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Learn the ABCs of LED Lighting: Commonly-used Technical Terms

When it comes to LED Lighting, knowing its basics can go a long way in making sure you find the right product that fits your requirements. Let us start from the beginning; the ABCs of LED Lighting!

LEDs and LED-based lighting have become one of the most widely used components in the electrical and lighting equipment market over the past decade owing to increasing global awareness around sustainable and energy-saving products. As the market grows, so does the interest around it.  

However, a new entrant may find it intimidating to navigate through different products, and especially understanding different technical terms that could lead to confusion. When it comes to LED Lighting, knowing its basics can go a long way in making sure you find the right product that fits your requirements. Let us start from the beginning; the ABCs of LED Lighting! 


  • Ambient: The most basic meaning of ambient is to surround or encompass. In LED lighting, ambient light or ambient temperature means a product provides optimum illumination and visibility in a particular area. It is another name for general lighting, and can include table lamp or ceiling light (indoors) and parking lot lighting outdoors (1-2 foot-candle). 

  • Average Rated Life: Average rated life of an LED refers to the total amount of time an LED product has been tested to last in hours. It is calculated by testing the time it takes for half the bulbs to fail in a test batch while the remaining batch, stay lit for longer. For example: A batch of 50 bulbs tested to have an ARL of 5000 hours means that 25 LED bulbs had died when test time reached 5000 hours.  


  • Ballast Compatible Tubes: A ballast compatible tube is one where you can pull out the existing tube, leave the ballast installed, and install the LED replacement tube.  

  • Beam angle: As the name suggests, beam angle is the angle at which light is distributed on a surface. The degree of the beam depends on the amount or type of lighting required in a particular area. For example, some high bay LED lights have an angle of 120 degrees that are powerful enough to illuminate industrial spaces with high ceilings.  

  • Binning: Binning refers to the process of sorting LEDs according to distinctive characteristics like voltage and brightness. It is done to ensure the highest quality and consistent performance of LED lights.  


Beam angle

Beam angle


  • Chip-on-Board (COB) LED: Chip-on-Board is the method of circuit manufacturing where integrated circuits are wired and bonded directly on a printed circuit board, and covered with a glob of epoxy or plastic. COB products are compact, lighter, and make LED lighting more efficient.  

  • Color Rendering Index (CRI): CRI is used to figure out how much an LED light source accurately illuminates an object’s true colors. An LED product with a high CRI value of 80 and above is considered the best.  

  • Correlated Color Temperature (CCT): CCT refers to the color of a light source, in this case an LED light source, and its unit of measure is Kelvin (K). The degree of CCT determines whether a light has cool or warm tones. For example, a CCT range between 3000K – 5000K means the light source has neutral to cool tones, and suitable for creating crisp and alert environment in busy spaces.  


  • DLC: DLC is DesignLights Consortium, a governing body that certifies the quality and efficiency of LED Lights. It is a standard like Energy Star. A DLC Qualified product may be eligible for rebates.  

  • Dimming: Dimming or dimmers in LEDs can be used to reduce the intensity of lights to suit different moods and tones. These are a great way to add longevity to your lights and reduce energy costs. It can be optional. You must note that non-dimmable lights should not be used with dimmers if they do not have built in drivers for the same. It could affect the lighting product and interfere with its efficacy.  

  • Diode: Diode is a device with two terminals that conducts current, typically in one direction. It promotes easy flow of current in a single direction and to avoid reverse current flow by blocking the other direction, converting alternate current to direct current.  

  • Driver: Drivers are power supplies designed to regulate power requirements of an LED lighting product to ensure the latter works effectively and efficiently. LED products that come without drivers should be first checked to see whether they can be used with external drivers or not.  


An LED Bulb with Edison Base

An LED bulb with Edison Base


  • Edison Base: Edison base or Edison screw refers to the built-in lightbulb socket that can be easily installed within existing fixtures. It is one of the most widely available lighting products in the market.  

  • Efficacy: Lumen per watt (lm/w) is used to measure luminous efficacy of a light source. It quantifies the rate of energy transfer in an electrical source where watt is the energy and lumen is the amount of light produced from that energy. A high luminous efficacy means a light source provides optimum illumination. 


  • Foot-candle: Foot-candle is a non-SI unit measurement of light intensity. It is determined by calculating the intensity of light falling on a surface akin to light given by a burning candle, one foot away from a surface. It is calculated in terms of one lumen per square feet.  


  • Goniometer: Goniometer is an apparatus with a rotating axis that is used to measure the intensity of illumination generated and distributed by a light source. This instrument is often used by state-of-the-art manufacturing units as part of quality checks.  


  • HazLoc: HazLoc is the short form for Hazardous Locations that are prone to fire or explosions and in the lighting context it refers to lights used in such locations. HazLoc LED lighting has rugged explosion proof construction, which makes it ideal for rough industrial environment.  

  • Heat sink / dissipation: A heat sink is an object used in the absorption and dissipation of heat generated from an LED and LED module, and avoids overheating of the product.  

