What do you need to know about LED lighting?

From lower running costs to longer lifespans, there are any number of reasons to make the switch to LED floodlights. What is it exactly that make LEDs such an effective lighting solution, though? What is it that sets them apart from some of the alternative options on the market?

In this article, we explore some of the key differentiating factors in the design of modern LED systems – and how those choices help to deliver better performance all round. If you’re yet to make the leap, read on to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about LED lights, and why it’s time to change.

How much heat do LEDs generate?

One of the major drawbacks to older traditional lighting systems is the amount of heat they produce. A fully lit metal-halide bulb will run at a temperature of 2000°F, for instance. In addition to causing a great deal of energy to be wasted (see below), this also has a dramatic impact on the lifespan of each bulb. This is worsened by the fact that older lighting systems weren’t designed with heat dissipation in mind.

LEDs have two key advantages here. Firstly, they don’t generate very much heat to begin with: LEDs – or light-emitting diodes – are semiconductors that don’t rely on heat to create light. Secondly, most modern LEDs come with robust heat dissipation technologies as standard. Midstream’s own luminaires, for example, use extruded heat sinks that help to remove the already small amount of heat that builds up.


How do LED lights perform compared to others?

“Performance” is a broad term, one that can encompass everything from energy efficiency through to highly technical issues such as colour rendering. Here, though, we’re using it specifically in relation to the quality of the light produced – particularly in terms of how that can change over time.

When considering the differences between LEDs and alternative lighting solutions, there are two main issues when it comes to performance:

  • Overall performance

    Older lighting systems – those that use metal halides, sodium vapour, and halogen – have an immediate disadvantage in that they struggle to produce what is known as “useful” light. As well as wasting a lot of energy by turning it into heat, they’re also omnidirectional, throwing light across a wide range rather than focusing it where it needs to go.

    LEDs are immune to all of these issues. As well as being designed to dissipate heat as explained above, they also provide a focused and precise beam of light that improves quality and uniformity. Light from LEDs is typically more balanced and natural looking than that from incandescent and gas-discharge lamps, too.


  • Long term performance

    New lighting can be a considerable investment, and it’s only natural to want it to perform to the best of its ability for as long as possible. This is another area in which older systems suffer, with lighting quality beginning to fail far quicker than many people expect. In just six months, a metal-halide lamp’s “lumen output” (a measure of visible light) can drop by as much as 20%.

    The ultimate guide to a luminaire’s long term performance is what’s known as the L70 calculation. This rule dictates that light is no longer considered to be useful when it falls below 70% of its original output. And while an LED luminaire is unlikely to drop below 70% until it has been in operation for more than 50,000 hours, a metal-halide lamp can reach that point in just 5,000 hours. 

How long do LED floodlights last?

Quality isn’t the only issue to consider when it comes to the longer term. In total, a standard metal-halide bulb has an average lifespan of between three and five years, after which it will need to be replaced. Not only does that mean investing in a new set of bulbs every few years, those replacements usually involve additional costs like specialist contractors and high-working equipment such as cherry pickers. 

New LEDs, by comparison, can last for a decade or more – even with frequent usage. In the time it takes for LEDs to reach the end of their lifespan, alternative systems will have had numerous replacements carried out already. Midstream’s standard 10-year warranty is testament to our confidence in the longevity of our luminaires. 



What’s the difference between drivers and ballasts?

Both drivers and ballasts help to control the current within a luminaire – with drivers being used for LEDs, and ballasts for fluorescent lamps. While there are a range of technical differences between the two, the main thing to know is that while one driver can power multiple LEDs, each fluorescent luminaire requires its own ballast. 

Ballasts can also be highly susceptible to environmental conditions. Too much heat, cold, or condensation can lead to failure, a problem that quickly becomes expensive should multiple units fail over a short period of time.

How much maintenance do LEDs need?

LEDs are extremely low-maintenance, typically requiring little more than regular cleaning and the occasional check to ensure that they remain aligned with the original designs. With the right masts in place – base-hinged or telescopic, for example – this can be as simple as lowering the luminaire to the ground and carrying out a quick clean and inspection.

Older lighting systems can be extremely demanding in comparison. As mentioned above, ballasts can both require repairs or replacements on a semi-regular basis, and “relamping” – switching in new bulbs for burned-out ones – will occur once every five years at the bare minimum.


The key things to know about LEDs are:

  • LEDs generate far less heat than alternative lighting systems, and are also better at dissipating it.

  • LEDs produce better, higher-quality light than the alternatives. Quality also remains much higher for a much longer period of time.

  • LEDs can last for a decade or more, usually at least twice as long as a metal-halide equivalent.

  • LEDs use drivers rather than ballasts, which translates into fewer points of failure.

  • LEDs require less maintenance than other lighting systems, helping to reduce the total cost of ownership.


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