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Consumer information on light emitting diodes (LED)

Useful consumer information on advantages and disadvantages, variants and the use of LEDs

LED lamps are on the rise. But who really knows the new technology? And what about the radiation risk? Here you will find all the information that will help you select and use LEDs.

In 2009, the European Union decided to prohibit the use of incandescent lamps, in stages depending on performance. The aim of this ban is to save energy. Currently, many incandescent lamps for general lighting in the EU can no longer be manufactured (100 W, 75 W, 60 W, 40 W and 25 W). Since the ban, a rapid development of light sources in the form of light-emitting diodes has been observed. Lamps based on LEDs replace more and more lamps. So far, as a consumer (man or woman), you have had very little information about these products and how to handle them safely. That is why we have compiled everything you need to know about the LED technology here.

LED tube lamp © Regierungspräsidium Kassel

Advantages of the LED lamps

Compared to conventional lamps, the LED-based lamps have the following advantages:

  • LED lamps have lower power consumption.
  • They produce a flicker-free light.
  • The light is immediately available in full brightness after switching on.
  • The lifetime of the LED lamps is not dependent on the switching frequency.
  • The light spectrum of LED lamps can be assembled as desired. They are suitable for general lighting and can be free of ultraviolet and infrared components.

Disadvantages of the LED lamps

  • Due to the rapid development of the LED lamps, not all the corresponding standards are available. Until this is the case, the manufacturer assesses whether all safety-relevant aspects are taken into account in his product by means of risk assessment. There is no obligation to test the products.
  • There is no reliable knowledge about the long-term behaviour of LED lamps. What is known: High temperatures shorten the lifetime and reduce the brightness of LEDs.
  • Since the LEDs produce directed light, the LED lamps have a different distribution of the luminous flux. Therefore, the lighting characteristics of the room lighting change when the existing lamps are replaced with LED lamps. The applicable regulations and standards are then no longer met.
  • Replacement versions for tube lamps without conversion of the luminaire are currently only suitable for the ballast variants CB/LLB (conventional/low-loss ballast variant), but not for the electronic ballast variant (EB).
  • Several versions of LED tube lamps are currently available in the market as replacements for the conventional fluorescent lamp. These require different requirements for the luminaires in which they are used. The lack of compatibility of the LED and fluorescent technologies can lead to risks for users, such as the risk of electric shock.
  • As a replacement for incandescent lamps and CFL lamps (Compact Fluorescent Lamp), LED lamps are offered for the various market-ready frames. Some of them have no protection against contact or no adequate protection against contact. Any contact with the light-emitting diodes can cause a fatal electric shock.
  • High consumption of precious metals (gold, copper, rare earths, etc.) for the necessary electronics, which are required with each LED lamp.

Assessment of the risks by optical radiation

The risks arising from the optical radiation of all types of lamps can be assessed by the standard DIN EN 62471 (VDE 0837-471: 2009-03): Photobiological safety of lamps and lamp systems (date of issue: 2009-03). Photobiology explores the relationship between light and organisms, including possible effects of light on humans and their health. According to this standard, the lamps are divided into one of four groups.

Free group: Lamps/luminaires do not pose a photobiological hazard.
Risk group 1: Lamps/luminaires do not pose a risk due to normal restrictions due to the behavior of the users
Risk group 2: Lamps/luminaires are not a hazard due to the aversion reactions of bright light sources or thermal discomfort.
Risk group 3: Lamps/luminaires present a risk for volatile or short-term irradiation. Usage in general lighting is not permitted.

No labelling is required for the free group and risk groups 1. A labelling is required for risk group 2. At the moment, the following symbol is usually used:

Symbol for risk group 2

The risk group 3 is not permitted in the general lighting.

Proposed variants of LED tube lamps

Externally, the LED tube lamps do not differ from the conventional fluorescent lamps. However, problems can arise with the luminaire, with some LEDs.

1. Retrofit variant

The LED tube lamp is sold together with a special starter. Only the fluorescent lamp of the luminaire (conventional fluorescent lamp) and the starter are replaced by an LED tube lamp and special starters (application currently suitable for the ballasts CB/LLB is not suitable for ballast EB). A conversion of the existing luminaire is not necessary.

