Do LED Lights Get Hot?

Do LED Lights Get Hot?

LED lights and LED bulbs are now more popular than ever. They are praised to be both cost-efficient and environmentally friendly, they consume less energy than your traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs, and they last much longer. So, if you haven’t made the switch into LED’s, now is the time.

However, there are still various myths and misconceptions surrounding LED lights and their benefits. These myths can be a a mental obstacle for people that have used incandescent bulbs for years to finally make the switch. One of the most asked questions surrounding LED lights is: “Do LED lights get hot?”

Do LED Lights Get Hot?

The short answer is LED lights do produce heat but they do not get too hot to touch. Understanding how LED lights produce heat is not that simple, but we will explain in detail below.

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Do LED Lights Get Hot or Not? Do LED Lights Get Hot

To really understand the full scope of this question, we have to understand how LED bulbs actually produce light and in turn heat.

LED, as we know, stands for “light emitting diode”, and so the diode, a semiconductor of which electrical currents pass in one-way is the one producing light….and some heat.

In theory, if the diode is 100% efficient, it will convert all the electricity that passes through the diode into lights, but this is physically impossible. Inefficiencies due to physical deformities in the components of the LED light will instead convert some of the electricity into heat.

Meanwhile, LED’s do run dramatically cooler than incandescent lights because they are more efficient. We can, for example, quite easily unscrew an LED bulb that has been turned on for hours, while an incandescent bulb will burn if touched. Why does this occur? There are two main reasons:

  • LED’s are much more efficient than incandescent and halogen bulbs because the convert most of the energy to light, so less heat is produced during the process.
  •  LED bulbs dissipate any residual heat into the air and away from the bulb. This allows the actual LED bulb to stay cool at all times, contributing to the very long lifetime of the LED bulbs.

How Incandescent Bulbs Produce Light and Heat

Incandescent bulbs are famous, or notorious for being very hot when they produce light.

Why? As we have established, incandescent bulbs produce light and heat differently from LEDs. Incandescent bulbs, in theory, produce heat first and light as the secondary output.

An electric current passes through a tungsten filament, heating the filament to a temperature so hot that it glows and creates the light. So, up to 90% of the electric energy is used to produce heat, and only 10% is utilized to emit lights. This is the opposite of how LED bulbs work. Halogen bulbs also work with a similar process while involving noble and halogen gas.

This process is what causes incandescent bulbs to run (significantly) hotter than LEDs, and if you leave an incandescent or halogen lights on for a long time, they can blow because of the produced heat.

Understanding LED “Temperature”

When purchasing an LED bulb, you might be presented with the option to choose between different “temperatures”. What does this temperature actually mean, if as we have established, the LED bulb will run cool in most cases?

With LED lights, “temperature” here actually refers to “color temperature” and not “heat temperature”. Color temperature refers to the characteristic of visible light to describe its color in comparison to the color produced in burning an ideal black-body radiator with the same temperature. The color temperature typically expressed in Kelvins, or simply, the symbol of K.

Color temperatures over 5000 K are more bluish-white in colors and thus are often called “cool” colors. On the other hand, colors around 2700 to 3000 K are referred to as “warm colors”.

4000 K in color temperature is considered “neutral white”, which is similar to the color of white fluorescent light.

2700 K color temperature is similar to the yellowish, warm white color produced by the burnt tungsten filament of the incandescent bulb, while 3000 K is similar to the color produced by halogens.

Read our article on the Kelvin Color Temperature to learn more. This is critical before purchasing any light bulb.

Conclusion

LED bulbs do produce heat, but the generated heat is very insignificant due to the efficient process of transforming electricity into lights, and a very effective heat sink system. It’s important to note, however, that although the actual LED bulb doesn’t get hot, the heat sink will.

So, it’s important not to place an LED light in an enclosed housing, since the produces heat can’t dissipate effectively and affects its overall efficiency.

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