LED & Heat 101: How LED Lights Are Affected by Heat

LED & Heat 101: How LED Lights Are Affected by Heat

Polar Ray Admin

LED lighting is a hot topic, and a couple of the reasons are how it generates heat and how it is affected by heat compared to other light sources. In both areas, LEDs once again stand out from the crowd.

LEDs and Heat Generation

LEDs are cool to the touch because they don’t usually generate heat in the form of infrared (IR) radiation such as that given off by the sun, heating coils or incandescent lamps. That makes them perfect choices for places where heat creates problems. But it’s not true that they don’t produce any heat. In fact, most of an LED’s energy input is converted to heat—that’s just the physics of the process. But even so, LEDs waste considerably less of their power to heat than other forms of illumination, making them much more efficient even if they’re not perfect. For instance, a 100-watt incandescent bulb only converts 5% of its energy consumption to visible light, while up to 40% of an LED’s power goes to light.

Of course that means that over half of LED power is “wasted” as heat, and that heat has to go somewhere. For LEDs, that somewhere is into a heat sink in the base of the bulb that draws the heat away from the device to dissipate (typically) into the surrounding air by convection, like a radiator does. Poorly designed heat sinks can let the internal temperature of an LED rise, and as its temperature rises, its lumen output decreases along with its wavelength output (affecting color quality), plus its useful life is shortened. On the other hand, good-quality white light LED products don’t overheat and can have useful lives of up to 50,000 hours or more. 

How efficiently an LED’s heat is dissipated is influenced by a number of other design factors besides its heat sink, ranging from how the light diodes are mounted, whether they are encapsulated in a housing, and even the types of adhesive used in constructing a fixture. Poorly designed fixtures can compromise the performance of even the best LEDs. That’s why it’s important to buy only well-designed LED fixtures that take the thermal performance of the entire system into account. Otherwise you won’t get long-term performance at the bulb’s specified ratings.

Environmental Heat and LEDs

The environmental temperature affects LED performance just as internal temperature does. Most manufacturer ratings of LEDs are for operating environments of 25°C (77°F), and as noted above, high temperatures affect LED performance. So be sure to check bulb ratings if you will be using them in hot areas. Manufacturers like Soraa have bulbs designed for year-round outdoor use, and some have operating ranges as high as 100°C, which is the boiling point of water (212°F).

On the other hand, LEDs love being cold. That makes them ideal for use in refrigerated areas or freezers and for lighting in cold outdoor areas, especially in the winter. Compare that to compact and tube fluorescents which have to warm up and may flicker in cold environments.

The only downside is that since LEDs generate little or no infrared energy, they don’t have warm surfaces to melt snow and ice. Recognizing this, some manufacturers have come up with ways to redirect heat from the heat sink to exterior surfaces of the fixture.

Fortunately, when you buy your LED lighting from Polar Ray LED Lighting Solutions, you won’t have to figure out your ideal lighting products on your own. We’ve been a leading supplier of LED lighting technology for both commercial and residential use for over 30 years. We offer insight, experience and support for LED lighting applications that is rare in a marketplace crowded with businesses that are newcomers to this highly sophisticated technology.

We invite you to learn about our company and see the many products we offer on our website, Polar-Ray.com, and to visit us often for a look at the newest LED lighting products. When you're ready to make a purchase, we'll be here to answer any questions you may have and help guide you to the best LED or energy efficient lighting products for your home, office or business.

We’re also available for personal help with product information and placing orders Monday through Thursday, 9am to 5pm and Friday, 9am to 4pm MST at 1-888-494-5773 or by email 24/7 at info@polar-ray.com.