This by definition seems unachievable – LED Lights that can operate in a hot environment. LEDs are good – every one is adopting them in commercial and industrial applications. But they have their limitations.
By far, the biggest limitation is heat. Heat has a tendency to shorten the life of electronics, including LED. For the most part, standard LED products are reliable up to 120 – 130 F. Manufacturers design their products to operate reliably for many years. Most applications, like warehouses, schools and gymnasiums, never come close to these temperatures.
But for industrial applications, operating temperatures can exceed 130F regularly. Even worst, heat rises, and lights installed at the highest points in a closed area. This only exasperates the problem. Temperatures at ground floor will be cooler than temperatures at fixture mounting heights.
But LED Lighting can operate in temperatures above 130F, but not an off the shelf product. These lights work and are engineered for hot ambient temperatures.
The Basics of LED Lighting and Operating Temperatures
A LED Light Fixture comprises of LED diodes, an electronics board that holds the diodes, a LED driver that powers the LEDs, and a heat sink. Most fixtures you see on the market today combine the heat sink into fixtures housing. In other words, the housing is the heat sink. The heat sink helps keep the diodes and driver cool while operating.
Most standard fixtures, that work up to 130 F, are designed by engineers to maximize efficiencies of design to keep costs down. They calculate the number of LEDs needed to run near full capacity to produce light within specific operating temperatures. In other words, some manufacturers will drive the components to 90-95% capacity. If you add additional heat, these components will degrade quickly.
Think of this another way. Let’s say you had to drive at 100 mph every day. You purchase an economy sub compact car, and drive it at 100 mph. Maybe its capable of a top speed of 110 mph. This means you can drive it at 100 mph. But you are using 95% of its capacity to do this.
Or maybe you buy a sports car that is designed with a top end of 190 mph. It can also drive at 100 mph, but is only using about ½ of its capacity.
So how do you build a LED Light that can handle high temperatures? You design it like a sports car.
Adding Additional Capacity to LED Lights for Hot Temperatures
Like the sports car analogy above, the same can be done with LED Lighting. You can add more components, and drive them less hard, to build in capacity to handle hot temperatures. You can do this in three ways. Its up to the engineers to decide which options to use in achieving this goal.
Use a bigger heat sink
Add more heat sink capacity is one way of doing this. By itself, may not be a reasonable stand-alone option. The fixtures will become heavier and bulkier, and make it more difficult to install. Additionally, engineers could add a separate heat sink around the driver to aid in keeping it cool.
Create more physical distance between the driver and LEDs
This will allow the lights not to share heat. A lot of fixtures mount drivers right above the LEDs. The LEDs radiate their heat onto the driver, thus adding to the drivers heat issues.
Add more LEDS – and drive them at far less than max capacity
At the end of the day, a LED Fixture has to produce light. If you reduce the amount of light each LED produces, you have a deficit. To make up for the deficit, you can add more LEDs. A LED running at ½ capacity is running a lot cooler than ones running at near full capacity.
This means, that if you had a hot environment, you are not going to over-extend the LEDs.
Run the driver at less than full capacity
If you have a 100 watt LED Fixture, it would make sense to drive the fixture with a 100 Watt LED driver. If you want to engineer a hot temperature fixture, you would use a 150 Watt or 200 Watt LED Driver and dial them down to only produce 100 Watts. The drivers are not being stressed.
Running at less than full capacity provides enough capacity to not over-extend themselves in hot ambient temperatures.
Why are high temperature LED Fixture more expensive?
Adding more components just adds to the cost of the fixture. If the fixture has 2X the LED diodes, or uses a 200 Watt LED Driver instead of a 100 Watt LED Driver, that adds to the cost. Building additional heat sinks for the driver, or making a larger heat sink or fixture housing all adds costs.
Are you looking for High Temperature LED Fixtures? Click here to check out all the High Temp Lights we have.
What about Low Temperature LED Lights?
The interesting fact about high temperature lights is they also work really well in extremely cold temperatures, well beyond the limits of normal LED Fixtures.
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.