LED lights are the trifecta of lighting. They are bright, last forever and use much less energy. They also are the latest lighting technology with respect to integrating with smart lighting tech. More and more homes rely on LED lighting... not to mention so many other things such as vehicles, bicycle lights and more. Read this extensive LED lighting guide to learn all you need to know about the different types of LED lights.
According to the United States Department of Energy, residential LED lighting uses 75% less energy compared to the incandescent alternative. Over time, that can result in an astronomical amount of saved energy if you equate for all of the homes using LED lighting in the world. And with the popularity of LED lighting constantly growing, many different types of LED lights have been created over the years.
Keep reading to learn more about the various types of LED lights, including what they’re used for, their benefits, and how they compare to other types of lights.
Table of Contents
1. Mini LEDs
Given how the technology surrounding LED lighting has become highly advanced over the past decade or so, these lights are getting smaller and more compact. That being said, one of the more common types of LED lights today is miniature LEDs, which include chip, nano, and pico LEDs. These lights are extremely small and typically come in a single color or shape. The common applications where we see these miniature lights are in remote controls, calculators, and mobile phones. And given the less complex design and minuscule size, these lights can easily be placed onto a circuit board without needing a device used to control heat. This makes these lights perfect for technologically advanced industries across the globe. In addition, it’s important to note that these lights come in three different types:
- Ultra-high output
No matter what type you utilize, it’s possible to find a solution based on your specific needs; they all vary in terms of voltage, current, and total wattage.
2. Application-Specific LEDs
LED lights can be constructed in a way to solve the specific needs of the device or user. That being said, application-specific LEDs are very common given their ability to be personalized accordingly. However, these application-specific LEDs are categorized in the following types:
- RGB or Red Green Blue
- Bi-Color and Tri-Color
3. High Power LEDs
As the search for more power has resulted in the expansion of the LED industry, high powered LED lights were created to suit the needs of people all over the world. Due to the increase of technology surrounding diodes, high-power LEDs were born. These LEDs produce a far higher output compared to other types on the market thanks to their ability to provide a higher number of lumens. Additionally, it’s important to understand that these high-powered lights can vary based on their:
So we know what you’re thinking—with all of this power in such a small device, won’t these LED lights overheat? To limit the heat generated by these powerful lights, it’s recommended to always have these LEDs connected to a heat-absorbing material, which can help to keep the rising heat at bay. This will prevent the LED from burning out, and it also allows it to work effectively for longer periods of time.
So if you’re in the market for a high-powered LED light, then you should absolutely consider what you will utilize for heat control. The light should come with a user guide that helps you understand the temperature limits with the device, so it’s best to pay close attention to this to stay safe and extend the lifespan of your LED light. Even if the lighting company claims that their LED lights are high-powered and will work forever with no issues, you should always use caution and ensure that you have a proper balance of heat output and heat control. This can ensure:
- Better use out of your lights
- Less energy wasted
- Peace of mind
- Less unwanted temperatures around these lights
- A lower chance of starting a fire
- A longer lifespan for your lights
- More efficient use
Although these high powered lights put off a lot of heat and can be dangerous, the technology surrounding these lights has come a long way and they are very efficient and safe in this day and age. You’ll typically find these LED lights in high powered lamps, headlamps, car headlights, and in industrial and mechanical applications.
4. Alphanumeric LEDs
This is another popular form of LED lighting, which is typically seen on older digital clocks. However, their popularity has decreased over the years due to the advancements in the industry. Different types of LEDs today use far less energy and have more flexibility in terms of visuals.
But to really understand alphanumeric LEDs, it’s important to understand the four different types out there, which include:
This type of alphanumeric LED can only handle a specific set of letters and all of the numbers. This makes the ability of this type a bit limited, but can still be very useful.
b. 4 and 16-Segment
These types, also referred to as star-burst displays, work effectively given that they can cover the whole Roman alphabet in uppercase, including having the ability to display numbers 0 through 9. The 4 and 16-segment types are essentially the same thing, but the only difference is that the 16-segment model has a break on the top and bottom bars, which enhances the visuals of how the characters appear.
Matrix is the smartest and most flexible type of alphanumeric LEDs. It can handle lower case words, upper case words, every single number, and many symbols as well.
5. Lighting LEDs
Of course, lighting LEDs are the more commonly known type of LED light. That being said, there is a diverse range of sizes and shapes of lighting LEDs. Some of the examples include illuminators, LED bars, and LED lamps. But as we stated previously about other LED lights, heat is also a problem here. However, many manufacturers have found solutions to help combat this heat issue. They’ve used ceramic and aluminum bodies around these bulbs that involve fins that expand the area in which heat can escape from. And given the wide variety of purposes and the different applications that use this type of lighting, the forms of heat control vary greatly for LED lighting.
6. Red Green Blue (RGB) LEDs
These LED lights work by the combination of red, green, and blue emitters. These three lights are combined in various ways to appropriately produce the requested color. And given the sophistication of these controllers nowadays, essentially any type of color can be created by RGB LED lights.
This type of LED light is one of the most flexible types available thanks to the amazing control that is in the hand of the user. This works because electronic circuits are used to control the diffusion and mixture of the colors. Given this high level of control and customization, RGB LEDs are commonly used as status indicators. accent lights, and for light shows and video displays. The uses and capabilities of these lights vary greater and can be used in many different applications.
7. Flashing LEDs
This type of LED lighting is commonly used to grab the attention of people. Although these lights might look like your standard LED, the inside mechanism of these lights is more complex. These lights work with the help of an integrated circuit, which flashes the appropriate light at a requested frequency. These types of LEDs are very easy to use and many are able to hook up to a direct connection of power without needing a series resistor. These LEDs are commonly used for light-up signage and are also used by vehicles and for bicycle lights.
