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Thread: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

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    Newbie Extraordinaire... scottmcl's Avatar
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    Default LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Ok, there are probably dozens of other threads out there, but I can't find them tonight. With good prices at CDI now and since I'm just starting out and also thinking long term, I need to really decide about Incandescent vs. LEDs. So what's your input? Why do you have one or the other? Or do you mix? And some people just don't like them... why is that?

    LEDs:
    Pros:
    - Last a really long time
    - brighter
    - when one BULB goes out, only that one bulb goes out
    - Use a LOT less electricity to run

    Cons:
    - Some can't be dimmed
    - "fake white" for those that keep track
    - more expensive

    Incandescents:
    Pros:
    - available everywhere
    - inexpensive
    - "Yellow white" is the normal color

    Cons:
    - short life span
    - when one bulb goes out, all of them in that section go out
    - "Yellow white" is the normal color
    - Use more electricity to run

    Other thoughts?

    Ding Ding!!
    - Scott M.
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    Registered User briancadman's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    I ran a combination last year. All things considered, I like the LEDs.

    • Color
      Blue LEDs don't fade like incandescent bulbs.
      I think the color of LEDs is more brilliant.
      White LEDs?... I prefer the soft look of the incandescent bulbs.
    • My LEDs had a little rust on them at the end of the season, but they didn't fail.
    • Less power means more channels... more lights.
    • There are ways around the problems with dimming LEDs.
      To be honest, I haven't had a whole lot of trouble dimming the LEDs
      Dimming curves help.
      I keep the triacs relatively close to the LED strands. LEDs are light electrical loads. I have found
      some long cables to act like capacitors, which can throw off the timing of the triacs...power factor issues...zero crossing voltage vs. zero crossing current.
    • Some people can see the shimmer in LED strands.
      Some LED strands are half-wave only, meaning they are only on during half the AC cycle.
      I can't see it when standing out at the street.
      Besides, the lights are blinking anyways.


    I wonder what other folks have experienced... especially with respect to repairing LED strands.
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    Registered User Don Williams's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Hi Scott

    WOW, it is quiet on this topic, so here is my 2 cents worth.
    This is a great topic especially for the ones that are just getting started in this hobby.

    First I will never convert to LED. My reason is that we have a 250,000 light display plus a 75,000 to 100,000 lights
    of on the shelf inventory. Figure the $$$$$ !! I buy lights each year after Christmas when they are cheap.
    Even the cheap half wave LED would be 3 times of what incandescent lights would cost. But the big difference
    is the cost of electricity to run both types. LED is the big winner here but when you start using your computer
    to control the lights , your electric bill goes way down even when using incandescent lights.

    Another reason I chose incandescent is that I have equipment like the buzz box to repair my lights.
    Sure I have lights to burn out but I have never found the first string I could not fix. I have some strings
    that are in use and over 10 years old. Heck I am retired and have plenty of time to fix these bad boys and
    I will even offer to fix yours !! Most LEDS advertise bulb life of 20,000 hours and some more, but even figuring
    on 20,000 hours and you run your display 5 hours per night during a 30 day holiday period they should last 153 YEARS.
    That is a little ridiculous and is clearly a advertising ploy to get them into the field. Now the wire is made of the
    same material so they are equal on that end.

    Now this year I will be using LEDS to high-light a scene plus I will be using Fiber Optics also , which right now
    I am keeping it a secret. You will be seeing a video of this !!

    Now donít everyone think I am against LEDS because I am not. They are just to darn expensive ,
    and I already have a big investment in incandescent lights.

    Here is some of my pointers.

    1. If you do not have the power requirements for incandescent then go with LEDS.
    ( remember you can always upgrade your electrical system )

    2. If you like the brightness of LEDS go with LEDS.
    ( I like the warmth of incandescent lights)
    ( but I love the blue LEDS)

    3. I still say the LEDS are too EXPENSIVE ! I put my money into controllers and ect.

    4. A little off topic but Vic brought this up an another thread:
    I am still using 1.6.1 LOR software and have not yet peak it out and we are able to
    To control just about anything that is out there. We control a heck of a lot of motors.fog machines, snow machines,
    gobos to name a few.
    When I peak out the S1 software then I will start the S2.


    Happy Lighting Everyone
    Don
    Lake Myra Christmas

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    God Bless America victory402's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    I like the look of LED's, except when it comes to the color white. I use alot of them in my display because of my power constraints. I ran my entire show last year off of one 20 amp outlet. You can improve the fading problem by simply plugging in a night light at the end of the string of leds.
    I know someone's going to jump on me for what I'm about to say but here it goes: LED's are the wave of the future, incadecents will go the way of the doe doe someday. Let's say in my lifetime, we will be scrambling to special order incads. No more after Christmas specials at Wally World, because they won't sell them anymore. Keep in mind that in the future leds will continue to go down in price. Your whole home will be lit by them and you will love it.

