Difference Between Cheap and Quality LED Light Fixtures

ETC's Source-4-led-group-low-macro fixtures are an excellent example of LED fixtures suited for church sanctuaries.

Churches are understandably looking to get the best return for the investment when purchasing equipment for their Sanctuary. To choose wisely one should understand what LED features are needed for reliable use over the long haul.

Jim Kumorek  ·  May 8, 2017

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With LED lighting becoming the norm for many lighting situations in houses of worship, and with cheap LED lighting still luring customers in with either low prices or claims of many hours of service from the LEDs, 

I thought it might be useful to talk a little about how LED lighting works. Because, it’s not as simple as you might think.

If all you ever wanted is for an LED light fixture to be on at 100 percent light output, LED lighting would indeed be a straight-forward item (from the electrical perspective) to produce.

However, most churches are interested in lighting that can be dimmed, and that’s where the complexity and cost of LED fixtures kicks in.

(Note that the following is not to be a detail thesis on LED electronics—the concepts have been simplified for the purpose of the article.)

Unlike regular incandescent light sources, LEDs do not dim when you lower the amount of electricity going to them.

LEDs (or Light Emitting Diodes) actually work like this: the diode does not allow electricity to pass through it at all until a certain voltage is reached (the threshold point); once this threshold is exceeded, electricity passes through freely and the diode emits 100 percent of its potential light output.

So, it’s either on, or it’s off. There is no in-between as with an incandescent light source.

So, how do dimming LED fixtures dim? Excellent question — I’m glad you asked!

An LED light source has electronics in it that, based on a control signal coming into the fixture, turns the light on and off quickly. I.e., it blinks the light.

If the LED is on only 50 percent of the time, and it’s blinking very fast, then it appears to be at 50 percent of its full brightness.

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Jim Kumorek
Jim Kumorek is the owner of Spreading Flames Media, providing video/media production and writing services to the A/V/L, technology, architectural and hospitality industries. He has led audio, video and lighting teams in churches as both staff and a volunteer for over 10 years.
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