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What is an LED sign and how does it work?

LED lighting is a lamp or other light that uses LEDs as a source of illumination. Most lighting comes from an incandescent or fluorescent light bulb. Different than the traditional bulb, LEDs can be put into traditional lamps and used like most other light bulbs. They are much more efficient than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.

LED stands for light-emitting diode. That is, simply, a semiconductor device that converts electricity to light by using the movement of electrons. LEDs were invented in Russia in the 1920s. They were put into practical use in the United States in the 1960s by General Electric. In the late 1960s, Monsanto Corporation was the first to mass-produce LEDs, and Hewlett-Packard used them in its early calculators.

There are many consumer advantages to LEDs over incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs. LED lights consume much less energy. They are 300 percent more efficient than a compact fluorescent light (CFL), and 1,000 percent more efficient than an incandescent bulb. They have a very long life, about 50,000 hours of use at 70 percent of their original power. (LEDs don't burn out or flicker, they simply fade.) This works out to eight hours a day for 13 years at 70 percent power. A typical 60-watt incandescent bulb may last about 1,000 hours.

LED lighting contains no mercury or other toxins. LEDs emit no ultra violet (UV) light, so they don't attract bugs. They don't generate heat, so they are cool to the touch. They don't generate radio frequency waves, so they don't interfere with radios or television broadcasts. They also are resistant to vibrations and shocks.

There are disadvantages to LED lighting, too. LED lights are more expensive to buy. They are heat sensitive, so if they are not used with a steady and consistent current, they can stop working or fade quicker. Also, they are best used in directional lighting rather than room lighting.

LEDs are quite small, so they are often used in clocks and watches and as indicator lights in cars. They have fast switching, so they are good in remote controls and lights that are turned on and off frequently. Their directional nature means they are best used under kitchen counters, in stairways and hallways, or as reading lamps, landscape lighting, and night lights.