What You Need To Know: LED Lights

WORDS Amelia Brown


Paul Pamboukian, lighting designer and director at Pamboukian Light Design, sheds some light on the science behind LED.

What is LED lighting?

The typical red LED (light emitting diode) indicator lights found on most electrical appliances that indicate power were developed in the Sixties and LED lighting as we know it today is a relatively recent development of this basic technology. The development was so revolutionary that the inventor Shuji Nakamura, regarded as the inventor of the blue LED, was one of three recipients of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Why is LED such a hot trend?  

LEDs are a flexible light source that can easily be programmed to do things that were previously tricky and expensive to implement with conventional lighting. They can be assembled in linear strips or flexible tapes, which makes it easy to get light into tight spaces or create linear effects in ceilings and walls. LEDs are available in different colours in a single tape – red, green, blue and white (RGBW) – that can be programmed to create hundreds of different colour shades.

What are the advantages of LED technology?

It’s efficient in terms of power usage and lamp life. An LED lamp should last around 35 times longer than an incandescent lamp and save up to 70% on electricity costs. The low wattage of LEDs also reduces heat load on air conditioning.

What is tunable white LED? 

Tunable white LEDs are really where the future of LED lighting is headed. It’s available as a strip or point source that has the ability to be “tuned” or programmed to emit a white light that may be cool or warm depending on its range of kelvins (unit of temperature measurement). The colour might span from 2700K (warm) to 6000K (cool), depending on the make, and you can set it to have cool light during the day and warm light in the evening. Current research on circadian rhythm is providing important evidence that exposure to blue spectrum light at night may mistakenly reset our body clocks and have health implications.

Can you convert to LED?

Most manufacturers are producing retrofit LED fittings – the entire fitting may be swopped out or a LED alternative with a similar cutout or a retrofit LED lamp may be substituted. In fact, there’s a LED substitute for virtually every conventional lamp. Check the colour temperature of the LED lamp you’re buying from very cool, almost blue (6000K) to a warm white (2500-2700K).

This article was originally featured in the launch issue of LIGHT.