LED lights insight

Nicolas Mokhoff at Automotive Times describes the Good, bad, and ugly of LEDs and how they are used this year on the Christmas tree gracing Rockefeller Center in New York. LED’s are not only gaining traction as holiday lighting, they are also used for vehicle marker lights and other RV and automotive needs. Mokhoff points out that some holiday lighting strings use LED’s with aluminum leads plugged directly into copper outlets. This can cause a problem.

They rust from the inside out, and stop working. Quite visible. Problem apparent after a single season. The ones that are not socketed? When an LED bulb burns out, you can’t replace it … LEDs generally get dimmer as they get older. The white ones are the worst, because they act like a fluorescent light. They are actually ultraviolet LEDs that shine against a phosphorescent coating on the outside of the bulb.”

It does not seem that this dissimilar metal problem is common in other applications but there does appear, from some discussions on RV discussion forums and elsewhere, that LED lighting is something of a mystery.

One fact that creates some confusion and may relate to the aluminum meets copper thing is that LED’s have to be used in an electronic circuit. That circuit is necessary to make sure the LED gets the right voltage and current to do its thing. The simplest circuit is just a series resistor. Modern LED lighting systems often use new custom power IC’s that can control several LED’s at once and provide dimming and other control capabilities. When you get an LED, whether as a marker light fixture or an incandescent bulb replacement, these circuit components are built into the device along with, usually, several LED’s aimed in the right direction.

LED’s have several characteristics that appeal to the RV and automotive (and trucking) communities. They can be very durable and last a long time. They are bright and very efficient in power use. They do tend to be directional which is great for a reading light but not so great for space lighting. They come in colors.

The cost of LED lighting is currently rather high but it is dropping at the same time efficiency and brightness are improving.

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