DECEMBER 2007 IN
RICK ASTER’S WORLD

An LED Room Lighting Installation

The newer LED accent lights are nearly bright enough to light a room — so could you put several of them together to create a room light? I decided to try it.

My test case was a failed fluorescent lighting fixture. Removing the fluorescent light, wiring, and transformer was the hardest part of the job. I then had to clean the dust out of the fixture. The LED lights installed easily with sticky foam tape.

White LED lights are not as bright as they look in the store. They look bright because so much light is concentrated in such a small area, but lighting a room is another matter. I installed 144 LEDs to create a light as bright as the 27 watt fluorescent tube I was replacing.

I turned the light switch on, and the LEDs worked just as I expected. White LED light is not pure white light, but is much closer to it than any traditional lighting, so it is highly usable light. The cool glow of the LEDs is easier to see by than the flickering green buzz of a fluorescent tube or the warmer amber glow of a tungsten filament.

I realized I had seen this kind of light before — in the LED backlight of the latest LCD monitors. It resembles moonlight, which might explain why it is so effective. The human eye uses moonlight more efficiently than any other light.

LED lighting uses much less power than traditional lighting. You can tell by how little heat it gives off. The LED panel gives off a barely detectible warmth, nothing at all compared to the heat of a fluorescent tube.

Replacing traditional lighting with LED lighting saves electricity, but it is not yet a practical investment for most people. You might save $25 a year replacing a 60 watt light bulb in a hallway with an LED light, but if you need 144 LEDs at more than $1 per LED, the rate of return is not as high as other energy-saving investments. However, LED manufacturing costs have been falling for decades, and when prices fall to 50 cents per LED (assuming light output stays the same) then LED room lighting will become a good investment for people who do not need to borrow the money.


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