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One of the most telling aspects to a LED bulb when it comes to quality is how well the bulb dissipates heat.
A common misconception is that LED bulbs don’t get warm, however this just isn’t the case. They don’t get nearly as hot as incandescent bulbs, but since power goes into the LEDs, they do produce heat and this must be drawn away from the LEDs.
Unfortunately LEDs can’t radiate this heat away in the same way as an incandescent bulb – instead, the heat needs to be drawn away from the LEDs by a heat sink normally located in the bottom of the bulb. The heat sink absorbs the heat produced and then dissipates into the surrounding environment.
If the heat sink doesn’t fulfil its job correctly, the LED will overheat and most likely burn out. So a badly designed heat sink will be detrimental to the lifespan of the LED bulb, and efficient thermal management is really important to ensure that the LED bulbs last as promised!
There are lots of different designs for heat sinks, which is why the appearance of LED bulbs changes so much between brands. You may be familiar with the metal fins on some LEDs – higher end LEDs will have aluminium fins or ceramic heat sinks. The ceramic fins in many cases can be more effective than any metal heat sink, since they possess lots of tiny pores, which provide an even greater surface area to dissipate the heat from compared to metals. Ceramic heat sinks have a very low thermal capacity, but the highest surface area to maximise heat loss into the surrounding environment.
So in our experience better LED bulbs will utilise ceramics or aluminium, but this alone does not make them a market leader!