LEDs are efficient and last a long time. Although more expensive than CFL and incandescent light bulbs, LED lights are worth the investment in the long run. They use a lot less electricity and don’t need to be replaced as frequently as lights using older technology.

Although LEDs should be the most economical way to provide lighting for our homes, businesses, and public spaces, many consumers have been disappointed by inferior products that don’t deliver on the promise of a long-lasting source of cost-effective lighting.

Before buying LED lights, you should know more about the product that you’re getting. It’s not easy to determine if one LED bulb is better than another and this article intends to help you distinguish the good from the bad.

Like everything we use, a better understanding of how LEDs work and what separates an inferior product from the best, empowers you when it comes to making an informed choice.

How do LEDs work?

A basic understanding of what an LED is and how it works is the first step toward knowing what to look for.

A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor that converts electricity into light. Essentially, the photovoltaic principle used in solar panels is reversed with an LED. Instead of generating electricity from photons (light), an LED produces light from electrons without making use of electric resistance. This is what makes them so efficient.

Incandescent lights produce more heat than light. In other words, energy is wasted in the process. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are more efficient than incandescent lights, but also generate quite a lot of heat.

LEDs don’t produce much heat. Typically, an LED light operates at 54°F higher than the ambient temperature. Although an LED may feel warm, they never become too hot to touch. Most of the energy is transferred into light, not heat. LED lights are about 30% to 50% efficient. A high-quality LED will produce 5W of light for every 10W of electricity it consumes. While this may lead you to believe that LEDs aren’t the most efficient, in the context of lighting, they are. An incandescent light is only about 5% efficient, making an LED up to 10-times more energy-efficient.

LEDs are diodes, meaning that they only allow an electric current to flow in one direction, from the anode to the cathode. Electricity enters one side of the diode, causing energized electrons to flow to the other side. When the electrons recombine, it causes the diode to glow, emitting light.

LED semiconductors are usually made from silicon that has been doped. This is a process whereby one element (like silicon) is combined with other elements, like boron, to increase valence electrons or create electron holes. Valence electrons will move away from an atom if they become energized. Electron holes are gaps in the valence band that accept electrons.

On one side of the diode, the silicon is doped to increase valence electrons. On the other side, holes are created. When the valence electrons become energized by an electric current, they move toward the electron holes on the other side of the diode, producing photons.

The efficiency of an LED is determined by the quality of the elements used to manufacture the diode. If the silicon (and other elements) have very few impurities, the LED will use less electricity to produce light and it will last longer.

Silicon easily forms natural bonds with other elements. As a result, there is no pure silicon found in nature. In some areas (like Silicon Valley) the naturally occurring silicon is purer. This makes it easier to extract the impurities from the silicon. Ideally, a monocrystalline silicon structure should be used for semiconductors. Silicon deposits with a high degree of purity are quite rare, making them more expensive than lower-grade silicon deposits.

Even the best silicon will have some impurities. Removing impurities from silicon requires a lot of energy. The raw material must be heated to extremely high temperatures to melt away the impurities. As a result, mono-crystalline silicon is much more expensive than polycrystalline. This means that high-quality LEDs (using silicon with few impurities) is expensive.

LED lights are very sensitive to high temperatures and will be damaged when the temperature is higher than 185°F. To ensure that electrical resistance from the internal circuitry does cause the LED to become too hot, a heat sync is used to dissipate excess heat. This is usually made from aluminum.  

How to Know if You’re Buying Good-Quality LEDs

There are two main factors that influence the quality of an LED light bulb; the quality of the materials used to make the LED and the heat sync. As a consumer, it is not easy to distinguish a good quality LED light bulb from a bad one. After all, one LED light looks pretty much like the next one. However, the prices may differ by a lot.

We should expect a more expensive LED to last longer, up to 20 years. By the same reasoning, the more expensive product should also be more energy efficient. When you’re spending more on an LED light, how do you know if you’re getting what you are paying for?

Since we have no visual clues distinguishing a good LED from a bad one, the only sure way to know what you’re getting is to buy brands with a longstanding reputation for manufacturing high-quality products.

Top LED Lighting Brands

I’ve been researching and comparing LED lighting products for many years and believe I can provide some valuable insight into what LED light bulbs are worth buying. While there may be other reputable brands, apart from those I’m recommending, I have complete confidence in the LED lighting brands listed below.

If you choose LED light products from these brands, you can be sure that you are not wasting your money.

  1. Cree

For many years, Cree has been my first choice when it comes to LED lighting products. Established in 1987, this is one of the oldest manufacturers of LED lights in the world. Cree is a US company based in North Carolina.

Cree LED Lighting Products on Amazon
  1. Osram

This German lighting company needs no introduction. They have been manufacturing quality light bulbs since 1919. Osram was one of the first brands to manufacture LED light bulbs for general consumer applications.

Osram LED Lighting Products on Amazon
  1. GE Lighting

Another recognized brand in the world of quality lighting products is GE. They have been around since 1911 and have a good reputation for affordable quality.  

GE LED Lighting Products on Amazon
  1. Phillips/Signify

For over 120 years, this Dutch electrical manufacturer has been manufacturing quality electrical appliances and light bulbs. In 2018, the company changed its brand name to Signify. However, the Phillips brand will remain in use until 2030. Hence, both the Phillips and Signify brands provide the assurance that you are buying world-class high-quality lighting products.

Phillips LED Lighting Products on Amazon