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Red LED Glows Brighter – Why?

Online Train Club member Jaymie posted this question:

“I can’t get my green, yellow, and red LED’s to shine at the same intensity. They all have the same resistor value but the red light glows brighter which is weird?”

If you can answer Jaymie on why his “Red LED Glows Brighter” add a comment below.

10 Responses to Red LED Glows Brighter – Why?

  • Johansays:

    For the same resistor, the red LED will be brighter as the voltage drop across the red LED is around 2.2V and for the green or yellow LED is around 3.1V. The current through the red LED is thus higher for the same resistor.

    • Wessays:

      You might wire a simple diode is series with the Red LED as diodes drop about 1.2 volts. I e used this with several signals effectively.
      Wes O

  • Dansays:

    I made a connection error when I was installing led lights on my layout. Instead of connecting them parallel I accidentally connected one of them in series (a simple series/parallel circuit) which made that one different intensity. Check to make sure you didn’t make that same mistake.

  • Richard E Aubelsays:

    Use a higher value resistor on the red LED’s and a lower value on the green and yellow ones. Simple trial and error will allow you to even the intensity for all LED’s.

  • Frank Bsays:

    Just need to correct Johan: small red, green, orange and yellow LEDs operate around 2V, white and blue around 3.3V.
    I say “around”, because a very small change in voltage across an LED produces a large change in current, and thus in brightness.

    Unlike the old incandescent bulbs, LEDs of different colours work at different voltages because they have different atomic structures.

    So if you want the same apparent visible brightness, you will need to try out different resistor values to adjust it to your preference.
    ——————————————————————————————
    How to Calculate Resistor Values for LEDs

    Ordinary small 3mm & 5mm coloured LEDs (red, green, yellow,
    orange) run at about 2V, but white and blue LEDs run at about 3.3V.

    When using a supply higher than their nominal voltage, LEDs require a resistor connected in series with them to control the current.
    (Without the resistor, the LED will burn out immediately.)

    LED brightness is determined by the current, normally up to 30 mA maximum for 5mm LEDs.
    LEDs are polarity sensitive, so they must be the right way round. The long lead is positive.

    To calculate the required resistor for a particular supply voltage:
    LED Voltage + Resistor Voltage = Supply Voltage

    For example: To run one white LED (3.3V) from a 12V supply,

    Resistor voltage will be: 12V ─ 3.3V ═ 8.7V
    Resistor value will be: 8.7V ÷ 30 mA ═ 290 Ohms
    So we would use a 270 Ohm resistor (minimum value).
    (As only certain values are made, close to calculated value is ok.)
    A higher value resistor will reduce the brightness.

    For testing, use the minimum value resistor plus a 1k ohm potentiometer (variable resistor) in series to adjust the brightness of an LED to your liking, measure the total resistance, resistor plus potentiometer, with a multimeter, then find a resistor (or two in series) to approximate that value of resistance.

    You can buy very cheap potentiometers on Ebay, so you can set one to about the needed resistance, leave it in the circuit and tweak it slightly as required.

    • Philsays:

      Very good information, thanks.

  • Louis van Zylsays:

    When calculating a resistor value I use the Vansoft Model Railroad Calculator tool. I keep the LED current always about 12mA. The problem with the LED being brighter is the mcd value of the LED. The higher this value the brighter it will shine. When buying a LED make sure that this value is below 1000 as above 1000 is generally high bright and not what you want. I have been making a lot of signals and never had the bright red LED problem. See the image of the calculated resistor value and the tool is free from there website.

  • Dougsays:

    aaargh! why didn’t I see this article sooner? I used a single resistor on bi-colour LED’s on my control board, I should have used a resistor for each color from the other lead. Always learning! Great information though – THANKS!

  • Bob Rimmsays:

    About LED’s of all colors. To get the optimum brightness out of an LED you must know the specifications on the specific LED. There are many manufactures of Light Emitting Diodes and the light output can be all over the place for the different sizes and colors from the same manufacturer. If you need the brightness to match, the best circuit would be to use a 555 single timer or a 556 dual timer circuit to match the brightness of a pair. If you go to “DigiKey Electronics” on the internet, you should find a catalog of parts and applications, with diagrams, for the 555/556 timers that will control an led.

    Bob R

  • Stan Arnoldsays:

    Frank Bsays:
    How to Calculate Resistor Values for LEDs

    Ordinary small 3mm & 5mm coloured LEDs (red, green, yellow,
    orange) run at about 2V, but white and blue LEDs run at about 3.3V.

    When using a supply higher than their nominal voltage, LEDs require a resistor connected in series with them to control the current.
    (Without the resistor, the LED will burn out immediately.)

    LED brightness is determined by the current, normally up to about 30 mA maximum for 5mm LEDs.
    LEDs are polarity sensitive, so they must be the right way round. The long lead is positive.

    To calculate the required resistor for a particular supply voltage:
    LED Voltage + Resistor Voltage = Supply Voltage

    For example: To run one white LED (3.3V) from a 12V supply,

    Resistor voltage will be: 12V ─ 3.3V ═ 8.7V
    Resistor value will be: 8.7V ÷ 30 mA ═ 290 Ohms
    So we would use a 270 Ohm resistor (minimum value).
    (As only certain values are made, close to calculated value is ok.)
    A higher value resistor will reduce the brightness.

    To adjust LEDs to your liking, use the minimum value resistor plus a 1k ohm potentiometer (variable resistor) in series, twiddle to the desired brightness.
    Measure the total resistance, resistor plus potentiometer, with a multimeter, then find a resistor (or two in series) to approximate that value of resistance.

    You can buy very cheap potentiometers on Ebay, so you can set one to about the needed resistance, leave it in the circuit and tweak it slightly as required.

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