LED Therapy Light Flickering: What You Need to Know
One question customers sometimes ask us is whether our LED panels are "flicker free". There is a current misconception that the flickering may be harmful, or compromise the therapeutic efficacy of the red light treatment. The truth is that ALL LED panels flicker in a near-invisible manner as the nature of how they operate.
Flickering poses absolutely no danger to the user, nor does it hinder the delivery of the red or near-infrared light wavelengths. In fact, flickering may even be beneficial. Read on as we demystify the harmless source of the near-invisible flickering, and explain why LED lights are more effective at delivering red and near-infrared wavelengths over larger surface areas than other light-based therapies.
What is AC and DC power?
To explain why LED lights flicker, we first need to outline AC and DC power. Electrical currents can be AC or DC in nature. AC and DC refer to the flow of charged particles.
DC current, or direct current, is constant and moves in one direction. You can visualize it as a flat line. DC power is most commonly used in low voltage applications, like battery operated devices. LED bulbs are intrinsically direct current (DC) devices due to the nature of how they work.
The flow of AC, or alternating current, appears more as a wave-like pattern, oscillating back and forth as the current flows from negative to positive. Alternating current is most commonly used to transmit electricity over longer distances. In the United States, mains supply or household electricity is AC power generally delivered at a frequency of 60Hz. 60Hz means the electrical current oscillates back and forth 60 times each second.
All LED lights are DC powered, but they must run from an AC mains supply in order to be plugged to your wall outlet to be used. Next, we’ll explain why this causes flickering.
How does the AC/DC difference cause flickering?
There are several ways that LEDs can be operated from an AC power supply. Standalone LED lights, such as the PlatinumLED light therapy devices, have built-in miniature circuitry rectifiers or transformers to convert AC to DC from the wall sockets to the light fixture. These transformers also enable the lights to accept any voltage level worldwide and automatically adjust.
Nonetheless, all LED lights that are plugged into AC mains power flicker due to the way in which AC power is converted to DC power. It’s impossible to plug an LED panel into an AC power source without some near-invisible flicker registering. The flicker or visual fluctuation becomes apparent when there are large ripples in the direct current (DC) delivered to the LED light. These flickers are the residue of the AC input. So the conversion of AC power to DC power will always result in some flickering. Always.
Not only this, but it's very important to remember that you, as the user, will not be able to visually detect any flicker whatsoever. It is nearly invisible to the human eye.
Visual fluctuation actually occurs in many mains-powered light sources: whether incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, or LED. This fluctuation is not apparent with incandescent bulbs, however, because the residual heat leaves the filament glowing between flickers--these highly inefficient bulbs convert only a little of the energy to light, losing the rest as heat. LED lights are much more energy efficient and do not retain heat, therefore subtle flickering results.
Should you be worried about flicker?
Here’s the most important thing you should know--the flickering represents absolutely no cause for concern. It won’t detrimentally affect the efficacy of your red light therapy treatment and presents no danger. All LED light panels delivering red light therapy flicker to some degree.
In fact, some emerging studies are highlighting that flickering in LED lights may actually offer benefits to users--one recent MIT study has found that LED lights flickering at a specific frequency can help to induce brain waves known as gamma oscillations, reducing the production of plaque responsible for Alzheimer's’ disease.
On the other side of the argument, we have found that the principal parties that have tried to spread the rumor that LED flicker is somehow detrimental, are those with a vested financial interest in an alternative product such as seller or marketing affiliates of other types of non-LED based therapy light devices.
Why is LED the most effective source of light for red light therapy?
Photobiomodulation can use laser, heat lamps or LED light to provide a source of red or near-infrared light for healing. In the 1960s, when photobiomodulation was first researched and developed, lasers were almost exclusively used and remained the most commonly employed device. Lasers deliver coherent, highly powered beams of intense power density.
Nowadays, LED lights are becoming increasingly common and favored for red light therapy.
LED lights hold multiple advantages over lasers:
- There are no dangers or hazards in using LEDs (apart from the need to protect the eyes, although the jury is still out on that matter)
- LED red light therapy can be used at home safely and easily
- LED lights deliver red and near-infrared light wavelengths very consistently
- LED lights last for thousands of hours
- LEDs cost significantly less per mW than lasers to operate
- LEDs can irradiate a broader surface area than laser. Although laser may deliver a single beam of light into the tissue deeper than an LED, LEDs are better equipped at delivering large amounts of energy into the body.
LED lights are also more effective at delivering red and near-infrared light than infrared heat lamps. To receive the clinical benefits of a heat lamp, the user needs to spend much longer in front of the lamp than an LED panel.
Broad-band heat lamps also emit mid-infrared and far-infrared wavelengths in addition to near-infrared wavelengths, generating significant heat. Standing too close to a heat lamp can be uncomfortably hot. Overheating never happens with LED lights.
The benefits of PlatinumLED red light therapy devices
If you’re looking to reap the health benefits of LED light therapy at home, PlatinumLED therapy light devices represent the gold standard. PlatinumLED therapy lights are the most powerful LED devices on the market today, emitting more irradiance, or light energy, per watt consumed than any other competing LED therapy light.
Our expertise in designing and manufacturing LED red therapy lights comes from years of extensive experience in the industry, creating LED panels for multiple applications.
PlatinumLED lights come in various-sized panels to match your therapeutic requirements. The larger the panel, the more LEDs contained within it; providing greater coverage and more irradiance. Our LED red light therapy panels are available in multiple configurations of 660nm, 850nm, or both, allowing you to select the wavelength frequency you need.
The bottom line
Don’t fear the flicker--it in no way detracts from the therapeutic value of red light therapy. Red light therapy is gentle but transformative in its ability to heal diverse conditions and regenerate the skin and body tissue at a cellular level. You can read more about its unique health benefits for body and mind here.