Understanding Display Case LED Lighting Terminology

LED light technology is rapidly changing.   It is changing how we light our world with brighter and more economical ways.   This includes display cases.  I’ve put together some terms and a little bit of technology to help you understand what is available today in display case lighting.

Display Case Lighting
Just to share a little pet peeve of mine:  When someone is either new to an industry or just exposed to it the terminology can be confusing.   You rarely see an article that explains the basic terms  so this is a primer to help you understand and communicate about lighting in the Display Case World.

WHAT IS AN LED LIGHT?

I’ve heard the word “LED” pronounced “Lead” but it is really an abbreviation for Light Emitting Diode so it is pronounced by sounding out the letters “L.E.D.”
A Diode is a small chip that glows.  They can emit different colors Red, Blue, Orange, Green, etc.  In the display industry we are more concerned about white light that will illuminate or highlight the product we want to display.

LED Light strip and single LED

 

MEASURING THE COLOR OF LIGHT - WHAT DOES “KELVIN” MEAN?

The term “Kelvin” (K) refers to the color measurement of the light.  2,700 to 3,200 Kelvin is referred to as “Warm Light”.  It is comparable to the color of light emitted by an incandescent bulb.  It’s light has a warm yellow feel.  4,000 Kelvin is referred to as “Natural” light and is a “middle of the road” color.   Cool White ranges from 5,000 to 6,500 Kelvin and is a what they call, “Cool White” or bluish white.Kelvin Light Scale

WHAT IS THE BEST KELVIN LIGHT TO USE FOR DISPLAY CASES?

The best answer to that is,  “it depends.”   It depends upon what items you are displaying.

Warm light works well to highlight items with colors. Natural light is a light that works well with most items.  If there is a variety of jewelry, fabrics and color it is a good choice. Cool White is used to make diamond and jewels sparkle.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WARM WHITE, NATURAL (NEUTRAL) LIGHT, AND COOL WHITE

In the photos below the colors of the items are the same.  The lights will change the hugh or tone of the room.  The same object will look different under the different color of lights.

LED Color and Temperature Comparison

LED Bar lights Warm-Neutral-Cool2

 

Which light is better?  It is subjective especially when lighting an item in a display case.  I wish I had photos of different product under different lights.  Different Kelvin lights makes a big difference with gems and diamonds and different minerals.  Color Whites  seem to really look great in Warm White to Natural White.

MEASURING THE BRIGHTNESS OF LIGHT WITH LUMENS

For years, the brightness of a light bulb was measured in watts, with is a measure of power.  This isn’t a useful unit of measuring the new light bulbs that consume considerably less power.  The new way of measuring light bulbs is by lumens which measures the amount of light they produce.  The brighter the light, the higher the number of lumens.
Here is a chart that may help you compare:   Watts and Lumens are not the same because Watts measures power consumed and Lumens measures brightness.

Wattage Comparison Chart

What Lumens (Brightness) Do You Need?

Lumen-light-bulb-brightness-comparison

When determining the amount of light or Lumens needed in a display case there are several factors to take into consideration:

  • How big of area are you trying to light?
  • How close is the light to the item you are lighting?
  • How many lights can you fit in the area you are lighting?
  • Will some of the background be white or mirror?

Although many LED light bulbs only give out 220 Lumens or an equivalent amount of light of a 25 watt bulb inside of a display case it can give plenty of light if directed or targeted at an item or area of a case.  LED ribbon lights can have diodes (little bulbs) every inch or two.  When added together the amount of lumens in the case can add up quick.

BENEFITS OF LED LIGHTS IN DISPLAY CASES

There are several benefits to using LED lights in display cases:

  • They emit very little heat which can damage product or burn someone reaching into a case.
  • They are low voltage which eliminates the danger of someone getting shocked.
  • They have a long life span
  • They are more economical to operate.
  • Although the initial cost is more

THE COSTS OF LED LIGHTS

LED Cost comparison

WHY DO LED LIGHTS NEED A DRIVER OR TRANSFORMER?

LED Tranformer

LED lights run on low voltage usually around 12 volts.  As a result a driver or transformer is needed to convert the average wall current of 120 volts down to 12 volts.   There are several advantages of LED running on low voltage, it is safer to be near or handle the lights,  they give off very little heat, the bulbs last longer and use less electricity.

IN SUMMARY, WHY USE LED LIGHTS IN DISPLAY CASES?

Here are several reasons why to use LED lights:

  • LED Lights cast a very crisp and clean light that highlights product well.
  • LED lights require only 3% of the electricity used by halogen bulbs.
  • Energy costs can be cut by as much as 80%.
  • LED lights give off very little heat requiring spending less on air conditioning and reduces the risk of getting burned if you touch a bulb
  • LED lights last long.   A bulb can last 30,000 to 100,000 hours giving a return on your investment within 18 -24 months.
  • LED lights can be found in just about every shape and size you would need.

One thought on “Understanding Display Case LED Lighting Terminology”

  • Harper Campbell

    It's interesting to learn that when it comes to having a display case there are some things owners need to consider for their lighting. I like how you mentioned when it comes to the Kelvin light that this depends on what they are displaying. This is something they should look into so that they can determine what kind of mood they need for it.

    Reply
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