    For me I will miss the traditional look of incads. When I was a boy, all we had were the big ole C9's, today it's mini's, tomorrow LED's.

    So you may as well suck it up and get on the bandwagon...

    Vic
    RED MOUNTAIN LIGHTS

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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Quote Originally Posted by scottmcl View Post
    Ok, there are probably dozens of other threads out there, but I can't find them tonight. With good prices at CDI now and since I'm just starting out and also thinking long term, I need to really decide about Incandescent vs. LEDs. So what's your input? Why do you have one or the other? Or do you mix? And some people just don't like them... why is that?

    LEDs:
    Pros:
    - Last a really long time - True - but the wire will normally give out before the LEDs will
    - brighter - Normally true
    - when one BULB goes out, only that one bulb goes out - Not always - most of the time the rectifier pack fails, taking out a whole section of bulbs - rarely does only a single LED bulb die, when it does though, the current through the remaining LEDs in that section will see more current and shorten their life
    - Use a LOT less electricity to run - True

    Cons:
    - Some can't be dimmed - - All of my LED strings dim very well, and all of my C7 LED replacements will dim - know what you are buying
    - "fake white" for those that keep track - LEDs come in various shades of white - Cool White has a blueish cast to it - Warm White has a yellow tinge to it, very close to the clear incadescent bulbs - Other names used depending of the manufacturer are Pure White (to me same as Cool White) and Sun White (to me the same as Warm White) Need to realize that all "White" LEDs are not created equal - only buy the shade of white from a trusted mfg. I prefer Cool White for Halloween wireframes because of its harshness. I prefer Warm White for Christmas wireframes
    - more expensive - Yes

    Incandescents:
    Pros:
    - available everywhere - Yes
    - inexpensive - Yes
    - "Yellow white" is the normal color - A clear incadescent allows you to see the filament glow

    Cons:
    - short life span - yes - and blue and red will fade like crazy - may only last one season before they appear to be white
    - when one bulb goes out, all of them in that section go out - not in my experience - most incadescent bulbs and strings have a built in shunt - that keeps the rest of the section going. However, the voltage across each bulb filament is increased, and if several bulbs go out and are not promply replaced, the increased voltage will speeden the lose of the entire string.
    - "Yellow white" is the normal color - yes
    - Use more electricity to run - yes

    Other thoughts?

    Ding Ding!!

    Scott,

    My point by point responses are in Red above. These are my personal opinions. What is good for me might not be for someone else.

    I have over 41,000 LEDs on 743 strings, most all of them from CDI. Average cost per sting is $7.21 (60% 50 count, 20% 70 count, 15% 100 count and 5% 35 count strings) as I have been buying on the January presales since 2007. Rare that I buy at the higher priced Summer Sales, much less buy anything the rest of the year. Most of what I bought in January 2010 will be used in my 2011 displays.

    Cost - just over $5000, to date. My cost for a power upgrade (including other changes that would have to be done to bring all the electric up to current code (according to the local electrical inspector) came in at close to $5000 in 2006 (probably more now). Became a no brainer for me. Run the whole display from three 15 amp outlets (other side of the driveway, left side front yard, right side front yard) Max draw on any one outlet approx 8 amps (other side of driveway where the snowflake forest is almost all incadescent)- no need to really measure or do power calculations anymore)

    I decorate for Easter, Memorial Day, 4th July, Halloween and Christmas. Always building new display items, I don't have time to be fussing with a string of lights trying to figure out which bulb burnt out - broke - fell out of its socket in storage or transport, etc. I want to plug it in and see the lights work!

    Some people don't like LEDs because of the cost, or maybe their only experience was with 1/2 wave rectified big box store LEDs that have a very pronounced flicker to some people (including me, or that some of the unsealed LED strings are very prone to corrision and may only last one season (if that long)

    I feel the LED buyer needs to better educate themselves as to what they need, the differences between the different types and colors of LEDs, and which mfg makes a quality product that fits that need. Just because a box says LED on it doesn't mean it's fit to be used in an animated lighting display - maybe on a static indoor Christmas tree - but not for the abuse we subject our LEDs to - dimming, blinking and etc require a quality product.

    In my opinion - for me a quality LED (like those from CDI) are the only way to go. Most of the few big box store LEDs I had bought previously have long since been thrown in the trash.

