A Clear Message for LEDs from Megaman

Megaman Innovative Light SourcesMaking the right choices for lighting in a commercial building can be very difficult, particularly when you have to balance the demands of the building occupiers with the need to reduce the amount of energy which is being used. In theory the introduction of the LED should have made this far simpler but you still need to be careful with the products you choose to install as Adrian Kitching of Megaman explains.

Since their introduction, LED lamps have grown in popularity and as a result of this new products are entering the market on a daily basis. While this is good news in one respect, because it gives us a wide range of products to choose from, it poses a whole new problem for us in ensuring that we are in fact installing the most reliable technology.

It’s not an easy situation and as the progression of new technology continues and more manufacturers enter the market then we can only expect it to get worse.

The right choice
I liken the development in LEDs to the personal computer market. In the early days you either had a ZX Spectrum or a Commodore 64 – the choice was fairly simple and everyone was happy. But how times have changed and now, no sooner have you bought a new PC or Mac than a plethora of technological advancements make it quickly extinct with new versions promising to work so much faster and smarter.

A similar period of change has taken place in the LED market. Only three years ago the efficacy which you could expect from LEDs was 40lm/w but now it is approaching 90lm/w which is a significant advance and provides a wide range of new options to choose from.

So what’s the problem I hear you ask, because surely a market which provides a greater choice is a good thing for the industry?

The problem lies with the reliability of the products. As a manufacturer we have worked with chip suppliers to try and ensure that the technological advancements have not compromised the stability and quality of the products and that the final lamp design is just as reliable as the one it replaces. But it isn’t as easy as just inserting a new and more efficient chip. In fact the whole R&D process needs to be re-validated and the product needs to be very stringently thermally tested to ensure that the product which we launch onto the market will ‘do the job’, because it is our reputation and yours that is on the line.

Unfortunately not everyone appears to be quite as professional in their approach and we are starting to see some low cost manufacturers cutting corners. What looks like a good lamp may well perform badly and a number of lamps in the same packaging, or even the same box, have been found to perform inconsistently. But as you can’t see inside the lamp and you can’t tell how a lamp will perform from the size of the heat sink, it is proving to be a bit of a gamble.

New guidance
The good news is that steps are already being taken to try and rectify this problem. The Government has issued some guidance to the LIA under Article 9 which lists the names of manufacturers whose lamps have been deemed to be unsafe in Europe and withdrawn from sale. This is a good place to start if you are unsure about the lamps which you are specifying and will provide a degree of guidance and reassurance about the products.

There are also a number of other good schemes in operation which will help to verify the performance of specific LED lamps. One of these is the LIA Performance Verified Scheme where manufacturers are able to pay for a test (wattage and lumen output) and the results are published on the LIA website. The great thing about this particular scheme is that the results are published regardless of whether they are good or bad so once again you can check the products before you specify and buy.

Another scheme which does a similar job is whichledlight.com and although this is essentially a scheme to educate the consumer in the right choice of lamps, it still provides information which could help with the specification process to ensure the true quality and the reliability of the products which you choose.

Growing list
One thing which all of these schemes have in common is that the list of manufacturers who are not providing products which reach a specific level of quality and reliability is growing on a daily basis – and that’s why we need to take action.

As an industry we need to tackle the issue and formulate a joined up approach which includes customs, freight companies and ports of entry to stop sub-standard products from entering the country.

I am sure that we have all been on the receiving end of products which simply didn’t live up to their expectations but as budgets continue to be hit there are more and more manufacturers who are taking advantage by introducing cheap products into the market place.

This isn’t something new, nor is it something which is unique to the lighting market, but it is something which we need to tackle in order to avoid tarnishing an industry which is in growth. We have already dealt with this issue with CFLs but now that the LED market is really taking off what we need to do is learn from the past and do something about it to ensure that only quality products, from manufacturers who can be relied on, are entering the market.

Everyone has a part to play, and whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, specifier or building manager, we all need to be on our guard and look out for products which aren’t quite what they seem.

The message therefore is clear – if it’s cheap it may not necessarily be cheerful and can you really afford to put your reputation on the line to save a few pounds in the short term? Getting rid of sub-standard products is in everyone’s best interests - so let’s work together to make it happen.

Tags: Megaman, Feature Articles, lighting digest, e-lec.org

Original source BSEE lighting industry