Hot and cold temperatures are just realities of life. If you live in New England like we do here at Access Fixtures, you know that one day the temperature outside can be 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the next day almost freezing! We are lighting specialists after all, and we often get questions from customers about how LED lights perform in different indoor and outdoor temperatures. Based on the science and our experience, LED lighting provides a viable alternative to traditional outdoor lighting methods for several reasons, but like anything else, it does not come without its own unique challenges. Read on to see how Access Fixtures has explored the effects of temperature on LED lighting performance, some common issues, and ways that modern technological advancements have worked to fix them.
Ice, Ice, Baby
Nothing is a bigger bummer than going into your ultra-cold garage at night and discovering that your lights won’t turn on! Such is the case with many traditional methods of lighting including fluorescent. Older-style fluorescent bulbs rely on mercury vapor pressure to turn on, and when it’s cold outside, this pressure is lower. This results in dim lighting or lights that won’t turn on at all in temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is obviously a huge problem in consistently cold climates and areas. Certain types of ballasts can improve this problem but can be a pricey solution. Other HID lighting methods such as metal halide can still work in colder temperatures but take forever to “warm up” and get brighter. Glass bulbs can also shatter when exposed to sudden temperature changes such as those that frequently occur in New England.
Now you know what NOT to use for streetlights in Alaska …Enter the LED!
LED lighting performs at its best in cold temperatures, due to the fact that LEDs rely on an electronic driver rather than a combustible source. Lumen output is not affected by cold temperatures– in fact, colder temperatures improve overall lumen output by allowing less stress on the driver. Since LEDs don’t rely on mercury vapor, cold temperatures don’t affect them in the same way that they do fluorescents. The great thing about LEDs is that they can also withstand sudden temperature changes as they are not made of breakable glass components, making them perfect for climates where this is bound to happen frequently. LEDs make great outdoor flood lights, wall packs, street lights, bollard lights, and more in cold climates.
Too Hot to Handle?
Most experts will agree that the biggest depreciating factor for LEDs is… you guessed it… excessive heat. Whether it’s due to a hot warehouse with no air conditioning, or the hot Arizona sun, LEDs do perform worse the higher the ambient outside temperature. 77 degrees, or 25 degrees Celsius, is the near-universal temperature standard against which L70 ratings are calculated by lighting manufacturers. For instance, if an LED (such as Access Fixtures’ APTA sports lighter) is L70 rated at 200,000 hours, that means that after 200,000 hours of continuous use at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the lumens will have depreciated by 30%.
So,what about LED lighting in really hot areas? Am I just doomed to have my lights stop working in a month if I live in southern Texas?
Back in the early days of LED, where LED fixtures were essentially just chips placed inside a shoebox-style housing, LEDs would overheat quickly due to the lack of ventilation. Some companies started installing small metal canopies to absorb the light away from the LEDs inside, but this still wasn’t a perfect solution because the sun would change positions across the sky and eventually shine directly at the LED box anyway. Putting fans inside LED fixtures just increases the complexity of the situation and encourages mechanical failures.
Thankfully, LEDs today have special features that prevent a lot of this heat-related lumen depreciation. For one thing, most fixtures come with built-in heat sinks which channel excess electrical heat and keep it away from the driver and the LEDs themselves. Shoebox-style fixtures have come and gone out of style in favor of open-air LED fixtures such as the APTA and APTI series of sports lighters. This allows for more direct ventilation and prevents overheating caused by direct sunlight. Access Fixtures’ LED luminaires are equipped with the most modern technology to combat this problem.
Don’t forget, LED light still produces less heat than traditional fixtures like metal halide and fluorescent. Even if heat still reduces LED lumens a little bit, LED is still the best outdoor lighting solution for both hot and cold climates.