Basic L.E.D Terminology Explained
— October 16, 2020 | 2 min read
There are a thousand and one different L.E.Ds out there that all have a role to play. Some sit atop a bull bar beaming light hundreds of metres ahead you, some illuminate your vehicle’s interior or dashboard. Then there are those that can be strapped on your head - allowing the use of both hands to work inside a dark engine bay.
The myriad of aftermarket L.E.D lighting options available to vehicle owners, be it driving lights, light bars, work lamps or strip lighting means at some point you’re likely to come across terminology that can be confusing for some. Performance is often marketed in lux, lumens, total watts or number of L.E.Ds multiplied by their individual power. Reliability is measured in standards like IP ratings and operating temperatures; then there’s current draw which is also important to consider for your electrical system.
We’re going to try and explain simply, some of these common L.E.D terms to help you make an informed purchase decision.
So what is an L.E.D light? First up, LED stands for light emitting diode. This type of light is significantly more efficient than halogen light bulbs and lights up via a semiconductor that passes an electrical current through it. It has quickly become the most popular technology for aftermarket driving lights and many new vehicles’ factory lighting, with good reason.
Many lights are promote their peak power output in wattage – the more watts, the more light, right? Well, not always. The power figure doesn’t speak to how efficiently this power is used by the L.E.Ds, or the product that they are contained within. How many “lumens” an L.E.D light has is a calculation (raw lumens) or measure (effective lumens) of how much light volume it can actually put out. The more the lumens, the more light. The humble household 60W globe has around 800 lumens, while most home lighting comes in at between 1,000 to 4,000 lumens depending on the room. Narva’s Ultima 215 LED Driving Lights output around 16,500 raw (10,175 effective) lumens – powerful stuff! But that’s not the end of the story, because having a lot of light volume doesn’t necessarily mean that light is going exactly where you need it.
In conjunction with lumens, you’ll often find a specification called LUX. If lumens equal the volume of light emitted from the lamps, the LUX is the intensity or brightness of the light at a certain measured point in the distance. For example, Ultima 215 L.E.D has a LUX of 1 at 900m, meaning if you held a sheet of paper in front of the vehicle, 900m away, it would have 1 LUX of light failing on it. At 1 LUX, it is possible for the average person to read a newspaper. Using a combination of power, lumens and lux, you can more accurately determine and compare the performance of different L.E.D lights. But don’t forget to check beam patterns, as L.E.Ds can be angled or shone using different reflectors designed for different purposes.
The IP rating – standing for Ingress Protection – determines how water or dust proof the light is. There are a number of different levels of protection here.
In the case of the Ultima 215 L.E.D Driving Light – which has an IP66 and IP67 rating – the L.E.Ds are protected from total dust ingress and is protected from powerful water jets from any direction and temporary immersion in water (for under 30minutes), so you know it can withstand a lot.
Operating temperatures are pretty straight forward - you can expect the L.E.Ds to work efficiently within the range specified. In the Ultima 215 example mentioned, the operating range is -10 to 65 degrees Celsius which covers the vast majority of conditions in Australia.
Input Voltage Range
The input voltage range is comprised of the lower and upper limits in which a power supply will operate. For most vehicle L.E.D lighting, this will usually be 12V or 24V, or 12/24V or even 9V-32V multivolt – meaning the light can operate on any voltage within that range.
Current draw indicates the maximum number of amps the LED draws, and the total number of Watts (power) is a measure of the light’s power. Whilst L.E.Ds are known for having a low power draw, compared to other lighting technologies like halogen and xenon globes, high performance driving lights can certainly draw plenty of power. It is important to keep in mind how much current is being drawn so you can provide adequate wiring, fuses and relays when installing, and also to ensure you don’t overload your electrical system or underpower the lights.
Finally, with some products a manufacturer may mention ECE. Narva’s Ultima 215 driving light is rated ECE R10. This is a European testing standard that measures RF (operating stress) and transient immunity and emissions. This is more important for those operating in fields with sensitive electrical technology, wanting to avoid any possible electrical interference from their lighting.
So there you have it - some useful L.E.D related terms explained that can hopefully guide your next L.E.D lighting purchase.