Tips: Please pay attention to information from the manufacturer regarding the use of the LED tube lamp, since it is not suitable for all ballasts.
If a conventional fluorescent lamp is to be used instead of the LED tube lamp, the starter must also be replaced. A conventional fluorescent lamp also requires a conventional starter. If this is not observed, this is not dangerous indeed, but the lamp does not light up or can be damaged.

2. Conversion variant

It requires a complex conversion of the existing luminaire. The person who reconditions a lamp becomes the manufacturer of the luminaire. The person concerned is then responsible for their safety and must comply with all obligations imposed on manufacturers by law. Dealing with a converted luminaire can pose risks because it is not certain whether, for example, the required insulation distances have been adhered to.

As important components of the luminaire are bridged during the conversion, there are some risks when replacing the LED tube lamp with a fluorescent lamp. There might be, for example, a short circuit, which can be accompanied by a loud bang. This can cause secondary accidents, such as a shock-induced fall from the ladder. In case of improper conversion, there is, of course, also the risk of an electric shock.

3. "Illusory" Retrofit variant

In this variant, the person using it is apparently offered a retrofit variant which, however, actually requires a conversion of the luminaire. This is clearly a conversion variant.

4. LED tube lamps with electrical continuity

This variant is particularly dangerous. Here, the contact pins of the one side have direct electrical connection to the contact pins of the other side. This electrical connection is not visible from the outside. There is a risk of electric shock when changing these LED tube lamps.

According to the manufacturers of these LED tube lamps, operation is only possible without the starter. If you find a reference to the removal of the starter and/or the operation of the luminaire without a starter, you are basically dealing with this dangerous variant.
Because of the numerous risks, you should definitely refrain from converting the luminaires. Use only the retrofit variant (the fluorescent lamp is replaced by a LED tube lamp and the conventional starter by a special starter supplied with the LED tube lamp). This protects you and others as well.

LED tube lamp © Regierungspräsidium Kassel

Tips for the practice

Only use retrofit versions as replacements for conventional fluorescent lamps in existing luminaires. No reconditioning of the luminaire is necessary.
Please note the following:

  • The supply voltage of the LED tube lamp must be within the voltage range of the fluorescent lamp to be replaced.
  • The power of the LED tube lamp must be the same or smaller.
  • The dimensions must be identical to those of the conventional fluorescent lamp.
  • The weight of the LED tube lamps shall not exceed the weight allowed for the corresponding mounting system.
  • You should use only checked and certified LED tube lamps!

LED lamps as replacement for incandescent lamps and CFL lamps for 230 V AC (alternating voltage)

LED-Leuchtmittel (oben) und Halogenleuchtmittel (klassisch, unten) mit Sockel GU9 © Regierungspräsidium Kassel

As a replacement for incandescent lamps and CFL lamps, LED lamps are available for the various frames on the market. Some of these LED lamps have no protection against contact or no adequate protection against contact. You can recognise these lamps by the fact that the light-emitting diodes and soldering points do not have a cover. This allows direct contact with live parts. There is therefore the risk of a fatal electric shock.

Risiko des elektrischen Schlags bei LED-Lampen ohne ausreichenden Berührungsschutzes © Regierungspräsidium Kassel

If you already have such a lamp, you should immediately replace it with a safe lamp, taking into account the following points:

  • For fixed luminaires (eg wall and ceiling luminaires), always switch off the fuse in the house installation first. Then check for the absence of voltage.
  • For stationary lamps (eg table and floor lamps), pull the mains plug.

Only then can you replace the lamp safely. If you are unsure whether you should carry out the replacement yourself, get help from the electrician.

In the case of non-certified LED lamps, it is possible that these do not correspond to the current rules of technology (standards). In particular with regard to photobiological safety, complicated measurements are necessary for the classification of the lamp into the risk group. With the LED lamps of the risk groups 2 and 3, damage to the eyes is possible.

Redaction:
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Dr. Jelena Nagel
Regional Council Kassel: Robert Hennig, Thomas Apel
VDE Prüf- und Zertifizierungsinstitut GmbH: Holger Kilb
Photos: Regional Council Kassel