The truth behind LED lights and why they are always dying. | Teen Ink

The truth behind LED lights and why they are always dying.

June 20, 2022
By William_Blair BRONZE, Vermont South, Other
William_Blair BRONZE, Vermont South, Other
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

To find the truth to why our products of the present die, we must look at the sins of the past. 97 years ago, the Phoebus cartel was founded in Switzerland, it was a cartel made up of Osram, General Electric, Associated Electrical Industries, and Philips who were the major incandescent lightbulb manufacturers at the time.

The founders of this cartel would punish competitors that would have lightbulbs that exceeded a 1000-hour lifespan limit which was created to increase the profitability of the industry, the cartel was fortunately dissolved 83 years ago but remnants of its greed remain in the industry.

Though the cartel was disrupted and dissolved due to WW2 the principles and ideas it instilled into the lighting industry remain. Our current LEDs have good efficiency, long lifespans, and great lighting but to reach these specifications they must run their LEDs at a “90% duty cycle” or 90% of what it is capable of. When the lightbulbs try to get any brighter, they have a higher power draw, and they will produce more heat because the LED becomes less efficient.

This is done so that the inside of the lightbulb is put under more stress than they are meant for which will cause them to fail after enough time commonly below the lightbulb's lifespan. These lightbulbs could use less energy and produce less heat by creating more efficient LEDs but are not because of how it will affect their profits.

Recently the EU has introduced new efficiency ratings that has led many products to be de-ranked. One of the side effects of this change is that it has forced Philips to produce an ultra efficient range of lightbulbs that are far better than what was seen in previous designs, this is done by using more LEDs that are run at a reduced power draw where they are more efficient.

Recently I interviewed the lighting engineer at ARB 4x4 Simon Stickney, and he informed that LEDs were originally intended to draw less power however as people realised how bright they could get we decided to push them to their max but now because of how many LEDs we have they “draw huge amounts of power”. This suggests to me that LEDs have strayed off the path that they were created for and that they no longer resemble the product they were intended to be.

Simon then told me about a range LED lights designed for cars that used 62 percent more power when compared to its halogen globes counterparts. He then told me about how cars do not have much spare electricity from their alternators (the little generator in your car) and this meant that if you had enough of these lights on, they could drain your cars battery and leave you stranded.

After that he told me about their prototype LED headlight conversion kits and said that their biggest issues with them was cooling and reliability and that some companies had come out with a cooling fan on the back of the LED but once mud or water got inside the fans would seize up and they would not be cooled, a few guys at work used them and that’s what they found, this was quite concerning, if a cars LED headlight requires a fan to stay cool and functional then that means our LED lightbulbs would most likely need some cooling too, and yet all were given is a heatsink, but what else do we have?

Well, what we have according to Philips' own website, is their classic A60 LED lightbulbs which produce 121 lumens per watt (1 lumen is equal to a candlelight). Their ultra-efficient create 210 lumens per watt, their lifespans also see an enormous difference with the classic bulb having a 15,000-hour lifespan and the ultra-efficient having a 50,000-hour life span.

Unfortunately, their lifespans are self-certified and have a use case of only 2.7 hours a day, they also did not mention their testing conditions which could have influenced the results. 
If we dig deeper into these lightbulbs, we can see how similar they are, they use the same colour temperature of 4000k a neutral white colour, the ultra-efficient draws 4 watts and the classic draws 7 watts (1 watt = 1 joule, 8'700'000 joules = the total energy of what we eat and drink in a day), the only major differences between the lightbulbs are a 0.003kg increase in weight, a 0.1cm change in height and a 3 watt power draw difference, this suggests that little was done to change their classic lightbulbs into their ultra-efficient lightbulbs.

Due to all these changes the lighting industry is being directed into a brighter (pun definitely intended) and more affordable future, whether these lightbulbs make their way into Australia still needs to be seen, but the benefits that these lightbulbs can create are huge, perhaps the sins of the past have come and gone, and a new generation of home lighting is to come. 

The author's comments:

My name is william and this article was an assignment for my journalism and the media class, this article is focused on the concept of planned obsolescence, a business strategy used by mainly large manufacturers and companies in an attempt to increase the profitability of technology commonly by decreasing the lifespan of the item.

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