In our last post, we provided some illuminating insights (pun absolutely intended) into factors that affect the true amount of light that your LEDs are emitting. We focused on the different types of lights, and whether watts, lumens or lux is the appropriate measure. In this post, we’ll continue this enlightening discussion (that one too) and look at other factors that can affect the output you’re getting from your aftermarket LED driving lights.
If you recall, the genesis of the discussion centred around a question that we are frequently asked: How is it that a 100W lamp can give more light than a 150W lamp? It’s a curly question, and we made some encouraging headway last time. So, let’s carry on, shall we?
Colour Me Kelvin
The Kelvin colour of your lamp can have a significant impact on the effective light that it gives off. Determining the optimal Kelvin colour comes down to achieving a healthy balance of colour definition and penetration. Typically lower Kelvin colours are warmer and provide great CRI (Colour Rendering Index) but don’t penetrate as far. On the other end of the spectrum, high Kelvin light might be visible from the International Space Station, but their harsh, blue/white light provides poor definition and very high glare.
To give you a frame of reference, Halogens are normally on the low end, at around 3500K, hence the comfy, warm glow that doesn’t carry terribly far. In the early days of HIDs and LEDs, most bulbs were rated at over 6500K, which may or may not account for high rates of vision impairment among off-roaders at the time. That is of course unless you subscribe to the theory that anyone who needs a light that bright is most likely an avid practitioner of another popular pastime that purportedly makes you go blind.
These days, most manufacturers have settled on what is generally considered to be the sweet spot of between 5000-6000K. This range tends to deliver an optimal balance of CRI and penetration so that you can get the sharpest visibility at the greatest feasible distance.
It should be glaringly obvious (seeing a pattern forming yet?), but few people consider the role that the construction of their LED plays in the quality of the light that they get out of it. All lamps utilise reflectors and optics to control the light so that it is directed in the most efficient fashion. Poor construction of a lamp can cause the energy to be dispersed inefficiently, drastically impacting the performance. Halogens and HIDs are typically constructed with a single, larger reflector channelling the light. LEDs, by contrast, typically employ multiple reflectors or optics. More parts mean greater margin for error. Get the construction right, and you will maximise the use of energy by focusing the light squarely where it needs to go. On the other hand, shonky construction will have the reverse effect, potentially resulting in a far less efficient lamp. The better-quality Australian LED manufacturers do a great job of ensuring they get the most out of their lamps. Punters should, however, recognise that the money that they save on cheap imported LEDs could, in fact, be purchasing them lamps that in practice perform at a far inferior level than their wattage rating would otherwise indicate.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
It should be simple, right? What 30 x 5W LEDs on a board, and voila! You’ve got yourself a 150W lamp! Errrm…not so fast. Rigging up that many LEDs together in close quarters is a pretty complicated proposition if you don’t want your lamp to overheat and explode in a fiery ball of flames. Once again those pesky overseas manufacturers of cheaper imports usually don’t know how, can’t afford or simply couldn’t be bothered to implement the appropriate manufacturing techniques and utilise the proper materials. It is far easier to have their LEDs running at 50-60% capacity, yet still pass it off as a 150W lamp. In this way, it is possible to have two lamps of equivalent wattage performing at wildly different levels. Local manufacturers generally have a far better handle on the electronics required and can be trusted to supply products that do what they say they will do.
So, there you have it! We’ve come to the end of our journey. We hope that this has helped you understand this incredibly complicated topic. If you’re keen to get yourself the brightest, highest-quality and optimally performing LED driving lights, Ultra-Vision Lighting is for you. Our outstanding LED Driving Lights and kick-butt Light Bars are manufactured right here in Australia to the loftiest standards. They truly are a shining example (couldn’t resist one last one) of what a LED driving lights should be.