When the very first LED lights came out, they were usually available as a fairly simple torch; that’s what I remember anyway. The light was bright enough, but nowhere near as good as a regular globe and the only benefit was that the battery would last a lot longer. Back in those days I never envisaged that things would improve so significantly and so rapidly (one prediction that I got wrong). Such was not the case and those early, dim, LED lights transformed into something quite different indeed and almost overnight. Not only have they improved, they have taken over every aspect of lighting that you can imagine, from home lighting, camp lighting, car lighting to photography lighting and then some. And this story is a bit of an extension of an earlier story that I wrote a few years ago.
I remember a debate I had at least a decade ago on whether LED lights would replace car headlights and I just couldn’t see that happening, given the quality of available LEDs. That most certainly would have been the case were it not for the invention of the Surface Mount Diode (SMD), which eventually replaced the conventional LED (I should have known better). What also came about was the important discovery of white LEDs. As with any technology, the early LEDs were the start of a lighting revolution, promising effective and efficient light sources compared to the existing incandescent and fluorescent lights. And while it did take a decade or more to get there, LED lights have probably had the biggest impact on alleviating humanities fear of the dark than anything since the invention of fire or the incandescent light globe.
Torches seemed to be the first practical tool that incorporated the ‘new’ LED technology and still is the most popular application. My first such ‘torch’ replaced my traditional fluorescent camping or work lights (one brand being the Versa light) and while these new LED lights were OK, they were nothing spectacular at the time. The big advantage was that these lights could work from internal rechargeable batteries, unlike the Versa lights, so they were far more flexible than the fluorescent lights. Mind you, the fluorescent lights of the day always gave a much broader and softer light than the LEDs, but the starter circuit was a weak point, constantly failing at the most inopportune moment. Over time, LED technology advanced significantly and developments and improvements by companies such as Cree, produced incredibly bright LED lights that became far more versatile than ever. These lights have gone on to become increasingly powerful and ever more compact in size. I now have several that are the size of a pen, yet brighter than the previous LED work lights that were the size of a baton. They are even available as UV lights.
Following on from torches, mobile lighting started to advance in leaps and bounds, with simple lights like those for bicycles becoming very popular, then LED indicator lights and similar for cars, with actual head lights becoming very common in at least luxury cars today. We also started seeing LED spot lights and light bars becoming very popular for recreational as well as rescue services, as these compound lights provided very bright and far reaching light, and wide beam if required, with very low power draw. These LED lights also proved to be very reliable, being fully sealed, vibration resistant, producing less heat and able to dissipate heat far better than halogen lights. I replaced my two halogen spot lights long ago for an LED light bar that produces better light and a much broader beam for the conditions needed around our neighbourhood.
The next natural progression was into home lighting, with LED lights rapidly replacing regular incandescent light globes and especially replacing halogen downlights. Four LED downlights use less power than a single halogen downlight and produce much better lighting and far less heat. You can now get cool white LEDs for work places like the kitchen and warm white LEDs for other areas like lounge rooms and bedrooms. Not only are these LEDs replacing conventional lighting, they are also being used in innovative ways such as mimicking skylights and is something that we’ve had installed in our kitchen, given that a skylight is difficult to fit, expensive and probably not very effective. Additionally, LED lights have increasingly replaced traditional fluorescent strip lights, offering the ability to switch from cool white to warm white at the flick of a switch.
Many still use those Christmas lights with small globes that change colour, by alternately turning one or the other on and off, but what’s now available are much the same in LED versions where the light itself changes colour. There are also now LED strip lights that come in rolls, usually 5m long, that can be cut to size and placed just about anywhere and be remotely controlled. Many attach these to the awnings of caravans, inside campervans, boats and the like as they usually come with an adhesive backing and are flexible enough to be able to be attached just about anywhere. And if you want, you can have a fully functioning disco lighting setup at the press of a button.
One of the last bastions of lighting is also crumbling to the onslaught of LED lights and that’s the photography and videography industry. Electronic flash and conventional lighting has been the mainstay of photography both in and out of the studio and conventional lighting has been the mainstay of videography. Now both are moving increasingly to LED lighting due to output and quality. The lighting colour can be adjusted almost infinitely, there is far less heat, the lights weigh less and are often far more compact. Power requirements are also far less, with most lights able to be powered by batteries, 12V power packs, or 240V transformers. Both industries appear to be embracing LED lighting with gusto, and so I recently purchased my first LED light panel, mainly for indoor video lighting. The LED panel works so well in all applications that it’s getting a lot more use than I anticipated. For $60, with two batteries and charger, I can’t believe how well it performs. The colour is adjustable from 3300K to 5600K and power from 20% to 100% and it supposedly has a colour rendering index (CRI) of 95, which is very good (though I doubt it is this high).
Where is all of this heading? I have no idea, but it seems that better, more efficient and more affordable lighting sources are becoming available just about every day. I know that installing LED downlights has saved me a significant amount of money in power bills over the halogen globes that were in our house when we moved in. And when we have our inevitable blackouts, the LED lights are always ready to bring us temporarily out of the dark ages, as we head towards the year 2020 and Victoria’s complete transformation to ‘cheap and reliable’ renewable energy.
Once again it’s Australia Day and while some have a desire to change the status quo, we really should be thankful that it was the British that settled Australia; things could have been very different. History is what it is; you can’t change it or undo it. More importantly, changing the date won’t change the very real the issues affecting today’s remote Aboriginal communities, all it does is demonstrate virtue signalling.
So maybe it’s time that we all lightened up and celebrated the positive things in life, rather than dwell on the past. To that end, have a great Australia Day and embrace everyone that loves Australia. I’m sure that Sam Kekovich would agree with that.