If you’re like me, you probably love to illuminate areas of your home that lack natural light. Unfortunately, light often brings heat, and this can create problems. This can easily be accomplished with the use of LED lights.
LED lights produce heat just like any other light bulb, but the heat generated by them is warm to the touch and requires less energy. This means that LEDs are not only more energy-efficient but are ideal for use in areas of your home that are heat-sensitive without compromising the light, bright aesthetic.
Do LED Lights Get Hot?
There are claims by some marketers that LED lights do not produce any heat, this is far from the truth.
As long as an appliance relies on electricity, it will produce heat, so all light bulbs generate heat. In reality, LED bulbs tend to produce far lesser heat than other bulbs on the market, and this is attributed to their high-energy efficiency.
LED lights operate at varying temperatures, and this is determined by the fixture and room temperature. Therefore, some of the LED lights in your home will run warmer than others depending on the conditions present in the area.
LED bulbs are fitted with special circuits that work to lower the voltage from your mains to that which is needed by the LED chips. Due to this, they tend to be more sensitive than other kinds of bulbs.
Please note that some cheaper bulbs carry warnings that it is dangerous to use them in a fully enclosed fixture.
The reason is simple, heat will quickly build up in an enclosed fixture, which will shorten the LED bulb components. If you require an enclosed fixture, make sure to purchase a bulb rated for the full enclosure, or you could void your warranty.
LEDs are the ideal choice for task lighting or any areas where heat could pose problems, thanks to their low heat emission.
Think of how uncomfortable you’ll be if you got into your home gym only to start sweating even before you did any workouts. Well, LEDs will not produce such an effect.
LED lights are best for such scenarios, you can use them as you like without turning your room into a hot box.
How do LED Lights produce heat?
As earlier mentioned, even the most energy-efficient LED light produces some amount of heat. However, the difference in technology is what sets LED lights apart from other light bulbs, in the way that heat is generated.
Take a closer look at any LED light bulb and you’ll immediately notice a ceramic section on the product. This is the heat sink. The role of the heat sink is to expel heat from the system to reduce heat build-up.
Since LED lights produce less heat, the heat sink only releases a small amount of hot air. Something to keep in mind is that the heat sink can get hotter, so you should avoid touching it when the lights are on.
The quality of a sink is crucial when we talk about heat dissipation. A high-quality heat sink will always release heat fast enough to prevent any build-up of heat.
The type of material used and the design of a heat sink are some of the factors that influent the amount of heat they can efficiently release.
Do deformations in LED lights affect the heat produced?
A key component of a LED light is the diode. It is important to note that the slightest irregularity in its structure will make your lamp produce large amounts of heat.
The materials involved in the production process also go a long way in determining the amount of heat it emits.
The core function of the diode is to emit light energy. It does this by converting 80% of the supplied current to light energy, while the remaining 20% is given off as heat.
This is why an energy-efficient LED light is a combination of good quality diodes, materials, and proper installation of the product.
You should always go for LED lights with the best ratings when you need to meet your lighting needs.
Does the Positioning of LED lights matter?
The position of a LED light bulb can influence the amount of heat produced. When a LED bulb is positioned in an up or down method it tends to emit much less heat.
Assuming the space you plan to illuminate requires sideway positioning of your LED light bulbs, you need to ensure that the operating temperatures are within normal ranges.
The connection between heat production, energy, and the lifespan of LED lights
We have already established that all electronic items will produce heat. For an incandescent bulb to produce light, a filament has to be heated. The process of heating and cooling is where the wear and tear take place, which significantly lowers the lifespan of the bulb.
This is another way that we can assess how much heat is generated by different types of bulbs.
As shown in the table below, incandescent bulbs tend to have a far shorter lifespan than their LED counterparts. The simple reason why LEDs last longer, is that LED lights operate under far lesser temperatures.
|Type of Light Bulb||Typical Lifespan|
As I highlighted above, LEDs easily have the longest lifespan of all types of bulbs.
The fact that incandescent bulbs are constantly exposed to high temperatures, compromises their lifespan. In contrast, the LED light bulb will continue to run, producing lesser heat through its operational period.
Among many things, energy efficiency, and low heat production are some of the reasons why LED lights record longer lifespans when compare to traditional light sources.
The junction temperature or internal heat can lead to a dimming or malfunctioning of a LED light bulb. This is the period when they are considered defective.
Because traditional light sources with high junction temperatures cannot reduce their internal heat production, they are ultimately condemned to shorter lifespans.
With LED lights the heat sink does a good job of regulating the internal temperature, by releasing a large amount of heat. This results in a lower junction temperature, which preserves the heat-sensitive components and increases the lifespan of the bulb.
In traditional bulbs, the constant production of heat can also affect the structure and creates damage to the equipment. Therefore, it is safe to say that heat is responsible for most malfunctioning light bulbs.
