With the rapid growth and adoption of LED over the last few years, there are now over 500,000 different types of LED lighting products on the market today. How can you determine if the product you are buying for your business will last, and more importantly, is the right product for your unique business? This is one of the most asked questions we hear.
90% of LED products are poorly made in factories in China that have limited quality control standards. While some products can be made very well in China, like the iPhone, unfortunately the LED manufacturing process is not up to American standards. One of the main reasons people are buying LED products is that they will last up to 20 times longer than traditional lighting products therefore providing savings and no maintenance costs. Unfortunately, most LED products will fail and fail quickly. Does it really matter if there is a warranty when your fixture is 40 feet up in the air? Someone has to get up there and replace it. Your low maintenance product just turned into a high maintenance problem.
The good news is that there are manufacturers who are making great LED products that will save you money and will last a very long time. So how can you tell if a product is made well and will last? The first thing we do is reverse engineer and take apart products to see the components the manufacturer is using, a process we call, “what’s under the hood?” Just like any manufactured product, if the components that are being used to create the product are cheap and not well designed, you will have problems. We look at the following: LED Diodes, Power supplies, Cabinet or outer shells, Wire connections, Thermal boards and other items. We then look at what the manufacturer’s strategy is for Thermal Management. If there is no thermal management strategy, we will not recommend the product. We then look at the specifications of the product to see where they fit compared to other quality products that we know about. We look at efficacy, CRI, rated Life, warranty, and other factors.
CRI stands for Color Rendering Index. It is an index that goes up to 100 and measures the quality of light color. It should not be confused with color temperature, which measures the actual color of the light from 2000k(warm yellow-8000k(cold blue). A CRI of 100 has the quality as close to natural sunlight as possible. It is always a goal of good manufactures to create products with a high CRI for comfort of the user. Most subpar manufacturers hide their CRI rating and have CRI’s of 70 or less.
Efficacy is the amount of lumens (a measurement of light) delivered per watt. A 50w product that claims to have an efficacy of 100 lumens/watt will deliver 5,000 lumens of light. The better manufacturers are investing in R&D and better components to produce products with very high efficacy. Some of the best products are achieving 150 lumens per watt which means you can get the same amount of lumens using less energy. In our example, that means using 33 watts of power to get 5,000 lumens. If you multiply the difference in wattage of the 2 products (17w) times hundreds of light fixtures, you are literally saving thousands of dollars by going with a high efficacy product.
Other factors we look for include, end user references and case studies, quality of the manufacturer’s executive team, financial strength of the manufacturer, and we also conduct field visits to the factories to ensure quality processes.
If it sounds like there is a lot of work to do to determine what a good product is, you are correct. That is why you need to work with a qualified company that understands these issues and has real world experience implementing these solutions.