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Many people often think about LED lights as sources of light that do not generate heat. Well, at least not so much in comparison to incandescent lights. However, the truth is that despite not producing significant heat in the form of infrared radiation, they actually run hot on the inside due to the inefficiency of the semiconductors.
In that regard, LED lights are not an exception to the law of thermodynamics, they tend to degrade over time and slowly reduce their light output as a consequence. But rest easy, since there are several things that you can do to mitigate the problem. Among those is the use of LED heatsinks, which is a ready-available and affordable solution.
Are LED Lights Affected By Heat? How?
The Answer to the first question is yes, they are indeed affected by heat. This is because high temperatures directly affect the semiconducting elements of the light LED. The chip as well as the junctions, and the light emitting diode see their inner working affected by the changes in temperature, which translates in a reduction of the lumen output over time.
As a point of reference, an LED lamp operating on an ambient temperature between 20-25degrees Celsius and with a recommended current, can peak from 60to 80degrees Celsius for its junctions, which is considerably warm for electronics.
Prolonged exposition to heat means reducing the life expectancy of any electronic device, and the same goes for LED light systems. The consequences, as mentioned above, are the inevitable acceleration of its degradation process and the reduction in light output, which usually tends to get notified once the LED light reaches half of its lifespan. Technically speaking, a good quality LED can deliver up to 100,000 hours of illumination, but only if it's not exposed to high temperatures for too long.
The Consequences of High Temperatures
To summarize, your LED lights will not only expire sooner due to heat but also get dimmer much faster than they normally would. This may be a huge problem if you intend to keep good lighting conditions in critical spaces like a library, an office or even your living room for that matter.
Typically, LED manufacturers to provide a curve of usage or figures that illustrate the relation between junction temperature and the estimated light output of their products. Some of them even go the extra mile to include compensation circuits that keep the current in check in order to maintain a reliable light output for different ambient temperatures.
However, not all manufacturers bother in incorporating LED heatsinks and mechanisms that compensate for the high temperature in the junctions. For such reason, you need to be picky when it comes to LED solutions.
Getting into details, the heating and cooling process of LED lights that ultimately determines its lifespan actually depends on several elements. Some of these include the LED wattage, the ambient temperature of the place they'll be installed, the number of individual LEDs embedded into the solution, and whether or not there are heatsinks to keep it cool.
The lack of cooling solutions is a free pass for temperatures to rise and ruin the junctions of the light emitting diode.
What Are LED Heatsinks And Why Are They So Important?
Something needs to be done about the heat produced by LED lights. Otherwise, they would fail to fulfill customer needs since they would die faster. One of the most widespread methods is the use of passive cooling, and that’s where LED heatsinks come in to play.
Basically, heatsinks transfer the heat generated by the light emitting diodes to a fluid medium that is enclosed in a vacuum tube, which provides excellent thermal conductivity. This principle is known as conduction. A heat sink has a surface area that is in contact with the air, which is what enables the transferred heat to be dissipated once it reaches the spreader. The latter is known as convection.
Heat sinks are actually used across a vast array of electronic devices to keep microprocessors and integrated circuits cool. All computers have them inside in order to provide cooling for the CPU or GPU.
The heat sink itself can be made of different materials. Copper is one the best due to its conductive properties. However, aluminum is not as good but is cheaper, hence is more widely used. Thermoplastics also do the job but they are not so efficient. That is why they are relegated to low-power LED solutions in which size and lightweight are more important factors.
The most premium LED heatsinks can feature active cooling. In other words, a fan on top of the heatsink, just like a regular CPU cooler. This helps with the ventilation a lot since is actively providing air. However, it is also noisier, so that’s a factor to keep in mind when opting for this solution.
It's also worth mentioning that for heatsinks to work effectively, the heat spreader must be in direct contact with the surrounding air. Enclosed spaces can drastically affect the effectiveness of the cooling. So, that's a drawback to keep in mind.
Buying LED solutions with heatsinks or adding them later has a series of noteworthy benefits, mainly the fact of prolonging the lifespan of ceiling lights, LED lamps, and bulbs, which ultimately gives LED technology the upper hand over incandescent or fluorescent lights.
Secondly, it's a low-cost solution that doesn't require maintenance or energy to work.
LED heatsinks also allow the LED to keep working at full brightness the whole time. This is especially important to maintain lightning uniformity in large spaces that require several sources of light. So, there are certain aesthetic benefits in having them.
On the other hand, LED heatsinks are a must have in high-power LED solutions, which tend to run hotter on the inside and to degrade faster in the absence of proper cooling.
To conclude, we can establish that the benefits of LED heatsinks are not limited to prolong the lifetime of LEDs -which also means saving money in the long term by not having to replace them so often- but are also crucial to sustaining efficiency and full brightness.
For such reasons, you should consider them next time that you are in the market looking for reliable lighting solutions that rely on LED technology.