    So no fight from me over which is better - LEDs rule at my house -to each his own.
    Last edited by John; 07-06-2010 at 08:04 PM.
    John (The Mascot)
    www.tennholidays.com

    480 LOR Channels + 2 CCR + 8 Mighty Minis + 10 Rainbow Floods+ 1 vdrive and vflood, Lynx Express and over 40,000 LEDs

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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    The megatree in my avatar is all LED. 2009 was 50 count C6 LEDs, the white was the Cool White which looks blueish. The avatar cycles Red, Green, Blue, White and then all four colors at the same time. The eight channel star is 8 strings of 20 count incadescents.

    For 2010 the tree will be higher, using 70 count C6 LEDs and the white will be switched to Warm White. Building a new bigger 8 channel star, will use 8 strands of 35 count M6 LEDs
    John (The Mascot)
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    Blowmold Elite Brad Caudill's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Incadandescent....LED's aren't bright enough for blowmolds.

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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Brad, when it comes to C7s, I agree, they are brighter then even the 3 LED C7 replacements
    John (The Mascot)
    www.tennholidays.com

    480 LOR Channels + 2 CCR + 8 Mighty Minis + 10 Rainbow Floods+ 1 vdrive and vflood, Lynx Express and over 40,000 LEDs

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    Registered User briancadman's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    John,

    Can you bring some of your best LED strands to the convention? When I look at the LEDs on the CDI website, they look the same as the big box store LEDs. I believe what you are saying. From the outside, I can't see the difference and I would like to know what to look for.
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    Blowmold Elite Brad Caudill's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    If Annalisa is coming you can bet on a trunkfull of LED's. lol

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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Brian,

    Most of the wireframes I'll have with me will be built with CDI LEDs. (all of my LEDs are my best, otherwise they go in the trash lol)

    I agree as far as looking at a CDI C6 bulb picture and a C6 LED bulb picture on a big box store package, that they look the same.

    The difference is on the inside construction and how they work with your controllers. Full Wave Rectified and sealed bulbs, and usually heavier wire from CDI. I have never had to use a night light or snubber on a CDI strand to have smooth dimming.

    And LOR has hinted at another firmware/software upgrade coming that will allow the ability to optimize the dimming range by selecting the proper LED string from a drop down list, similar to what RJ incorporated into the LYNX controller firmware design.

    In my experience, I have never seen a retail big box store LED string that compares with the one's from CDI performance wise when used with a controller.

    As to what to look for, hard to say. I know what to expect from the CDI LEDs, and how they work with my controllers. Every year I buy a strande or two of LEDs from a big box store, get them home, hook to my controllers, cuss at myself for being an idiot again wasting money on them, then throw them in the trash.

    The big box stores may change mfg from year to year, but still use the same store brand packaging. Until you buy them and plug them in next to the previous years purchase, only then do you notice the difference.

    In 2008 CDI switched to a different mfg. Big mistake. LEDs looked good but worked like crap with a controller. The only way to use them was to cut off the rectifiers, buy new bridge rectifiers and resistors and hodge pod a fix. Paul told all of us to use them for the 2008 season, then send them back in January for free replacement. Paul then returned to his previous mfg in 2009 and since that made the quality product and has stuck with them.

    An LED string that uses a capacitor in the rectifier pack for voltage doubling will not dim worth a flip and will soon die if not explode (as the 2008 strings were prone to do)
    Last edited by John; 07-06-2010 at 09:00 PM.
    John (The Mascot)
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    Registered User briancadman's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    John,

    How about minis? Do you use mini LEDs?
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Yes, I use them mostly on my wireframes.

    I do have some 100 count M5 s that I built my arches with.

    I prefer the M6 size as they are almost identical with the incadescent minis size wise (sightly thicker but a color changing incadescent bulb cover will fit)

    In fact, the majority of my 743 strings are M5/M6 bulbs
    John (The Mascot)
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    480 LOR Channels + 2 CCR + 8 Mighty Minis + 10 Rainbow Floods+ 1 vdrive and vflood, Lynx Express and over 40,000 LEDs

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    Newbie Extraordinaire... scottmcl's Avatar
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Don - I can agree - I wouldn't want to replace that many bulbs at one time with LEDs. Too cost prohibitive. And with all the extras "on the shelf" like you said, you don't have to worry about what Vic said about having to special order them when you run out.

    At the same time, I can see Vic's and John's points about LEDs being the "wave of the future". The prices have already come down in the past few years and will only get better with time.

    John - question about M5/6s... On the CDI page about LEDs, the M5s are rated at 4.8 while the M6s are rated at 9.6. Any thoughts on the reason the M6s use twice the power?

    All - I'm new so that's why I'm asking these questions. If I can quickly redo the few mini-trees that I've done with incandescents and put LEDs on them instead, then I would also like to save time like John said about "I don't have time to be fussing with a string of lights trying to figure out which bulb burnt out - broke - fell out of its socket in storage or transport, etc. I want to plug it in and see the lights work!". Time is always precious and any time saved is greatly valued.

