LED Lights - Why Don't They Live Up To The Hype?

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Governments around the world are mandating that lighting be more energy efficient.

This is great news. However, the performance of any piece of technology is determined by its parts. LED lighting is no different. Even though they may be more efficient than traditional technologies, there is still a huge variance in quality, specifically the main components.

In this article, we will briefly discuss the key components of LED lighting, how these affect performance, and why they do not live up to the hype.

At Centropi, we specialise in manufacturing investment-grade grade light fittings. Regardless of where you are in your buying process, we want to provide understandable, accurate information on lighting in large-scale real estate. So, no matter what type of lighting you have (or want to have), you can make informed decisions for your facility.

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What is inside an LED Light?

We discuss the main components of LED light fittings here but as a quick recap, they are:

  1. The LED Chip or Surface-Mounted Device (SMD) - This is the component that emits the light
  2. The Driver - This is the component that protects the LED chip from electricity fluctuations
  3. The Heat Sink - This is the component that keeps the whole LED fitting cool

As you would expect, cheaper LED fittings use cheaper parts. But how do they affect performance?

Heat is the enemy of LED lighting  - Heat Sinks

The job of the Heat Sink is to transfer heat away from the LED chip to keep it cool. This can be referred to as heat management. Therefore, the heat sink should be made of a material that shifts the heat as quickly as possible. This movement of heat through a material is called the Heat Transfer Coefficient (HTC)

Plastic vs. Metal Heat Sinks

Metal transfers heat 500x faster than some plastics. So it makes sense that if a light fitting uses a plastic heat sink, moving the heat away from the LED chip will take more time and increase the rate of LED chip failure.

Effect on performance

There is a direct relationship between LED Chip heat and lighting degradation. Therefore, using a lower-grade heat sink is less effective at shifting heat away from the LED chip and will increase the risk of light fitting failure. However if a high-quality chip is used then there will be less heat to shift away in the first place.

Low-quality LED chips vs. high-quality LED chips

This is the bit that creates the light, so let's have a look at the issues associated with low and high-quality lighting chips.

Low-Quality LED Lighting Chips

Flickering and Inconsistent Illumination Lower-quality LED chips often suffer from inconsistent voltage regulation, resulting in flickering. This flicker can strain your eyes and even lead to discomfort and headaches. Imagine trying to relax in a room that feels like it's flashing a strobe light – not exactly pleasant!

Short Lifespan These chips tend to have a shorter lifespan due to inferior materials and manufacturing processes. You might find yourself replacing bulbs frequently, which not only costs you more in the long run but is also frustrating.

Poor Color Rendering Low-quality chips struggle with colour accuracy. They might cast unnatural hues or fail to reproduce colours faithfully, distorting the appearance of your space and objects within it.

High-Quality LED Lighting Chips

Stable and Flicker-Free Illumination High-quality LED chips are engineered for consistent and stable illumination. They incorporate advanced voltage regulation, eliminating flickering issues.

Extended Lifespan: These chips are built to last. They use high-quality materials, efficient heat dissipation, and precise engineering, resulting in a significantly longer lifespan.

Accurate Color Reproduction High-quality chips excel in colour rendering. They provide a spectrum of colours that accurately represent the real world. Whether it's the warm glow of an incandescent bulb or the cool, crisp light of daylight, these chips can mimic it with precision.

What causes these differences? Quality Control and Materials

The key factors behind these disparities lie in quality control and materials:

Low-Quality Chips:

  • Often manufactured with subpar materials to reduce production costs.
  • Lack of stringent quality control measures during manufacturing.
  • Use cheaper components, resulting in flickering, shorter lifespan, and colour inaccuracies.

High Quality Chips:

  • Utilise high-quality materials, such as advanced phosphors and reliable semiconductors.
  • Undergo rigorous quality control checks throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Incorporate premium components that ensure stability, longevity, and accurate colour rendering.

Low vs. High-Quality Drivers

Drivers are the protectors of the light fittings. They regulate the incoming current and the current to the LED chip. Spikes and mismatched currents are major causes of lighting failures.

These are the key areas that affect the divers performance:

Input Voltage and Voltage Regulation - The input voltage range that the driver can handle is critical. Variations in the input voltage can affect the LED's brightness and lifespan. A good driver should have a wide input voltage range and robust voltage regulation to ensure stable output, even when the input voltage fluctuates.

Output Voltage and Current - LED drivers provide a specific output voltage and current to power the LEDs. Matching the driver's output to the LED's specifications is vital for proper illumination and longevity. A mismatch can lead to overdriving or under-driving the LEDs, affecting their performance and lifespan.

Efficiency - Efficiency is a critical factor in LED driver performance. It measures how effectively the driver converts input power into usable output power for the LEDs. Higher efficiency drivers waste less energy as heat, leading to energy savings and cooler operation.

Lower-quality drivers will inevitably provide less protection to the LED chip. The drivers used in investment-grade LED lighting are selected to provide the highest level of protection and come with customised programming to take this to the next level.

Do investment-grade light fittings live up to the hype?

Investment-grade light fittings are designed and used to remove the risk of investment for the supplier and the customer. They provide the best performance and longevity available.

How is this achieved?

Component selection

Investment-grade light fittings use the highest quality LED chips, drivers, and heat sinks. This all increases cost but makes the fittings more reliable and efficient.

Minimal maintenance

Regular maintenance costs the supplier money.

  • On average, historical replacement rates for investment-grade fittings during contract periods are around 1 unit per 1,000 units installed (0.1%). Commercial LED lights have an industry-standard replacement rate of 50% over their rated lifetimes.  
  • Using investment-grade fittings minimises the supplier's risk of replacement costs, allowing them to pass on a lower service cost to the customer, which helps maximise their returns.

Maximum energy savings

  • On average, investment-grade LED lights are 30% more energy-efficient than commercial ones.
  • This maximises the customer's return and strengthens our competitive advantage

Benchmarking

A comparison of two popular categories, high bays, and tubes, shows that Investment-grade LED fittings are 30% more energy-efficient than top-end commercial LEDs and offer longer maintenance-free lifetimes.

Do LED Light Fittings Live Up To The Hype?

Over the last decade, LED lights have become the standard choice for consumers. But as discussed above the quality of components used in the LED fittings can vary and as such so does the price.

The result?

If you buy cheaper commercial-grade fittings for facilities with long daily usage you may be disappointed with the lifespan.

If you buy investment-grade fittings expect to get a longer lifespan and greater sustained levels of efficiency.

LED lighting will live up to the hype if you purchase the quality suited to your business needs.

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