I have a project that uses an array of LEDs as a lighting source.

Digi-Key's website has two categories of LEDs that seem to be of interest to me.

  1. LED Indication - Discrete


  1. LED Lighting


What is the difference between these two categories?

In my mind, I am trying to get the maximum amount of "brightness per watt" or something like that, and it feels like one of the categories might feature LEDs with special characteristics (super fast recovery time, etc.) that I don't necessarily need.

Details of the LED spec (if it is of relevance):

5V power source

Driven by 3.3V GPIO

25mA Ic rating

  • \$\begingroup\$ LED Indication - Discrete ... look at the emitted color \$\endgroup\$
    – jsotola
    Nov 19, 2021 at 22:41

2 Answers 2


It's simple. Just think of the wording.

indication means some point in a apparatus indicating some state. The light being emitted bye the LED is directly received by the human eye.

lighting means a surface being illuminated. The light emitted by the LED illuminates something which is then seen by the eye.

Now, what's the difference concerning the devices used for that? It's the optimization for different purposes. In general, to perceive a signal from a LED doesn't need lot of luminous flux, so power output of the LEDs designed for indication is typically way below 0.5 W. In those devices efficiency is not the most important design yield. They are usually optimized to emit in a certain angle at a defined luminance.

LEDs for lighting are more likely to be optimized to emit certain luminous flux and to perform at a certain efficiency.

Another significant difference is color. Indication type LEDs are designed to be perceived with a distinctive color. When filtering only 2.6 k results of 23 k have a white color. So almost 90% of the indication LEDs are colored. Of course, when an indication is needed, the color should be fixed as it tends to represent a state as well. Most common: green=good, red=bad.

In comparison all of the lighting LEDs are white. So the purpose is, to deliver a full spectrum and let the dyes and pigments of the illuminated objects determine the impression at the eye of the viewer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much. Your explanation was perfect :) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19, 2021 at 22:40

It's mainly about brightness.

Indicator lights are to tell you that something is turned on. They don't have to be very bright.

Lighting LEDs are as bright as possible. They draw more current. They may be sold as single high-wattage LEDs, or as arrays containing lots of small LED chips.

If you particularly care about brightness per watt, you'd have to read the specifications for each. LEDs run at the maximum power can actually be less efficient than ones run at a lower current.


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