Thanks to the lower heat produced by LED lights, the rate of damage is drastically reduced. The significant heat reduction easily puts the lifespan of a LED light at almost 5 times greater, compared to traditional light sources.
Moreso, once a LED light has lived beyond its specified estimated lifespan, it will continue to operate. Though, the light output will slowly deteriorate and dim down.
What affects junction temperature?
Ambient temperature and drive current and factors that influence the junction temperature of LEDs. Others include the nature of the light output, the LED wattage per unit area of the surface that dissipates heat, and whether it is steady state or pulsed.
The thermal path from the LED junction to the surrounding of the package is a key factor in the operation of a LED bulb. Heat must be dissipated away from the LED in an efficient manner, and completely evacuated from the area by convection.
In a LED product, convection can happen in one of two ways, convection from the outside of the package or a finned heatsink with a large surface area. In a higher-power array, convection may be achieved using forced air cooling (i.e. a fan) or water cooling.
Now that we have enough information about unction temperatures, we can calculate the junction temperature of the LED under different operating conditions. This will also help us determine the lifespan of a LED light bulb based on individual fixtures.
The thermal performance of the entire system must be taken into account as well. One such scenario is the placement of an LED into IP-rated fixtures that are used as floodlights.
This led to the forming of an air pocket, created by a sealed skin around the LED module, which prevented the efficient release of heat to the surrounding surface.
The lack of a radiator is not a major consideration in the design – which can lead to significant long-term problems.
LED lights, just like any other electrical equipment will produce heat, however, they will never produce as much heat as traditional bulbs.
LED vs. Incandescent Heat
Before we go on to compare LED and incandescent bulbs, we need to discuss the fundamental working principles of these two types of lighting. As I already mentioned, LED lights have more components compared to traditional bulbs.
LED lights are made up of diodes that convert electrical current into light, while incandescent or classic bulbs work by heating a wire filament to produce light. The visible metal inside the glass is surrounded by a vacuum or inert gas.
Incandescent lights are more affordable because they are cheaper to manufacture. You can get them in a variety of voltages, adapting to different outputs and currents. It is safe to say that their affordability is also their greatest advantage.
While they may be more affordable, they have the worst energy efficiency. This is because 90% of the energy consumed is wasted as heat, which of course comes with another risk of potentially causing a fire.
Yes, it’s true!
Since only 10% of the energy used by an incandescent bulb goes into light production, picture how much heat they’ll be creating with incandescent lights in a light, bright room.
In addition to the heat problems they are associated with, they also have a shorter lifespan. The average bulb only lasts approximately 1,200 operating hours, which is 5 times lesser than the lifespan of an LED bulb.
To put things into perspective, you will have used up to 100 incandescent light bulbs before reaching the lifespan of one LED light bulb. Fortunately, the higher cost of LED lights is worth every penny if we take into account the long lifespan of these bulbs.
In summary, not only do LEDs produce far lesser heat, but they have a longer lifespan and greater efficiency when compared to traditional light sources.
Which Light Bulbs Produce The Most and The Least Heat
Still on the topic, If you’re still in doubt as to whether LED lights are your best bet when it comes to lighting up your home, then take a look at the table below to find out which types of light bulbs generate the most and least amount of heat.
|Type of Bulb||Percentage of Energy Used Producing Heat|
From the table above, you can tell that LEDs vary in their heat production, depending on the type of LED bulb and its energy rating. However, they are a lot more energy efficient than halogen or incandescent.
While fluorescent lights produce less heat as well, most people do not like the effect accompanied by the light they produce.
Fluorescent lighting can get very cold, and most people do not like the flickering effect that people tend to associate with fluorescent, as it can easily trigger headaches in people prone to migraines.
Halogen on the other hand produces light 360º, meaning some of the light produced is pointed towards the ceiling, wasting energy.
Light Output of Different Bulbs
One common misconception about LED bulbs is that since they produce less heat, they must also produce less light. And this can leave you confused when you’re shopping for bulbs as they seem to have vastly different wattages.
I have been there before and I guess you have as well, looking through specifications in a bid to make sense of all the jargon, wondering which is the right one for the fixture. More so, is the confusion as to whether a smaller wattage LED can produce the same light as a high wattage incandescent bulb.
To understand this better, you need to cast your mind back to the way the bulbs function. Incandescent bulbs produce more heat because they have to heat a filament to produce light, which is power intensive.
LEDs on the other hand do not produce light by heating a filament, they simply supply current to diodes that convert the current to light, so you can choose a lower wattage LED and enjoy the same brightness. Though this may seem confusing, I have put together a simple comparison to guide you in replacing your incandescent bulbs with more efficient options.
