Learning the LED lingo

What's it All Mean?

I'll be the first to say it, when I first started getting into LEDs I was immediately floored by how confusing the descriptions and names of various products were. While the products still have the same names, I've gotten better with the lingo and terminology regarding LEDs. If you're anything like I was though, you sill have trouble figuring out whether you need a PAR bulb or an MR, or was it an A shaped, no, definitely a BR bulb...right?

General LED Terms

:  First and Foremost, an LED is a light emitting diode. Instead of heating a coil of metal to produce light, and LED charges particles, causing them toglow. This process is much more energy efficient and safer.

AC Power & DC Power
:  AC stands for Alternating Current, whereas DC stands for Direct current. AC is what your home is more than likely wired up with, as most of the nation still uses AC power. AC consists of electrical charges going one way for a fraction of a second, then turning around and going the other way, whereas DC keeps the charge moving in one way the whole time. LEDs require DC power because they run on low amounts of power, and low-voltage DC current is also much safer than AC!

Cool White, Warm White, and RGB: If you've been browsing through the lights then you've definitely seen the phrases "cool white" and "warm white." What's the difference though, white's white right? Not entirely, warm white is the light you're used to from incandescentand fluorescent bulbs, a very "indoorsy" type of light, where as cool white is closer to sunlight, and typically brighter, closer in color to true "white." RGB stands for Red Green and Blue, and designates lights that use RGB LED diodes to create any color on the spectrum.

UL, RoHS, and CE Certification: Wow, that's a lot of letters! Each of these are various safety and technology certifications. UL stands for underwriter's Laboratory and many professionals require that any product they use be UL certified to be sure that the product they'll be using is of the highest quality. CE on the other hand is very similar to UL, only with a focus on European markets. So if you see UL or CE, you know the product is well made and safe. RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances, so if something is RoHS certified, that means it was safely made and doesn't contain any hazardous or dangerous material.


Bulb Classifications


PAR, BR, and MR Bulbs: All of these bulbs are used for directed beams of light, like spotlights, headlights, stage lights, etc. PAR stands for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector, these are the kinds of lights you'll see hanging over a stage, typically called "cans" for their housings' appearances. An alternative to the PARs are the Multifaceted Reflector bulbs (MRs). If you want a more spread out, wide angled beam, then Bulged Reflector (BR) bulbs are what you should take a look at.

A Shape Bulbs: Think of a light bulb, you just thought of an A19 shape bulb. Common A shape bulbs are A15 and A19, numbered for their diameters, so an A15 is 15/8ths of an inch around.

E26 and E27: These are named for their bases, the E26 is an American version and uses 120Vs, whereas the E27 is European and uses 220V. They can fit each others' bases, but using an E27 in a base made for an E26 can be dangerous, so be careful.

COB Technology: The most recent LED development has been “Chip On Board” or COB technology. On every COB chip there are typically 9 or more LED's, and only 2 contact points so they're all on one chip. This single circuit design leads to simplicity for COB LED devices.

Strip Terminology

SMD 3528 & 5050
: SMD stands for Surface Mount Device and the numbers are actually just the LED's dimensions, 3.5mmx2.8mm and 5mmx5mm. So if you want a brighter light, 5050's are the way to go. However, due to their smaller size, more 3528's can fit on a strip, allowing for a smoother and more constant lighting than the 5050's.

IP Rating: An IP rating is the "Ingress Protection Rating," or the weather proof rating of a strip.  IP ratings range from dust resistant, to weather resistant, all the way up to full on waterproof products!

RF, IR, and PIR Signals: An RF signal is a Remote Frequency, used by our strip remote controls. These are strong signals that can pass through walls (but not metal).  IR stands for Infrared and PIR is Passive infrared, or motion sensing. Infrared technologies have shorter signals, and can be blocked by your hands or other objects.  For that reason, an infrared component must be visible or easy to point to for optimum control.

PWM and CCR Dimming: PWM dimming is how most of our components control the brightness of our LED products.  RGB controllers, dimmers, and amplifiers all use PWM signals.  CCR dimming is the dimming method used by our alternative dimmable LED drivers, which allow you to use LED products with regular AC wall dimmers.  However, using the CCR dimmable drivers means you can't use any PWM components with the driver.

HD and RD Strips: High Density (HD) Strips, use twice the number of diodes as Regular Density Strips, so if you want more light, HDs are the way to go, but recognize that HDs use twice as much power and cost more than their RD counterparts!  It's also important to note that in some cases our HD strips may require alternate connectors or special considerations for long runs of light.

Thanks for reading this installment of our troubleshooting series, we truly hope it has been helpful. Have a question we haven’t answered yet? contact us at cole@hitlights.com and we’ll do our best to answer it in the next installment. Please remember that our customer service staff (customerservice@hitlights.com) is happy to assist you with any and all of your concerns, questions, and suggestions. If you want to call and talk with us, well that’s just fine too – (225)-304-0408!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.