Avoiding Issues When Working with Alternative LED Lighting Systems |
Article- July 2013 By Larson Electronics.com
Larson Electronics Class I Division II Explosion Proof 240 Watt High Bay LED Light
Although the explosive growth and increasingly positive reception of LEDs within the lighting marketplace continues at an unabated pace, there remain some issues among end consumers that continue to plague this rapidly advancing technology. Chief among these issues are performance reliability and the problem of quality inconsistency among brands and manufacturers. Although not an issue with the technology itself, these problems still pose a significant hurdle for LED lighting developers to overcome if this technology is to meet its expected eventual position as the dominant form of lighting.
For companies which specialize in the installation of new LED lighting systems, meeting the client’s quality and performance expectations with these new systems is at times problematic. Although LEDs are rapidly winning over converts from traditional forms of lighting such as HID and incandescent systems due to their longevity and extreme efficiency, the poor quality and performance of some LEDs arriving from overseas are resulting in serious financial losses and jaded customers who end up returning to less efficient but more reliable forms of lighting. Some contractors in an effort to maintain profitability and reduce the end costs passed on to their clients are using equipment from foreign suppliers that simply is not living up to its stated performance parameters. For instance, many commercial grade LED fixtures carry the most common 50,000 hour service life rating, thus these systems are expected to operate for several years before requiring servicing. Unfortunately, the quality of the offshore manufactured systems is far below what is expected, and it is not uncommon for these low grade systems to fail less than a year after installation.
Much of the problem stems from the relatively new arrival of illumination grade LED lighting and the lack of standardization from manufacturer to manufacturer. While in the United States there are only a few major players producing illumination grade LED systems, and these companies bring to the table a longstanding reputation for quality and reliability, LEDs produced overseas are the product of a far different climate. The very fast development of LED lighting technology and the very high potential they carry has resulted in hundreds of manufacturers and importers of LED based devices such as drivers, chips, and controllers appearing almost overnight, which has made it difficult at best for some professionals to ensure the equipment they are installing is reliable. Quality control and standardization among all these new suppliers is in large part almost non existent, and component compatibility and interchangeability is a big issue. The result has been for some lighting specialists, a nightmare. A complete upgrade of a large facility to LEDs can easily run tens of thousands of dollars, and when these systems fail or perform poorly, these specialists can find themselves on the hook for rectifying the issue.
Despite all these issues lighting specialists to their credit have not been shying away from LEDs, primarily because their benefits are simply too numerous and significant to ignore. Regardless of issues with manufacturer consistency, LED technology continues to garner a larger and larger share of the lighting markets, and most analysts agree that within 15 to 20 years LEDs will be the dominant form of lighting in use. This is because quality LEDs offer performance and reliability that easily eclipses that of traditional lighting technologies, which in the long term represents greatly reduced operating costs. Not only this, but the high efficiency of LEDs and their cleaner construction, meaning they do not contain the toxic mercury or gases used in conventional lighting like fluorescents, means they reduce the impact on the environment as well. For a large facility looking to reduce operating costs while improving the performance of their lighting, LEDs offer the ability to reduce lighting costs by up to 80% while actually increasing lighting levels and the quality of the light produced as well. LEDs can be fitted to almost any application, they require no ballast, they can be tailored to produce light in almost any color wavelength including ultraviolet and infrared, they run cooler which reduces the load on air conditioning systems, and quality LED fixtures can easily last in excess of 50,000 to 75,000 hours. All of this adds up to a very attractive lighting package with an appeal that is very hard to ignore, and those who do ignore them do so at their own peril.
So what can the company specializing in the design and installation of new lighting systems do in order to combat the problems associated with the large variances in quality and performance that have yet to be dealt with? First and foremost, beware of any LED associated products produced by companies without a long history of strong performance in the lighting industry. Companies like Cree, Philips, GE and Sylvania have all demonstrated not only a history of reputable and reliable service, but a deep commitment to the development and production of LED based technology as well. So, for contractors and professionals seeking a reliable source of LEDs and associated equipment, it pays to stick with names you know and trust even if it might look like a better deal might be had with a lesser known supplier.
Another important thing to look for is guarantees. With so many suppliers and importers available, it’s critical that lighting professionals do their due research when considering going with a particular product or supplier. 5 year guarantees are pretty standard and a company should have a good history of backing them up. Products like lamps and controls should be backed by solid testing and performance data, and if you can also get assurances as to maintenance of color quality and consistency over the rated life of the equipment then even better.
The biggest thing to look for though is the ability of the company to stand behind the LED products it provides. Many of the smaller upstarts and here today gone tomorrow importers simply cannot provide the kind of support needed to maintain confidence in their products, much less have the resources to properly test and rate this equipment. Stick with better known brands, avoid suppliers and manufacturers who are unable to guarantee their products, and make sure the equipment you buy is backed by solid testing and valid ratings, and you’ll be far ahead of the game and able to avoid the pitfalls that come with utilizing cheaper but less reliable LED products.