Brightness (lumens)Incandescent (watts)Fluorescent (watts)LED (watts)
|Brightness (lumens)||Incandescent (watts)||Fluorescent (watts)||LED (watts)|
Assuming your current traditional bulb has a rating of 60w, you’ll need to swap it with an LED bulb that is 8 to 10 watts to deliver the same amount of light, which will reduce the heat output of your lighting. Seems like a win-win to me!
Do LEDs generate infrared heat?
The heat generated by an incandescent lamp is emitted into the environment in the form of invisible infrared radiation.
The excessive heat raises the temperature of the glass to the extent that touching it can leave you with a nasty burn. LED lamps do not produce infrared radiation, they are warm to the touch even when turned on.
So where is the energy loss in LEDs? LEDs can use up to 90% of the energy generated for light production, so the remaining energy is mainly generated in the light-emitting diode and to a small extent in the LED driver.
The diodes in the LED are semiconductors that do not radiate heat, however, the heat within the component must be dissipated via a suitable cooling solution. Failure to do so can damage the LED bulb. LEDs that operate under high temperatures tend to have a shorter lifespan. If the operating temperature is too high, the lifespan of the light source also decreases.
LED lamps also emit heat
As I already mentioned above, LEDs are not left out when it comes to heat production, but the heat they produce is nowhere near that of a traditional bulb. Furthermore, the power loss discussed above is not radiated in the form of infrared heat but is released from the lamp via a heat sink.
How big is the LED heat output?
The amount of heat produced by a LED lamp depends on several factors, they include:
- Light output
The heat generated by low heat light sources can easily be evacuated and released into the surrounding. Lamps with a higher luminous flux tend to produce more power loss.
A LED bulb needs to have a decent integrated cooling system. High-efficiency LED lamps ensures a good ratio between light output and power dissipation.
The size of a LED light source can also affect the amount of heat produced. Smaller light sources have very little space to accommodate a heat sink, this is the reason they become warmer.
If an LED light source is installed in a location with restricted airflow, it will generate more heat. Choosing a location with good airflow will improve the heat dissipated into the environment.
Retrofit vs LED luminaire Heat
With the retrofit LED illuminants the old illuminants can be easily replaced. Heat loss is easier in a larger design. For example, heat generation is therefore very low with E27 lamps. On the other hand, retrofit lamps for G4 or G9 pin bases have a very small design, which leaves little to no room for a heat sink.
Regardless of the LED technology, smaller bulbs tend to get hot and can leave your skin with a nasty burn if you touch them. With native LED lights, heat is not a problem. These bulbs are integrated into the LED unit right from the start. So the concept of cooling is already part of the design.
The amount of heat generated depends on the type of construction
In practice, heat dissipation is more efficient in larger LED lamps, small illuminants become warmer due to the poorer cooling possibilities.
Heat generation from LED spots and recessed spotlights
Under certain circumstances, the heat generated by recessed LED spotlights or spots can become a problem. Since they are recessed into the ceiling and can primarily dissipate their waste heat downwards into the room.
One way to keep LED spotlights heat production low, is to reduce the power per spotlight while increasing the number of units. For example, let’s say you plan to install 5 spots with 800 lumens each, you can instead make that 8 spots with 500 lumens each, by so doing you will reduce the heat generation in each spotlight.
Furthermore, you can reduce heat production, even more, by lowering the spotlight voltage to 12v. These usually have a lower heat output than the 120V variants. A low voltage recessed spotlight will only lose power in the chip and the driver.
Heat loss does not occur in the unit itself, but in a separate LED transformer.
Since heat loss does not occur in the spotlight, we can safely increase the number of spots with a lower output without problems. The power supply losses will be transferred to the transformer.
Heat generation from GU10 lamps
LED GU10 lamps are a classic replacement solution for old GU10 halogen lamps. In this type of lighting, the heat generation is largely dependent on the installation situation. In a situation whereby the GU10 LED is installed in a spotlight without lamp glass, the waste heat would easily be released into the environment. On the other hand, when the illuminant is used in a lamp glass or recessed spotlight, a lot more heat tends to be produced.
Using a 120V GU10 lamp with an integrated power supply is known to increase heat output. Particularly with suspended lamps, the heat loss can only be dissipated to the socket via the base. In a situation where the lamp holder is in a recessed spotlight, you will have higher temperatures with a shorter lifespan.
Are GU10 lamps suitable?
Heat development in GU10 LEDs with high light output and unfavorable installation conditions often leads to problems. So your native LED spotlights are your best options due to their more efficient cooling systems.
While LEDs do produce some heat, they will always be better and cooler compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.
So, are you considering upgrading the lighting in your home?
Have you thought about how less heat from your lighting could benefit your room?
We’d love to hear more about your LED lighting ideas in the comments section below.