  • Housing: Housing refers to the major elements used in encasing an LED material. Some can have diffusers that have aluminum and polycarbonate housing for better operations.  


  • Illumination / Illuminance: Illuminance refers to total light falling on / or encompassing a surface. It can be calculated in terms of the following: one lumen per square feet is equal to one foot-candle.  

  • IP Rating: Ingress Protection or International Protection rating is a set of codes implemented to classify and rate the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against different elements like dust and water, intrusion, accidental contact, etc. IP65 rated LED products offer:  

  • Complete protection from dust, oil, and other types of non-corrosive material 

  • Complete protection from contact with enclosed equipment 

  • Protection from water; water projected by nozzle against light enclosure from any direction 


  • Kelvin (K): In LED lighting, Kelvin is the unit that is used to measure color temperature of lights. The correlated color temperature of an LED light source.  


  • LED: Light Emitting Diode (LED) consists of multiple layers of semi-conducting material. When the diode is being used with direct current, light is produced in the active layer. LEDs convert electricity to light more efficiently than other light sources.  

  • LED Driver: LED drivers are electronic circuits that convert input power into a consistent current source, even during fluctuations.  

  • Lumen: A lumen is total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time. In simple terms, it measures the total brightness emitted by a light source.  

  • Lux: Lux is a standardized unit of measurement of light-level intensity. One lux is equal to the illumination of a one-meter square surface that is one meter away or one foot-candle.  


  • Manual Insertion Assembly Line (MI Line): MI lines are operated by individuals who manually fix and assemble electronic components. Lighting equipment assembled in MI lines are done so with great care and diligence.  


  • Nanometer: Nanometer is used to measure the visual spectrum of light that is the visible light. The human eye can perceive ultraviolet wavelengths between 380 to 740 nanometers. It only contains colors that human beings can distinguish.  


  • OHSAS: Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) is an international standard of certification that provides regulations and ensures stringent occupational safety standards. LED companies that are OHSAS certified can be trusted to manufacture some of the best LED lighting products in the world.  

  • Operating temperature: Operating temperature means the range at which a lighting product can work efficiently. Some industrial lighting products can function in temperature ranging from (–)10 degrees Fahrenheit to (+) 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  

  • Optometric data: Optometric data consists of different aspects of a lighting product in terms of illumination, beam angle, wattage, and more. It is a framework or blueprint designed to provide a basic idea and purpose of a lighting product before and during production.  


  • Phosphor: Phosphor is an inorganic chemical composition that is used in powder form to be deposited inside the glass surface of light sources like LEDs and CFLs. It is the same thing that gives a smooth white finish to most lighting products.  

  • Potentiometer: A potentiometer is kind of an instrument used to control and monitor power output. It is usually used for testing LED products in manufacturing units.  


  • Quality Management: The most important process in manufacturing is that of quality management. In LED lighting, it refers to usage of various advanced tools to check and ensure that all lighting products pass stringent checks at every stage of production.  


LED Retrofit High Bay Lamp

LED Retrofit High Bay Lamp


  • Retrofit: Retrofit LEDs are easy to install LED lights. Retrofit products just need to be fitted into existing lighting fixtures rather than creating separate sockets.  

  • RoHS: The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. LED products with RoHS certification assure not just quality but sustainable practices as well.  


  • Solid State Lighting (SSL): Solid state lighting refers to lighting devices that do not require chemical reactions to produce light. Lights like these include semiconductor LEDs, organic LEDs, or polymer LEDs as illumination sources instead of plasma, gas, or electrical filaments (incandescent bulbs).  

  • Surface-mount Technology (SMT): SMT is the method of assembling and fitting electric components (surface-mount devices) directly on printed circuit boards. It speeds up manufacturing, is cost-effective, and improves overall quality of the product.  


  • TM-21: TM-21 is a standard that applies to lifetime projection of an LED package. It ensures that manufacturers of LED products provide consistent reports, and enables lighting industry professionals to make informed decisions while designing luminaires.  


  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL): UL is a global safety certification company that provides the expertise and insight, required to solve various challenges in businesses. They help companies achieve their safety, security, and sustainability goals, and ensure they accomplish regulatory compliance.  


  • Voltage: Voltage (volt) is a unit of measurement to determine movement or force of electricity in a circuit or electrical device. It refers to the electric charge between two points that drives electric current. It is calculated as energy per unit charge.  


  • Watt: Watt is the unit of power. Lumen per watt is used to measure luminous efficacy of a light source. It quantifies the rate of energy transfer in an electrical source.  

  • Wet-Location rated LED Lighting: There are several types of LED lights that are specifically designed to be waterproof and suitable for damp locations. The best products come with wet-location rating and damp-location rating according to UL lighting standards.  

The knowledge about these technical terms can help you make an informed decision for project-based evaluations and comparisons – that will facilitate further classification on the basis of your various application requirements. Let this know-how illuminate your path for a brighter future.

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