Here are a few facts about LEDs from ENERGY STAR that you might find enlightening.

During the holidays, you undoubtedly saw LEDs being sold alongside their traditional incandescent counterparts – and you also were likely to spot the difference when you drove by homes that were decked out in traditional lights as opposed to the new, brighter and whiter options. But what exactly are LED lights – and are they all the same? Here are a few facts about LED light bulbs from ENERGY STAR that you might find enlightening whether you are switching out one bulb in your home or are contemplating the switch for a home remodeling or renovation project:

What are LEDs?

LEDs (light–emitting diodes) are made of two conductive materials positioned together on a diode; as an electrical current passes through the diode, it releases energy in the form of light. (Traditional incandescent lights produce light by using electricity to heat a thin filament until it is literally “white” hot, and as a result, they lose up to 90% of their energy as heat.)

Are all LEDs white?

LED colors include amber, red, green and blue – but surprisingly, there is no such thing as a “white” LED. To get the white commonly used in homes and offices, LEDs of different colors are mixed together or covered with a phosphor material (the yellow materials you can see on LEDs) that converts the color of the visible light.

Do LEDs generate heat?

LEDs don’t radiate heat outward the way an incandescent or even a halogen bulb does. Instead, the heat produced from the power going into the LED is absorbed and then dissipated into the surrounding environment using a passive device called a heat sink. This prevents the LED from burning out, the way a typical incandescent bulb does over time.

Since LED bulbs don’t burn out, how do they fail?

LED bulbs last about 15 times longer than incandescent bulbs, making them a solid investment in your home over time. Generally, LEDs don’t burn out, the amount of light they emit will gradually fall over time, which is called lumen depreciation. So when you see predictions of “LED product lifetime” on a package, it means the amount of hours the bulb can be expected to be used before its light output decreases by 30%. That brings us back to the heat sink. You see, the higher the temperature the LED runs at, the more quickly its light will degrade. LEDs use many different types of heat sinks, which makes some products more effective than others.

How can you tell if you are buying a better bulb?

All LEDs, therefore, are not created equal. Poorly designed LED lights can flicker, change color over time, appear dim or uneven, and even continue to use power when they are turned off. To make certain that the light you are getting is a shining example of what an LED should be, look for the ENERGY STAR label. To earn the label, LEDs must meet 6 requirements for color quality – both initial and over time; meet minimum standards for light output and distribution; undergo stress testing and long-term testing; meet industry standards compliance reviews; and have at least a 3-year warranty.

No matter what type of remodeling, construction or home improvement project you are considering LED lighting for, do your research and make certain that you are investing in a quality product to ensure a good return on your investment.