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Myth Busters Busted: The 3-Watt vs 5-Watt LED Non-Debate

Posted December 16, 2020

Recently an article (written by a competing LED light therapy company) was brought to our attention by a customer.

This article is a very poor (and quite misleading) attempt to myopically claim that "3w LEDs" are somehow superior to "5w LEDs". The reality is that LED size (ie rated power / theoretical max consumption) is simply one design input of a light therapy device - other important inputs include quality of the LEDs, beam angle, number of LEDs, spacing between LEDs, how much power is driven through the LEDs, etc.

Focusing on specific inputs is purposely misleading - what consumers should be most focused on is how the inputs combine to deliver the desired output - which in this case of course are the irradiance and fluence of the light panel.

The two metrics that matter most in red light therapy are the power density (irradiance) measured in mW/cm2 and the energy density (fluence) measured in J/cm2.

Our lights are independently tested and specifically calibrated to deliver the irradiance and fluence that are most backed by science and that can deliver better results in less time (and do so safely). Our independent testing results can be found here:

Nevertheless this article raises some issues specific to LED size, so we quickly address the points below.

The article begins by claiming that smaller LEDs are more efficient than larger ones. While this may be true, it is not relevant to the consumer shopping for a RED LIGHT THERAPY DEVICE.

A buyer in the market for a red light therapy device should be primarily concerned with finding the most EFFECTIVE light therapy device, not necessarily the most energy efficient.

Having said that, any increased energy consumption is trivial. LEDs are highly efficient which is why they are THE industry standard for light therapy products. Furthermore, the reason for driving more energy through the LEDs is of course, to generate increased light output i.e. higher irradiance.

We discuss some more key parameters shoppers should consider in detail in our Definitive Red Light Therapy Buyers Guide.

Next the article claims that higher power LEDs may run warmer. While this may be true, it is essentially just a restatement of the first point above. Yes, it is obvious that LEDs which have more electrical energy powered through them may run slightly warmer.

Again any increased warmth is trivial and our choice of LEDs is a one design input of our overall design to drive higher irradiance and ultimately create the most EFFECTIVE red light therapy devices.

The article then asserts that LEDs that run warmer will not last as long. This may or may not be true as the life of an LED is going to depend primarily on the QUALITY of the LED.

Our LEDs are thoroughly quality tested and rated for 50,000 hours. We also offer an industry leading warranty of up to 3 years. Our devices properly cared for, will last many, many years.

Next, the author moves on to the topic of irradiance and attempts to make a direct comparison of one of their light therapy panels vs one of our models.

To do this they show the chart below:

Plat LED Light Therapy Chart

On the surface this would appear to be a relatively straightforward comparison of irradiance at 6 and 12 inches of one of their light panels vs the MitoMOD 900.

The author claims these measurements were taken with a Tenmars TM-206 solar meter. As we've discussed in our Definitive Red Light Therapy Buyers Guide, solar meters (available for as little as $70) are notoriously inaccurate (they tend to vastly overstate irradiance of RLT devices) and highly variable (different brands of solar meters can produce very different measurements).

Furthermore, these measurements can easily be adulterated in a multitude of ways such as:

  • 1) taking measurements with the NIR LEDs off (remember NIR is invisible)
  • 2) taking measurements by angling the device ever so slightly instead of having the sensor parallel to the face of the panel
  • 3) taking measurements toward the perimeter of the device as opposed to in the center of the device and/or
  • 4) taking measurements with part of the sensor on the light meter obscured so less light energy is detected by the meter.

This is why we recommend buyers engage in healthy skepticism when evaluating irradiance claims made by RLT manufacturers. Instead buyers should trust manufacturers that conduct and publish independent diagnostic testing at professional laboratories. Again, our independent 3rd party diagnostic testing results can be found HERE. (Quick preview: the MitoMOD 900 delivers and impressive 47,320 joules per 10 minute session).

We'll come back to these irradiance "measurements" in a moment.

First, let us assume that the irradiance data above is accurate (it's NOT).

Even assuming the irradiance data is accurate (it's NOT), this product "comparison" is disingenuous to say the least..

To understand why this is the case, please see an expanded chart with some additional information added below.

MitoMOD 900 vs Platinum LED Biomax 900

*Competitor panel price taken off their website and accurate as of 12/16/20.

Conveniently omitted from their simple irradiance comparison chart are the very relevant facts that their panel contains nearly TWICE as many LEDs and is priced nearly TWICE as high!

Does this seem like a fair, apples to apples comparison to you?

But it gets worse. MUCH, MUCH WORSE.

This article was originally published on the competitors website in October 2020. Now, in March 2021, we at Mito Red finally got around to measuring a MitoMOD 900 with a Tenmars TM206 meter (several in fact). (Forgive us for the delay, but we have been quite busy keeping up with unprecedented demand, working diligently to design innovative new products, and to continually deliver impeccable value and service to our customers).

Turns out, the ACTUAL irradiance at 6 inches of a MitoMOD 900 when measured with a Tenmars TM206 solar meter is...*drumroll please*......

~150 mW/cm2.

That's right - it's actually HIGHER than the (supposed) 135 mW/cm2 of their device, despite being nearly half the price. And it's about 50% higher than the measurements they claim in their article.

But wait, you may say - there are images in the article showing the measurements of 103 mW/cm2 at 6 inches, 79 mw/cm2 at 12 inches.

Yes, let's look a bit more closely at those images shall we?


These things would be very easy to miss for anybody who hasn't actually handled one of these meters before.

To begin with, the measurements should be taken in the center of the panel not near the perimeter.

Secondly, placing an opaque object (ie a wooden ruler) directly below the sensor is going to reduce the light that reaches the sensor.

If you're still not completely convinced, that's ok. We break it all down, in this completely unedited video.

Buyer beware indeed.



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