A brief history of LED lighting

Thomas Edison’s invention of the first incandescent light bulb was displayed to the public in Menlo Park on December 31, 1879, and Edison is reported to have said during this time: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” How ironic this statement was for it could not be further from the reality of electricity prices today.

The observation and reports by Captain Henry Joseph Round of electroluminescence from a diode (light generated from electricity) and his experiments using a silicon carbide crystal and a cat’s whisker detector (a thin wire) in 1907, led Russian inventor Oleg Vladimirovich Losev to study light emissions from carborundum point-contact junctions and the theory of how they worked, to report the creation in 1927 of the very first light-emitting diode (LED).

But it wasn’t until 1962 that American Nick Holonyak, Jr developed the first visible-spectrum (red) LED while he was working at GEC (General Electric Company). Further advances were made when a student of Holonyak worked on improving the brightness of red and red-orange LEDs and also invented the first yellow LED in 1972.

But it was the invention of the first blue LEDs that made it possible to generate white light, this invention also arrived in 1972, but we have to thank T. P. Pearsall for the creation of the first high-efficiency, high brightness LEDs in 1976.

Over the years advances in LED materials technology enabled light output to rise, and combined with greater efficiency and reliability, helped the high-power white light LED to slowly gain ground on the incandescent light bulb as the future of illumination in our home.

The cost of LED lighting

The cost of replacing a traditional light bulb with an LED bulb will be more expensive in the beginning, but in the long term you will save money. This is because over the life of the LED you should see a greater return on your initial investment due to lower running costs and reduced energy consumption, plus they won’t need replacing for a very long time.

When comparing the cost of an incandescent light bulb at around £1 to £2 per unit, against the cost of an equivalent LED bulb on average costing around £7 to £10 there are a few things to take into consideration.

An incandescent light bulb on average will need replacing after about 1,200 hours, so compared to the 60,000 hour average life span of an LED bulb the savings begin to seem obvious. For an incandescent bulb to last this long you would need around 50 of them.

Incandescent bulbs use a lot more electricity than an LED equivalent bulb so the running costs are significantly higher, for example a 60 watt lightbulb over 60,000 hours will cost around £700 against a 6 watt LED bulb in comparison will only cost £80-£90.

So, it is obvious to see that although LED bulbs in the beginning are more expensive to install, the savings over time outweigh the initial investment.

Benefits of LED lighting

  • More energy efficient – Less power is needed to illuminate an LED bulb compared to Its equivalent incandescent bulb creating energy savings of up to 90%.
  • Longer lifespan – LED bulbs come with a significantly longer lifespan than the traditional incandescent bulbs with a rated life of around 50,000 hours, approximately 50 times longer than its old fashioned counterpart and LEDs can last 10 to 15 years.
  • Instant performance – LEDs reach their full brightness in an instant unlike traditional bulbs that can take a few seconds.
  • Eco-friendly – Switching to LED lighting will reduce your carbon foot print due to the fact they use less energy so you will cut the CO2 emissions produced from electricity production. LEDs don’t contain harmful metals like mercury or lead that are harmful to the environment, they are also 100% recyclable.

Simply put they last longer, cost less to run and are good for the environment.

If you are thinking of changing to LED lighting for your home or business and would like assistance on the products available, please contact the Renewable Energy Guild to speak to one of our lighting us here, call us or email us at

Call us : 0113 457 0587

If you’re a small to medium sized company that design and install LED lighting solutions and would like to apply for membership with the Renewable Energy Guild, please contact us here.