8 LED lessons we’ve learned the hard way

I asked members of the LinkedIn Lighting Talk group to come clean on their attitude to LED retro-fit specifications and the things that we’ve learned over the past dozen years.

Where has it all gone right, and where has it all gone wrong?

The responses don’t really bring any real surprises; but the sense of disappointment and frustration is almost palpable. Don’t we all deserve better than this?

So, here they are, the things we’ve learned the hard way:

1 Don’t buy on price

Or as my colleague Alan Tulla puts it ‘if you buy cheap, you buy twice’. The trouble with cheap lighting fixtures is the light output falls dramatically short of expectations. A cheap LED fixture from a wholesaler will come with minimal technical data, but a buyer somewhere in a back office thinks it’s a good thing.

2 Don’t buy it if you don’t know what it does

Products that come with little or no data on the box and provide no idea of what should be expected of them need to be left on the shelves. They do no one any favours, least of all the contractor who gets it in the neck when they inevitably fail. Assume nothing; just because it quacks like a duck doesn’t stop it being a turkey.

3 Buy what you know

Don’t be the drive-by victim of the LED retrofit mugger! Only buy what you know, and only buy from those who have a real address with a real front door. Is there any point in acting as the guinea pig in a market place where GU10 lamps come and go like a bad smell? Once you know what you’re getting, stay with that and let someone else do the trend-setting.

4 Get it in writing

When you’re told that an LED retro-fit lamp will last for x years and maintain its y output, get it in writing (and then bet your business on the supplier that you’ve done the deal still being around when the first lamp explodes and falls into your soup). This is not a good idea. You need to learn to play by different rules.

6 Learn from other people’s mistakes

Ah well, at least it wasn’t me who specified a building’s worth of dodgy T5 LED replacements. Really, you’d expect better of them, wouldn’t you, after hearing them bang on about how robust their product inspection regime is?

7 Trust no one…

The saddest strategy of all because, once you’ve got to this point you’re probably better off out of the business altogether. So let’s turn this one around . . .

8 …but a few

This is a people business; the tech follows. Make a point only to work with those who you trust; trust them to know their tech; trust them not to do something silly; trust them to stay in business; trust them not to rip you off.

Now, all of that may not give you the guarantees that you’re looking for, but in this crazy marketplace you might just manage to stay ahead. And congratulations to all those of who have done just that; long may your ducking and weaving continue.

Comments 4

The reality is that for commercial spaces LED's have a definite benefit, lower cost of operation compared to the fluorescent equivalent, longer life so less maintenance, cleaner recycling and, in most instances, a reasonable return on investment. This is not the fact in residential for a lot of reasons. Yes, if you want to be green at any cost, go for it but think about it for a second. You take down the tungsten light fixture on the ceiling of your closet and replace it with a new LED fixture. Yes you are saving energy but for as long as the light is on and the low cost per KWH it will take a very long time to pay for it self. Clients do not understand that 1000 watts of light costs (in the Los Angeles Area) about $0.14 an hour to run and where do you have 1000 watts of light on at the same time in an average house. The pool pump uses more energy in a day than the lighting system will in a few weeks. And then there is the dimming issues with LED's. Some do and some don't and they do NOT change color (except the expensive ones) as they dim so the room looks a little fluorescent like as the room darkens and can not dim as low as tungsten can go. The tech will get better every year but as of this moment tungsten still has a life in residential.

I propose Lesson 5 as...if you don't like the color quality, brightness, and glare being forced down your throat, and through your eye lids, from the city installed LED street light above your bedroom window you form a neighborhood group and take it to city hall. Turning street into the equivalent of a well lit hospital operating room is/was unacceptable and disruptive to (my/others) sleep patterns.

Thanks John: Good information on retrofits. Our firm Go Green Solutions began manufacturing in Los Angeles in 2009 the first UL classified 4' LED retrofit tube for replacing fluorescents. My observations is that the amount f substandard product imported from overseas has given the business a black eye. WE have honored a 5 year warranty and a 10 year warranty for a tube we make for the LA Metro system. With less than 2% market penetration in a market estimated to be 1.5 BILLION 4' fluorescent tubes in our country....providing value to clients operating 24/7 4' fluorescent tubes is important. I'm happy to sharing any information people may want on this exciting LED application through out website www.GO GreenSolutions.com

Don't leave us hanging there... What's lesson #5?

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