The LED lighting revolution

Integrated LED lighting has come a long way
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
by Brittney Hayes

Lighting trends are constantly changing, but something that isn’t going away is LED technology, so here are some quick facts to help choose the right fixture for your next project.

Although it feels like LED is a recent development, it has actually been around for quite a long time. The red LED diode was discovered first, back in the 60s, and the green shortly thereafter, but it was the invention of the blue LED in 1992 that finally allowed us to begin incorporating it into products like televisions and electronic devices.

When LED first hit the consumer market, it was in those bright and very blue Christmas ‘icicle’ lights. Before the technology could be applied to the residential lighting market, a solution had to be found to make the LED more tolerable, as well as dimmable. When looking at an LED diode, there a yellow dot, but that is not actually the light source, it is a coating of yellow phosphor over the blue diode. The thickness and strength of the phosphor coating is what determines the colour temperature: a very thin layer will give cool whites and a very thick layer will give warm yellows and burnt oranges.

The lighting industry is most excited about LED as it allows the design of fixtures to be smaller, more appealing to the consumer and more energy efficient. Building codes are being updated to include stricter regulations on energy consumption, to the extent that some cities and municipalities are passing codes that require all new-build lighting to be LED. The 100, 75 and 60 watt lamps are banned from use and this is only the beginning, soon medium based sockets in general will be a thing of the past.

Traditional incandescent lighting uses resistors to allow the metal filaments to build up heat to the point that they glow burning hot. To do this, they require a lot of electricity (wattage). LED uses semi-conductors so they conduct electricity instead of resisting it, and therefore require much less energy to produce light. They also emit less heat by using what is called a ‘heat sink’ to help dissipate the heat, usually hidden behind the LED board.

Currently, an LED light source can be incorporated into lighting fixtures in one of two ways: with after-market LED lamps or by choosing fixtures that use ‘integrated LED’, where the light source is built right into the fixture. LED lamps come in just about every type from medium-base PARs and A19s (usual screw-in lamps) to tiny bi-pins for use in low-voltage pendants. They can range in colour temperatures from a warm 2700K to a bright white 5000K and beyond. They are energy efficient and are rated to last much longer than incandescent lamps (25,000 hours versus 2,500). Manufacturers are learning how to incorporate LED diodes into lamps in the most incredible ways – everything from vintage squirrel-cage Edison-style lamps to fluorescent plumen-style lamps in LED versions.

However, it is integrated LED that is truly the future of LED lighting. Building the LED right into the fixture allows for two things: assured energy efficiency (as there is no way to change out the lamp to a higher wattage) and freedom of design. Modern, contemporary styles are leaning towards integrated LED because they can create sleek, minimalist lines and designs by using LED tape light. Traditional and vintage styles are starting to use integrated LED by building around small modules and LED boards that can be recessed into the fixture.

Currently there are two types of integrated LED lighting: AC LED and DC LED. AC electricity is what runs in every electrical grid in North America and powers homes and buildings. DC electricity is what is used in smaller electronics that sometimes require battery power, like laptops and video game consoles. DC LED requires a driver to convert the AC electricity to DC, and this driver is usually located in the canopy, or is sometimes hidden in the body of the fixture. Often DC LED is low voltage as well, so it will require a transformer in addition to the driver, to convert the 120V electricity to 12V.

AC LED is both driverless and is 120V, so there is no need for a transformer. It is the most revolutionary LED technology we have to date and allows for smaller canopies and back-plates, easier install and slimmer profiles. It is dimmable, available in a myriad of colour temperatures and boasts a CRI of 90+ in most applications. AC LED is being incorporated into commercial, institutional, as well as residential lighting applications. The elimination of remote components and advances in the technology has brought the price level down to be on par with incandescent fixtures using after-market lamps. Most importantly, integrated LED fixtures are rated to last for 15 to 20 years, so just like any other large appliance in the home, maintenance is almost non-existent.

Integrated LED lighting has come a long way, with many styles like chandeliers, flush mounts, wall sconces, outdoor lighting and exterior bollards. Available in warm colours with soft finishes, integrated LED that will create a comfortable, well-lit and environmentally friendly space for clients.


Brittney Hayes has been a lighting manufacturer’s representative with Nuvo Sales Group for eight years, and four of those years have been spent working directly with the design community on residential, commercial, and institutional projects all across western Canada. She specializes in training architects, engineers and designers on new and emerging lighting technologies.

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