try this with an incandescent lamp, you’re going to be cleaning up glass at least — and if it’s a CFL, not only will it break, but you will also need to follow Mercury decontamination procedures recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Yikes!
  19. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the widespread adoption of LEDs in residential and commercial applications over the next 20 years will save about $265 billion, prevent the need for constructing 40 new power plants, and reduce the electricity demand of lighting by 33 percent.
  20. Ever wonder why non-chip form LEDs have that little plastic bubble (or lens) around them, like in the picture at the top of the post?  It actually has three distinct functions, and the process of adding the diode to the plastic is called potting:
    * The plastic protects the tiny wires and components that make up the diode from physical damage, and protects the diode from open air
    * The plastic makes mounting the LED inside of devices and equipment considerably easier
    * That plastic lens allows the light from the LED to have a variety of properties, like different beam angles and diffusions


How Much Power Does the World Use in A Year, and Other Random Lighting Facts!


I got into this completely crazy research mood this morning, and all I could think of was lighting facts!  This is nuts, but I found some awesome factoids about our favorite thing that I just had to share!

  • In all of the world, for all kinds of stuff, we use 143,851 terawatt hours, or 1.43851 × 1014 kilowatt hours, or 143,851,000,000,000 kilowatt hours of power across the world per year.  One trillion, eight hundred fifty one billion kilowatt hours.  The figure comes from a conglomeration of fossil fuel-generated power, nuclear, and sustainable sources.  That’s a lot of washing machines and refrigerators running, folks.  Can you imagine the power bill for that?  Oh, the bill collectors would be a-calling then!!
  • Of all total energy that goes into lighting up a light bulb (the incandescent flavor), only around 10% of energy going in is actually used to create light. Ninety percent (plus or minus 5%) of a light bulb’s energy creates heat.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), on the other hand, use about 80% less electricity than conventional bulbs and last up to 12 times as long.  CFLs don’t give us all of the spectrum though, and many people prefer to have incandescent over compact fluorescent.
  • At dusk, when the sun has reached the horizon and dipped below, we humans experience something called the Purkinje Effect; it’s when there is such low levels of light that the blue cones in our retinas take over, creating everything in shades of blue-grey.
  • Light travels faster than anything in our knowledge, 299,792,458 meters in each second, or 983,571,000 feet per second.  It’s only 24,901.5 miles (131,479,920 feet) around the world; if you could run as fast as light, you could run around the Earth almost 7.5 times each second.  Let’s see Usain Bolt do THAT!
  • If you are an average American doing average American city traveling, you’re going to spend approximately six months sitting at red traffic lights.  I’m not really sure what to say about that, the thought of it makes me want to kick and scream!
  • Next time you accidentally get a black eye, or a “shiner,” remember that you’ve got something with a cool name:  a bilateral periorbital hematoma.  Somebody cast me on ER, STAT!


  • ZAP!  Next time you’re being a tough guy (or a tough girl, equal opportunity here) during a thunderstorm outside, remember that you have a 1 in 700,000 chance of being struck by lightning in any one single year.  BUT –  the odds of being struck by lightning in your individual lifetime is 1 in 3,000.
  • The famous Capitol Records building in Los Angeles has a blinking light on the top; that light spells out, in Morse code, “HOLLYWOOD.”  Seriously.  Look it up!
  • Sunlight shining down on the ocean can penetrate up to 262 feet below the surface of the water.  Considering the ocean, in its deepest spot in the Pacific, is 10,911 meters (35,797.2 feet), imagine the vast ecosystems that live without ever having absorbed sunlight!
  • Bees (yeah, those) can detect ultraviolet light, and they actually use it themselves to find pollen.  Bees use their UV pollen finding prowess to see the UV light reflecting off of the pollen as they fly around.  How cool is that?!  Bees are little ravers!
  • Wanna see through a piece of frosted glass?  Take a piece of clear packing tape and stick it on the frosted side – the glue will fill in the little microscopic gaps that the frosting process creates, allowing you to see some detail through the frosted glass.  You can also get the glass wet, which does very much the same thing.  Don’t use this fact for evil, though!
  • In each of your (hopefully) human eyes, you have 120 million color receptors, or cones, and 7 million light receptors, or rods.  This is a ratio of 17:1 color sensors over light sensors — hopefully this helps you understand why things like the Purkinje Effect take place, making the colors we see almost grey in low light!
  • The ancient Romans are the cause of the phrase “it’s ALL FUN AND GAMES until SOMEONE LOSES AN EYE!“  Back in that day, when wrestling, the only hard and fast rule was no eye gouging.  You could practically do anything else to win the match, but messing with your opponent’s eyes was instant disqualification.

I got a billion of these!


Thanks Ankasa, House & Home, eHow, Earthly Issues, Windows 2 Universe, and NASA!

Friday Morning Semi-Lascivious Learning!

Yeah.  Sometimes lighting facts are best illustrated with lingerie.  I have been cracking myself up all morning learning about all kinds of facts from – which is full of great stuff.  Like this little tidbit about Phosphenes!

There are so many people I know who will appreciate this.  There are also so many people I know who won’t – so I figured that I’d go ahead and make the playing field even and make my OWN half naked facts!  It’s fair and acceptable for the ladies, right?

I crack me up. Somebody’s got to, right?

What Do You Think About the New “Lighting Facts” Labels?

So, the Federal Trade Commission (or the FTC, as we refer to it – or as Eminem says, “the FTC won’t let me be, let me be me, so let me see…”) has decided to add some “Lighting Facts” labels to lamps now.  Check these babies out – hopefully you say “hey, those are lighting nutrition labels!”

So obviously there are two labels here – one for lamps containing mercury, and one for lamps that do not contain mercury.

What do you think of these labels?  Quite frankly, I think there is some information missing, and I’m probably being overly anal about this – but it’s my blog, and I think it needs more stuff!  First, what happened to the colored “Light Appearance” graph?  Like this:

CRI, CCT, efficacy, maybe even the equation for people to figure out how to determine their own yearly energy usage cost per lamp based on their OWN kilowatt-hour price and usage hours per day.  Now these are things that I think would be important, no?  Granted I am a lighting nerd, but I really think that dumbing something like this down just drives down the intelligence level of our society.  What’s wrong with providing more information?  I mean, how many people actually give a damn about how much Selenium their McNuggets have?

My point exactly.  But we get to know about minute differences like that with food.  Why can’t we know about more detailed aspects of our illumination?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that we have this now, being implemented in mid-2011, because it’s better than nothing.  From the FTC website on the matter:

Under direction from Congress to re-examine the current labels, the FTC is announcing a final rule that will require the new labels on light bulb packages. For the first time, the label on the front of the package will emphasize the bulbs’ brightness as measured in lumens, rather than a measurement of watts. The new front-of-package labels also will include the estimated yearly energy cost for the particular type of bulb.

Yeah.  It is definitely better measured in lumens, don’tcha think?  That’s my two cents.

Thanks to the Lighting Facts website and the FTC’s post on the subject.