8. Bi-Color and Tri-Color
A few other similar types of LED lights are bi-color and tricolor models. Inside a bi-color LED light, there are two light-emitting dies, including three leads and a common cathode or anode. In addition, bi-color LEDs utilize inverse parallel wiring, which is when one of the wires is forward and one is backward. That being said, only one die can be on at any given moment.
In order to produce the various colors, this is made possible by the flowing current alternating between the two separate dies. If you increase the alternate flowing current of a higher frequency, then a third color can be produced and it will appear as if the two lights are powered on at the same time.
As for tri-color LEDs, these also work with two light-emitting dies in a single casing. However, the difference here is that tri-color lights involves three leads with two outer leads at either side of a central lead. This construction allows for both dies to be lit simultaneously or separately, which results in the ability to display a third color.
Additionally, while we discussed the common design that uses only a cathode, there are tri-color types out there with both cathode and anode configurations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding everything about LED lighting can be difficult. To help you learn more about LED lights, we’ve provided some answers to some frequently asked questions. See below:
How Are LEDs Different than Other Lights?
Compared to other common types of lights like incandescent bulbs and CFLs, there are some key differences to consider regarding LEDs. Some of these include:
The size of LEDs are extremely small—small as a grain of sea salt. And the light source is produced by a mixture of red, green, and blue LEDs that are used to make white light.
The direction that is emitted by LEDs is what makes these types of lights so different. Their light is emitted in a specific direction, which reduces the need for reflectors and diffusers—these are what traps the light. With other types of lighting, its light must be reflected in a certain direction, which causes much of that light to be wasted and may never even leave the fixture.
A huge benefit of LED lighting is that it emits less heat than the lighting alternatives. To provide a comparison, incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy through heat while LEDs release much less.
Where Are LEDs Commonly Used?
LEDs are used every single second for millions of applications around the globe. Given the many benefits, people are saving money and taking advantage of the many benefits for a wide range of purposes. Check out where these lights are frequently used:
Commercial and Industrial
Given the directional and energy-efficient qualities of LEDs, they are widely used for industrial and commercial purposes. It’s common to see these lights used as street lights, in parking garage lighting, in refrigerators, and in lighting areas outside.
Since LEDs are small and directional, they also work extremely well in kitchens. You can usually see these lights under cabinets for lighting countertops, as they work well for reading recipes and cooking.
Standard Bulbs Around the House
As incandescent lighting used to be the standard, LED lighting has taken households by storm. After homeowners have learned about the energy-efficient qualities of LED lighting, many are choosing to replace their outdated bulbs with the newer models. With the energy-saving and performance improvements, switching your everyday bulbs to LED is a no brainer. However, you’ll want to check the label on your fixtures to ensure LEDs can be used with them—older fixtures may be limited in their capabilities and power outputs.
In the past, people all over the world were using holiday lights that weren’t very energy-efficient and that gave off a lot of heat. But once LED lights hit the mainstream world, they have been a far better alternative for decorating. And given that Christmas lights stay on every single night for hours upon hours, the energy savings can really stack up with LEDs. Check out even more benefits of switching to LED lighting during the holidays:
- LED lights are much cooler, which lowers the chance of combustion.
- These lights are also much more durable and won’t break as easily as other types
- Many LED lights can be powered by one socket without it overloading
- LED lights also last extremely long—and might even work 40 years from now
Switching to LED lights for the holidays can give you the savings you need during the expensive gift-buying season.
Vehicles and bicycles
LED lights are used in lighting on vehicles and bicycles. I love my flashing LED lights on my bicycle. They’re super bright and last a long time.
What Does “LED” Really Mean?
“LED” stands for light-emitting diode.
Do LED Lights Work in Any Fixture?
As LED technology is getting more advanced every day, most LED lights can be used in any fixture. However, there are still some limitations to consider. The standard sockets like E26 and E12 are able to have LED bulbs, but others aren’t in the same boat quite yet. Before changing out your bulbs to LED, you should do your research to ensure your lights can handle the power and advanced technology of LED lighting.
How Long Do LEDs Last?
One of the best qualities of LED lighting is that it lasts forever. In fact, many LED options have a lifespan of more than 20,000 hours! And better yet, some models offer a remarkable 90,000 hours of shelf life. That being said, if you use the right bulb for the right fixture, then these lights will stay functioning for decades. This can save you tons of money and can provide some much-needed peace of mind!
Are LEDs Brighter?
Many people believe that LED lights are brighter than typical lights, but this isn’t necessarily true. All fixtures out there have a brightness level that depends on how much wattage it can handle—not to mention the number of lumens it can produce. So while you may think that these lights will be brighter, it’s really a matter of wattage.
Do LED Lights Contain Mercury?
LED lights should never contain any mercury at all. CFLs and fluorescent lights do, in fact, have a small trace of mercury, which is why these lights should be disposed of properly. That being said, given that no mercury is present in LED lights, you don’t have to worry about a special disposal process.
Are They Similar to CFLs?
CFLs and LEDs are both very energy-efficient lights, but there are a few differences to consider. Some of these include:
- CFLs take up to one minute to warm up and power on, while LED bulbs can instantly be turned on.
- When you turn your lights off and on, that will shorten the lifespan of CFLs. With LEDs, this doesn’t affect the lifespan.
- CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, while LEDs are free of this hazardous material.
Do LEDs Ever Fail?
Although LEDs are extremely durable and last forever, there is a chance that these lights can fail. Although rare, the common culprit of failure is due to heat. However, good design and the right location of these lights can prevent them from overheating and can result in a much longer lifespan.