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What is an LED Wall Washer?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

A Light-Emitting Diode (LED) wall washer is lighting equipment using LED technology for illumination. The term "wall washer" can be used to describe two types of lighting fixtures; one is used in performance lighting and the other is used in building lighting. An LED wall washer in a performance lighting setup is a rectangular arrangement of several LED lights used to evenly light a wall. In a building, an LED wall washer is a recessed lighting fixture mounted in the ceiling that also provides even lighting to a wall.

Each LED light emits a single color. An LED wall washer may output only white or off-white LED light for a simple, clean lighting look, or it may be designed with a controller to change the color of the wall washer. Most color wall washer units use mixed lights of multiple colors, usually red, green, and blue, that the lighting operator can use to dial up a final color. In addition to color changes, a performance LED wall washer used in a dance club may include effects that sequence light movement and flashing patterns.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

LED technology uses arrangements of small, high-output bulbs to achieve the even look observed in an LED wall washer unit. A different type of lighting technology, LED bulbs are a type of solid state lighting (SSL) that functions differently from filament and fluorescent technologies. The most common type of LED bulb is five millimeters (.20 inch) in diameter. The largest of commercially available high-powered LEDs are usually no bigger than 25 milimeters or around an inch in diameter.

Both recessed washers and performance wall washers are used when an even light look is desired on a flat wall surface. Performance lighting wall washers can either be mounted with theater lights or left loose for a portable unit. When painting a wall for a themed event is inconvenient, a colored LED wall washer can be positioned for a temporary color change look.

Architectural recessed LED wall washers are more difficult to install into an existing building than hanging lighting, but the recessed cove holding the LEDs gives a cleaner fixture look. Recessed fixtures also promote even lighting by hiding bright bulbs away from direct sight. A lighting designer may plot several wall washers along the length of an extended wall to maintain even lighting.

Because filaments and brittle glass are fragile, LED wall washers tend to be more durable than fixtures that use filaments or fluorescent tubes. The solid state technology used to make LED lights makes them more resistant to damage from vibration and handling. The durability of solid state lighting technology makes it the preferred choice for lights exposed to wear and tear such as traffic lights, book lamps, and portable electronics indicator lights.

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