Light Emitting Diodes… but let’s just call them LEDs
We were on the cutting edge of LED decorating technology in 2003. We learned the hard way over the years the cheap product is, well, awful. Manufacturers will tell you anything you want to hear and we made some painful and expensive mistakes over the years. We now know how important quality engineering and workmanship is to produce a product that will last for years, save energy, be just as bright as incandescents and also be very green for the environment.
What makes Winterland LEDs special? It’s all in how we use them in your venue. We can help you get creative by covering buildings in our heavy duty LEDs or giant snowflakes. But, we don’t stop there. If you can dream it, we can create it. You end of making a grand statement while getting people in the holiday spirit without using a lot of electricity.
What can LED’s do for you? Ask the people in Fort Wayne. The had a giant Santa sleigh and reindeer that used almost 25,000 incandescent Christmas lights and consumed 250Kw of power. In 2008 they replaced every light with a Winterland LED based retrofit bulb and cut the energy bill by 90%.
There are two types of LEDs: colored LEDs and white LEDs. Colored LEDs emit a specific color light (monochromatic light), regardless of the color of the transparent plastic lens that encases the LED’s chip. The plastic may be colored for cosmetic reasons, but does not substantially affect the color of the light emitted. Because the light is determined by the LED’s chip rather than the plastic lens, Christmas lights of this type do not suffer from color fading. In addition, the plastic lens is much more durable than the glass envelope of incandescent bulbs.
White LEDs are similar to colored LEDs in most respects such as power and durability, but utilize a two-stage process to create the white (polychromatic, or broad spectrum) light. In the first stage, the LED actually only produces one color of light, similar to any other LED. In the second stage, some of the blue or violet-blue is absorbed by a phosphor which fluoresces yellow, imitating the broad spectrum of colors which our eyes perceive as “white”. This is essentially the same process used in fluorescent lamps, except for the use of an LED to create blue light rather than excited gas plasma to create ultraviolet.
White LEDs can be used as white Christmas lights, or can be used to create any other color through the use of colored refractors and lenses, similar to the more commonly used incandescent bulbs. Color fading may therefore occur due to the exposure of colored plastics to sunlight or heat, as with ordinary Christmas lights. Yellowing may also occur in the epoxy “bulb” in which the LED is encased if left in the sun consistently.
LEDs use much less electricity (only 4 watts for a 70-light string) and have a much greater lifespan than incandescent lamps. Since they are constructed from solid state materials and have no metallic filaments to burn out or break, LEDs are also much less susceptible to breakage from impact or rough handling.
Although LEDs themselves are long-life devices, older or lower-quality strands of LED-based Christmas lights can suffer from early failure. This is particularly so with blue ones, which are the newest and most expensive, and therefore prone to cost-cutting; in addition, spares are rarely included with sets. Most LED-based Christmas lights use copper wire which connects to the aluminum-based wires of the LEDs. Exposing this combination of metals to moisture can result in galvanic corrosion inside of the lamps’ sockets, causing them to stop working. Many other sets use cheaper steel leads on the LEDs, which instead rust, leading to the same result. Some newer and higher-quality sets of LED Christmas lights have each LED permanently mounted in a non-removable weathertight base to keep out rain and other moisture, helping to prevent such corrosion; however, this prevents the user from replacing defective bulbs.
Most common consumer LED lamps produce intense, deep, pure colors, versus incandescent bulbs which generally have subtler, yellow-tinted colors, often somewhat faded especially if used outside. Blue tends to be the dimmest incandescent color, but the brightest in LED, while yellow is just the opposite. Very early strings of LED lights were noticeably dimmer than incandescent bulbs, but now are often noticeably brighter. These factors combine to give LED lamps a distinct aesthetic from older incandescent strings, although white LEDs behind colored lenses do offer the ability to provide a more incandescent-type appearance with most of the benefits of energy efficiency. However, most use colored-chip type LEDs that produce the intense colors. This is largely due to the maturity of colored LED versus newer white LED technology, and as the technology improves so will the ability to change the aesthetics of the lamps, at lower cost than at present. “Warm white” LED sets became commonly available for the first time in U.S. stores, having a color similar to that of a compact fluorescent light. However, this color would need to have more of an orange tint to match the color of very small incandescent bulbs, because they burn at a lower temperature. Still, this provides a much closer match to incandescent light color than was available when only very cool (bluish) white was available. One can choose cool-white LEDs for their crisp or snow-white quality, or warm white LEDs for their more familiar incandescent-like color.
Additionally, low-end sets do not contain power supplies (or have only a transformer instead of a SELV), and so the bulbs flicker in sync with the alternating current, being completely off when the voltage is negative. This produces a noticeable stroboscopic effect when an individual happens to move the lights across his or her field of view quickly, as when moving the eyes or turning the head rapidly. Higher-quality strings include a bridge rectifier to supply full-wave direct current to the lamps, making the lights brighter and greatly reducing the flickering (though there is still a small amount because diodes need a minimum voltage to begin conducting). Cheaper sets with two circuits connect each in the opposite polarity, which minimizes flicker in the combined light reflected from walls, and also keeps power consumption symmetrical so as not to affect the electrical system.
Many mini sets use standard 3mm dome-shaped LEDs, and have a plastic cover over them to provide refraction, which is an important step in diffusing the unidirectional light they cast. These covers come in C5, C6, and C7 sizes (⅝, ¾, and ⅞-inch, or 16, 19, and 22 mm diameters, respectively) pointed “strawberries,” G12 (12mm or almost ½-inch) globe “raspberries,” and “M5″ (5mm or 7⁄32-inch) pointed cylinders, equivalent to the T1¾ mini lights so common since the 1980s. For blue and green, these covers may have some fluorescence, leading to a lighter color. Other sets have 5 mm domes with no covers, though because these project light in one direction, many of these instead have a cone-shaped indentation on the top, refracting much of the light out to the sides. Still other sets have covers like snowflakes (or for Halloween, pumpkins). There are also multi-LED screw-in bulbs which replace real C7½ and C9¼ bulbs, and are much closer in brightness than the mini imitations.