The Achilles Heels of an LED Circuit


Currently, one of the best sources of lighting available are light emitting diodes, which are more commonly known as LEDs. However, over-heating will mean lights out quickly. Both should be taken into consideration when choosing the right LED circuit for your application.

Understanding LEDs

An LED consists of a semi-conductor material known as p-n junctions. When the right amount of voltage passes across this junction, photons are emitted on a visible spectrum. The chemical makeup of the material will determine the color of the LED.

The LED circuit is what powers the LEDs. It is made up of an LED, a voltage source, and a resistor that reduces the voltage. Other components, such as sensors and switches may also be added to the circuit, but will not have an effect on the principles that send power to the LED.

Lighting Efficiency

In comparison to other lighting sources, LEDs are much more efficient. When converting wattage over to a useable light, standard incandescent produce as little as 15% efficiency and fluorescent lighting at its best is only 50% efficient.

In the semi-conductor electronics that are currently on the market, the efficiency of LEDs is at least 85%. Therefore, they have become the ideal choice for lighting solutions in most homes, boats and recreational vehicles.

Excess Heat

With all light sources, there is always a certain amount of residual heat. This heat energy can quickly destroy the light source. The current flow through the LED circuit heats the LED, which will fail immediately if the temperature of the junction goes beyond 185°F. In order to ensure the proper design of an LED circuit, protection from over-heating is extremely important.

Even when operating at a voltage that is carefully controlled, some heat is still generated. By using a heat sink, the heat is removed before it reaches excessive temperatures.

The level of heat that a LED device produces depends primarily on the input voltage. For example, if the LED circuit is built to operate at 12.8 volts, it will cease to function at 14.7 volts. Deterioration will take place at a much faster rate and the lifetime will decrease from 100,000 hours to only a few thousand hours.

An LED circuit is a worthwhile investment and with proper design can provide many years of quality service. However, sufficient heat protection is vital to ensure the long life of any LED device.