LEDs are the only choice for landscape lighting due to their light output, energy efficiency and long lifespan. However, one issue that must be addressed when using LEDs is the issue of heat. LEDs generate heat as a byproduct of their operation, and if this heat is not properly dissipated, it will cause the LED to fail prematurely. This is the number one reason LEDs do not last as long as they should.
The reason heat must be drawn away from LEDs is it can affect the LED performance. Heat can cause the LED to produce less light, and in some cases, it can cause the LED to emit light of a different color than intended. This color shifting is prominent as LEDs overheat. In addition, heat can cause the LED to degrade more quickly, reducing its life span.
To prevent these issues, heat must be drawn away from the LED as quickly as possible. This can be done through a process called thermal management. Thermal management involves using materials and design techniques that help to dissipate heat away from the LED.
One common way to dissipate heat is to use a heat sink. A heat sink is a piece of metal or other material that is designed to absorb and dissipate heat. The heat sink is usually attached to the LED, and it helps to draw heat away from the LED by increasing the surface area that is in contact with the surrounding air. This increase in surface area allows more heat to be dissipated and prevents the LED from overheating.
Thermal management is a critical aspect of LED landscape lighting. LEDs generate heat while operating, and if not properly managed, this heat can cause damage to the LEDs and reduce their lifespan. In fact, running LEDs at high temperatures can diminish the lifespan by half. If this is done over a period of time, a 70,000 hour LED can be reduced to 2,000-3,000 hours.
Challenges in LED Landscape Lighting Thermal Management
One of the challenges of thermal management in LED landscape lighting is dealing with enclosed fixtures. Enclosed fixtures with "drop-in" or "retrofit" lamps, have an air gap between the LED and the exterior brass or aluminum casing. This will present challenges for thermal management because air is a poor conductor of heat. Air is used in insulation because air does not allow heat to transfer easily. When there is a half inch air gap between the LED and the fixture, the LED will not properly dissipate heat.
To overcome this challenge, quality manufacturers may use metal-on-metal connectivity and an outside connection of the metal to air to dissipate heat more effectively. These are referred to as heat sinks. Heat sinks are devices that are designed to dissipate heat by increasing the surface area that is in contact with the outside air. They can be an effective tool for thermal management, but it is important to select heat sinks that are designed specifically for the type of LED being used.
In addition to proper thermal management techniques, the use of high-quality, durable materials for the fixtures can also contribute to the overall lifespan of the lighting system. Brass, copper, and premium grade anodized aluminum cannot only dissipate heat, but also last a long time in harsh environments. Additionally, the shape and size of the fixture can also affect heat dissipation.
In summary, proper thermal management is essential for prolonging the lifespan of LED landscape lighting. Heat must be drawn away from LEDs in order to prevent the LED from failing prematurely or emitting light of a different color. Techniques such as using metal-on-metal connectivity and heat sinks, as well as selecting high-quality, durable materials for the fixtures can all help to ensure that the lighting system lasts as long as possible. It is important to consider thermal management as a critical aspect of LED landscape lighting to ensure a long-lasting and efficient lighting system.