September 25, 2012

LED Me To The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Sawhill Custom Kitchen and Design

No I’m not that bad of a speller. I know how to spell lead, but that’s L.E.D or Light Emitting Diode. And LED lighting is, and has been, the light of choice for many kitchen designers in the past few years.  Originally LED lights where used only for accent lighting in cabinets or to illuminate the area above cabinets in a room. But as technology has increased, so has the use of LED lights, as have the benefits of LED lighting!

Originally the light output of the small individual “diode” (LED lamp, or bulb) was much less than incandescent, florescent or halogen light sources. But now the diodes have a much higher Lumen output so the LED light fixtures can easily replace traditional fixtures. Oh, you may be wondering what lumen means? Lumen is a unit of measure of the power of light perceived by the human eye. And that’s as technical as we’re going to get for this Blog.

So why would we want to lead you to LED lights? Well, LED lights will last longer than traditional light sources.  Typical incandescent bulbs last 1,000 to 2,000 hours, but LED lights tend to last from 25,000 to 50,000 hours.  When a manufacturer says that an LED lamp will last 25,000 or 50,000 hours, what the company actually means is that at that point, the light emanating from that product will be at 70 percent the level it was when new. There seems to be no industry standard for determining at what time span the LED is only transmitting less than that 100% so the industry engineers chose 70%.

And there’s no question that LED lights will use a fraction of the power used by standard incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light. But some wonder if more energy is needed to produce an LED lamp or fixture than the equivalent amount for a regular light bulb? Well according to the researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the answer is NO! LED lights cost less to manufacture and they use less energy to run.

Carnegie Mellon calculated the amount of energy needed to manufacture and then run a light source for 25,000 hours. The results: the energy needed for one of these light sources ranged from 1,500 kilowatt-hours for the standard incandescent bulbs to 320 kWh for the compact florescent and 280 kWh for the LED light source. You can get more information about this study by going to the University’s website at

OK, so the lights last longer, and are actually more energy efficient. What else?  LED lights are much cooler and generate virtually no heat.  Anyone who’s ever stored chocolate on the bottom shelf of a cabinet with a halogen undercabinet light below will know why that’s important. Even fluorescent lights give off heat, but halogen is the worst.  Many years ago my first experience with halogen lighting was trying to remove a halogen bulb that had just burned out.  I knew it might be “warm” but I didn’t expect to get burned! Literally.

One complaint about LED lighting is that in the past you had to replace the whole fixture in many cases, not just the ED fixtures individual “lamps”. Now 25,000 hours is about 20 years, but OK it’s true that it would be more difficult to replace an entire LED fixture than an incandescent bulb. Until now!! Some LED strip light fixtures have small removable lamps. So the strip holding the lamps can stay in place and you can simply replace any lamps that have started to dim. You can even change out the lamps with different colors for the different holidays or seasons!!

Another complaint about LED lights is the upfront cost for the fixtures and lamps. The fixtures are expensive, but the cost is coming down. And when you amortize the cost over a 20 year span there is always going to be a cost savings with LED lights.  You don’t have to take my word for it, go to to see comparisons over a ten year span in a commercial building. So in the long run LED lights will actually cost you less money. Even over fluorescent lights.

We’ve recently installed a new Kitchen display that features LED lighting through out, including LED lights for drawers, appliance garages, & blind corner cabinet applications.  So if you’re planning a kitchen remodeling or bathroom remodeling project, LED lights should be part of your plans. And beware if your kitchen designer or bathroom designer is not familiar with LED lighting.

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Sawhill Custom Kitchen and Design

September 25, 2012