    I don't think I'm too worried about power as I've already had a separate sub-panel added in the garage years ago to help run power tools. There are several empty spots in that panel so it should be easy to add whatever circuits I need out there later. But I'm not 100% sure about that yet, either. I've taken steps along my life journey to purposefully stay away from electricity so I don't chance any problems. Not necessarily smart on my side, but I've cut a live wire before with a small pair of wire cutters and that was scary enough to keep me away...

    Thanks for everyone's thoughts! PLEASE keep the info coming. Including telling us what a triac is, what half wave LEDs means, and what bulbs I should get to make sure they are dimmable, if I go LED.

    Y'all rock!!!
    - Scott M.
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    Default Re: LED vs. Incandescent - let the fight begin

    Quote Originally Posted by scottmcl View Post
    John - question about M5/6s... On the CDI page about LEDs, the M5s are rated at 4.8 while the M6s are rated at 9.6. Any thoughts on the reason the M6s use twice the power?


    Thanks for everyone's thoughts! PLEASE keep the info coming. Including telling us what a (1) triac is, what (2) half wave LEDs means, and what (3) bulbs I should get to make sure they are dimmable, if I go LED.

    Y'all rock!!!
    Scott,

    First of all, there are not any M5s on that page (grin). You were looking at 5mm, C6 and M6 strings. (the letter & number reference the bulb cover size and style, the actual LED is the same under the covers) . As to the difference between the 4.8 watts and the 9.6 watts, I think Paul was doing some copy/paste and has a mistake in some of the descriptions. All of the 100 count 5mm, M6 and C6 strings should be 4.8 watts, as they use exactly (except for color) the same LED bulb just with a different style cover.

    1. A triac is the "magic semiconductor" used in the controllers to control the light output channels. Kind of like a transistor on steriods.

    2. half wave rectification - [simple version, not 100% technically accurate] - means the LED is only turned on for 1/2 of the power line 60 cycles per second (think of a sine wave, only when the "curve" is above the base line will the LED be turned on. When the "curve" drops below the base line the LED is off.) Therefore some people (including me) see this as a rapid flicker since the LED turns on and off 30 times per second. With full wave rectification - there is no sine wave "curve" below the base line. It has been flipped up 180 degrees - so all the sine wave curves are above the base line -Think of a whole bunch of the letter "m" mmmmmmm therefore the LED is on the entire time. Once again, I realize that this simple explanation is not 100% technically accurate - just given as an effort to help someone visual a sine wave and how it can be modified.

    3. all LED bulbs are dimmable. The difference is how they are "strung" together in a string. Some strings only use a resistor to limit the voltage each LED receives ( usually 1/2 wave because a LED is really a diode that outputs light ) , others use one or more bridge rectifiers and resistors to convert the AC voltage to a square wave (pusedo DC) and are usually considered full wave and the best configuration in my opinion. Some stings even use diodes, resistors and capacitors in a voltage doubling circuit to power the LEDs. (Not dimmable !)

    All of the above components may be encapsulated in a molded blob or wart on the string or may be contained inside the power plug shells. No way to tell by just looking at a string in a box as to how it is constructed .

    Unfortunately just looking at a string of LEDs you cannot tell if they are dimmable or not. A reputable vendor will specify if the particular strings have been tested with controllers (LOR, Animated Lighting, d-light, etc) and that they are in fact dimmable, and will tolerate this kind of abuse. CDI strings are! Most big box store LEDs are designed to be sold to the average consumer to wrap around the Christmas tree or be thrown over a bush outside. Turn them on at dark, turn them off when they go to bed. Not at all the way we use these things!

    Paul at CDI has in the past sent me (and others) sample strings in the Sept/Oct time frame to test with controllers to see if there would be any problems before making a decision whether to include a product in the next years offerings.

    Hope this helps a little Scott, as I stated in one of my earlier posts, the buyer needs to be better educated when buying LEDs to make sure that their construction will fit their needs. Not as simple these days as it was with just a string of simple incadescent lights.

    The best advice I can offer when buying LEDs to use in an animated lighting display is KNOW THE VENDOR and what the quality of their product is. There are several good vendors out there, but I trust Paul at CDI to always ship me a quality product. (I have gotten some junk strings mixed in from some of the other vendors, and I refuse to buy from them again)
    Last edited by John; 07-06-2010 at 10:58 PM.
    John (The Mascot)
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    480 LOR Channels + 2 CCR + 8 Mighty Minis + 10 Rainbow Floods+ 1 vdrive and vflood, Lynx Express and over 40,000 LEDs

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