LIA Accredited Testing, Verification and Certification Provides Independent Stamp of Approval and Reassurance
- Published: Friday, 11 September 2015 11:31
A large amount of lighting products entering the market do not meet the required standards – yet they achieve a certain level of market penetration by being low-priced.
Mark Salt, General Manager of LIA Laboratories, explains how independent testing and certification of lighting products provides lighting manufacturers with an independent ‘testimonial’ for their products and provides customers with extra reassurance and peace of mind.
It goes without saying that the specification of any electrical equipment needs to take account of safety issues and the specifier or installer must ensure that such equipment is compliant to the relevant regulations. Whilst safety is clearly paramount, it is also important that the equipment should deliver performance in line with expectations and manufacturers’ claims.
A good example of this latter point is in lighting, which is clearly a highly visible electrical product and end users are very aware when it goes wrong or does not perform as anticipated. Thus disappointing lighting is a frequent cause of an equal level of disappointment with the specifier or installer.
In this respect, the CE Mark has, or should have, an important role to play. However, it is important to bear in mind that the CE Mark operates through a process of self-declaration. This means that the company putting the product on the market (e.g. manufacturer or wholesaler/distributor importing from outside the EU) is responsible for certification without any independent verification.
Inevitably this system can lead to products entering the market that are not fully compliant with the requirements of the CE Mark. Indeed, there is often an assumption that compliance with the Low Voltage Directive is all that is required for a CE Mark. In fact there are a number of other criteria that need to be applied. These include the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive (EMC) for electronic devices such as LED lighting, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) Directive and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Directive.
In parallel, the lighting industry has seen considerable change in recent years particularly in relation to new light sources and the controls that go with them. Much of this change has been driven by LED light sources and this change in technology has caused some difficulties within the industry and beyond.
It is for these reasons that many lighting manufacturers are now investing in independent certification of their products through the LIA Laboratories Verified Scheme.
LED light sources and luminaires have undoubtedly brought significant improvements to lighting in terms of energy efficiency and life-cycle costs. However, compared to more traditional lamps, LEDs are quite complex because they use electronic technology, and this complexity extends to all of the components.
For example, LED lamps require the mains voltage to be converted to a constant voltage, which is then converted to a constant current by the LED driver. It is the constancy of this current that ensures a constant light output, the latter being proportional to the current applied. Clearly there is some loss of energy at each of these conversion stages, which inevitably has an impact on overall efficiency, with power supply efficiency of LEDs varying from 50% to 90% depending on the quality of manufacture.
Similarly, the quality of the phosphor coating used to generate white light has a significant influence on the consistency of colour temperature and colour rendering.
In terms of LED luminaires, there are also issues relating to how well the design supports good thermal management to prevent the LEDs and electronic circuitry from overheating. The optical design is also important in terms of maximising the light output ratio of the luminaire, as LED light sources are inherently directional.
LED lighting has also attracted companies that have traditionally been involved in electronics but have no in-depth lighting knowledge or experience. As a result, they may not fully understand the conditions that their products will be expected to operate in.
Given that there are so many factors that can impact on the overall performance of LED lamps and luminaires, testing of performance is clearly very important. However, as already observed, there are also a lot of products entering the market that do not meet the required standards – yet they achieve a certain level of market penetration by being low-priced. Also, specifiers who do not have a great deal of experience of specifying LED technology are faced with the challenge of how they assess the performance of the products against their cost to deliver best value to their clients.
Until recently most of the information about a particular light source was on its packaging or buried deep in the product’s supporting documentation. This meant there was very little independent verification of the claims that were made regarding compliance with safety regulations, lumen output and lamp longevity.
It was for these reasons that the Lighting Industry Association launched the ‘LIA Laboratories Verified Scheme’ to provide a complete accredited testing, verification and certification service. This service provides independent verification of the performance of all lighting equipment, from lamps/LED modules and control gear through to luminaires.
The testing process begins by verifying basic safety, such as checking for overvoltage and that components are mounted correctly – the purpose of these tests being to make sure that if a product fails, it fails safely. Subsequent tests assess photometry using our goniophotometer and photometric spheres (see separate box), while lamp life is measured in our specially designed lamp room.
Equipment verified by the scheme, which operates in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust (EST), gets a certificate and can carry the LIA Laboratories Verified and EST brand. Verified products are also published on LIA Laboratories certification website with full report details.
The LIA Laboratories is a UK Government appointed Notified Body under the Low Voltage Directive. The LIA Laboratories itself is certified to ISO17025 for testing and ISO 17065 for certification, which sets the standard for certifying bodies.
The benefits of independent testing are now being increasingly recognised by lighting manufacturers, as it provides peace of mind to their customers that their products will perform as expected. There are also moves in the distribution and wholesale sectors to only stock lighting products that have been independently certified.
Clearly it makes sense for specifiers to follow this example, so they can be sure their designs will deliver the result that the end client is expecting, and continue to do so through the life of the installation.