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  • Jason Offutt

Understanding the Lifespan of LEDs

A proper understanding of the lifespan of LEDs can help you make a more informed decision when purchasing a video board display. Purchasing a video board without doing the proper research would be as illogical as purchasing a house without first having it inspected. This article will break down the different aspects concerning the lifespan of LEDs so you can have a clearer understanding.

What Vendors Want You to Believe

How do you know what to believe when someone is trying to sell you something? Companies are quick to sell you on the idea or the emotion of something without sound reasoning or information. So which LEDs are truly the best? What should you purchase to ensure you have a state of the art video board with a long lifespan? Many companies will try to sell you on the claim that their LEDs have 100,000 hours of lifetime. While this sounds promising, you should ask yourself where this generalized number derived from. 

The Truth About LED Lifespan

One concept to comprehend in order to debate the 100,000 hour claim is L50. L50 is deemed as the end of the life of an LED. This point is reached when the diodes degrade to 50% of their original brightness. As one might suspect, L50 occurs at different times for different LEDs because not all myriad LED chip manufacturers and packagers are equally created. So what exactly are the terms packaging, chip and diode referring to? 

*Packaging is what the LED chips are housed inside of.

*A LED chip is a silicon wafer emitting light.

*Diodes are the final result of the packaging.

All three of these components need to be taken into consideration in order to come to a conclusion on the lifespan of an LED. Packaging is a very vital factor to the lifespan. SMD and THD are the two common packages used for LEDs. THD (through-hole device) was one of the very first ways LED packaging was built. This packaging is most often used in outdoor applications. The reason for this is that the epoxy encapsulation is water impervious, directional, and considerably brighter than the SMD. THD is directional by 110 degrees horizontal and 70 degrees vertical. SMD (surface-mount device) was originally designed for indoor applications. However, recent technology has provided the SMD with water resistance making the packaging capable of outdoor applications. SMD is omni-directional by 140 degrees. Since the packaging is such a crucial aspect of the LED lifespan, reputable diode packagers will produce a fade-chart showing the degradation of their products. Manufacturers will only use sample data from the first 1,000 hours of burn-in. They use this information to estimate the full lifespan of the LEDs. Manufactures do this due to the lengthy testing time that would be required in order to give a true projection of the lifespan. There is currently only one company that has provided real-life data up to the 100,000 hour. Even so, this company does not claim to have 100,000 hour test data for all their products as they release new products yearly. The final concept to comprehend in the 100,000 hour debate is the final product after fabrication and installation. The final LED is placed on a PCB board, enclosed in a metal chassis or panel, driven with a heat-generated current, and is installed in an unstable environment. These factors immediately make the 100,000 hour claim invalid. In conclusion, one should take more factors into consideration when purchasing a video board, and not be sold solely on the 100,000 hour claim.

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