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Using Light Emitting Diodes
LED Basics How LEDs Work Glossary of Terms Common Types Energy Efficiency Luminous Efficacy LEDs vs Traditional Lights Application Efficiency Color Quality Lifetime Thermal Management LED Applications LED Measurement

Comparing LEDs to Traditional Light Sources

Energy efficiency proponents are accustomed to comparing light sources on the basis of luminous efficacy. To compare LED sources to CFLs, for example, the most basic analysis should compare lamp-ballast efficacy to LED+driver efficacy in lumens per watt. Data sheets for white LEDs from the leading manufacturers will generally provide "typical" luminous flux in lumens, test current (mA), forward voltage (V), and junction temperature (Tj), usually 25 degrees Celsius. To calculate lm/W, divide lumens by current times voltage. As an example, assume a device with typical flux of 45 lumens, operated at 350 mA and voltage of 3.42 V. The luminous efficacy of the LED source would be:

45 lumens/(.35 amps x 3.42 volts) = 38 lm/W

To include typical driver losses, multiply this figure by 85%, resulting in 32 lm/W. Because LED light output is sensitive to temperature, some manufacturers recommend de-rating luminous flux by 10% to account for thermal effects. In this example, accounting for this thermal factor would result in a system efficacy of approximately 29 lm/W. However, actual thermal performance depends on heat sink and fixture design, so this is only a very rough approximation. Accurate measurement can only be accomplished at the luminaire level.