A picture light with LED technology represents the next step in art display illumination. LED lighting is rapidly becoming the first choice in illumination, and the U.S. Department of Energy, or DoE, believes this trend will only accelerate.
In fact, the DoE believes that LED fixtures will represent a massive 84 percent of the lighting market by 2030, according to its data forecasts. LEDs are also gaining notice in the art lighting industry, where their safe, long lasting illumination makes perfect sense for museums and galleries.
Most art displays include at least one subject that is sensitive to heat or UV radiation. Paintings, prints and photographs will fade or discolor after long term exposure to it, but LED lights only produce modest amounts of UV light. This conserves the subject and ensures it can be displayed for as long as possible.
Heat is another enemy of art, and all lights produce it, to some extent. LED lighting, though, generates only a small fraction of the heat emitted from incandescent or halogen lamps, and it throws almost no forward heat. It is safe to use LEDs in extremely close proximity to sensitive subjects.
The lack of emitted heat is ideal for art, and it also minimizes the risk of fire. Further, some art lighting is designed with an insulation contact (IC) rated housing. Contour framing projectors with LED technology, for example, are available in an IC-rated design, and they are recommended for energy efficient buildings. That’s because an IC-rated housing can be safely installed in a ceiling, even when covered in insulation. An IC-rated housing emits little radiant heat, so even flammable materials like insulation are unaffected by the light.
Art display lighting operates for hours at a time, so it must be efficient and it must perform for a long time. LED technology offers both, at a level that no other lighting option can match. Consider the rated lifespans for various fixtures:
LED fixtures are the clear winner when comparing longevity, and its closest competitors (CFL and fluorescent fixtures), are poor art display options for other reasons. Halogen has long been the first choice in art illumination, due to its excellent color rendering properties. With only 4,000 hours of performance, though, halogen lamps must be switched out frequently, leading to greater operating costs and regular downtime. That may only be a matter of inconvenience for a homeowner, but museums and galleries can’t afford to lose their display lighting for long. LEDs are practically maintenance-free for years after placement, guaranteeing minimal downtime, and are a strong choice for professional venues, as a result.
LED technology produces some of the most even lighting in the industry, largely because of its emission pattern. Every light emits illumination in a particular pattern, and LEDs do so directionally, rather than radiating in all directions. A picture light driven by an LED engine is easy to aim and can be used to better frame the subject.
This is the approach behind an LED framing projector. The LED beam is focused toward and creates a pool of illumination that perfectly frames the subject. There’s no spill, hotspots or dead areas, due to this precision, and that results in the enchanting lit-from-within effect that contour projectors are known for.
For decades, the concern with LED lighting is that it couldn’t match halogen in terms of aesthetic performance. That’s no longer an issue with LEDs, which have undergone an incredible amount of development in recent years. High performance LEDs, in particular, offer the high-end output and optics that museums, galleries and art collectors demand.
The Cree XHP series is one such high performance LED, and it achieves some impressive rates of luminous density with its engineering. Specifically, the XHP series can emit nearly 300 lumens per mm2, making it one of the brightest commercial LEDs on the market. This brightness is critical for separating the subject from its surroundings, ensuring it commands attention wherever it is placed.
A picture light with LED technology can also achieve high marks on the color rendering index, or CRI. The standard for art lights is at least a 90+ rating, and LED framing projectors are among the few fixtures that can achieve it. With their excellent color rendering capabilities, LED art lights can produce the subtle hues that are found in paintings and prints.
Although LED technology is quickly becoming a ubiquitous lighting option, it’s almost as if it was made specifically for art displays. Its strong efficiency, longevity, color rendering and safety combine to make LED picture lights the class of art illumination.