With so much information about LED lighting and rapid changes in the technology, it can be challenging to determine the best options for your building. Following are three notable tips to help building owners and managers navigate the current LED environment.
Consider part replacement capability
Today, building managers looking to switch to LED lighting have two general options: luminaires with LED boards and luminaires with tubular shaped modular LED light engines.
Modular LED light engines use similar LED components to typical board-based versions and package them in a self-contained form similar in size and shape to T8 fluorescent lamps. They offer significant energy savings and can provide comparable performance to many board-based systems. If dimming is required, many board-based LED luminaires are available with dimming capable drivers. Line voltage powered modular light engines are currently unable to dim, but many external driver and ballast compatible types offer dimming capabilities.
However, units with removable modular LED light engines have one significant advantage in the current state of the market where there is little standardization of components and replacement parts among LED manufacturers. When luminaires with modular LED light engines fail, building managers can replace the LED light component just as easily as a fluorescent lamp, and external driver or ballast if so equipped. Most LED board-based fixtures will need to be completely replaced at the end of their life or in case of component failure because the LED components used will likely be obsolete by then and the lack of uniformity among manufacturers makes finding direct replacement parts difficult. These are all factors to consider when making the decision about the type of LED luminaire to purchase.
Take care when things get hot
Heat is the enemy of all things electronic, including LEDs. If they get too hot, they will fail or change colors. Many inexpensive imported LED products are poorly designed and do not properly get rid of the excess heat. Building owners and managers need to consider the environment when choosing LED luminaires and select fixtures from reputable manufacturers with properly designed thermal management. The practice of identifying a solution that will perform best for the longest time and with the least maintenance in a specific environment remains key, both with LED and traditional lighting sources.
Look for the right LED fixture certifications
Most LED fixtures that will be submitted for a utility rebate will likely need to be certified by the DesignLights Consortium® (DLC). Many of the country’s utilities use the DLC qualified product list for their rebate programs. Not every project needs a rebate, though, and many building owners see the potential energy-saving benefits and satisfactory payback for upgrading their lighting to LED.
All DLC listed luminaires are also required to be tested to LM79 specifications, which evaluates several product functions, including energy use, light output and color spectrum. This is a supplementary, voluntary certification done by the manufacturer, unlike the mandatory UL or equivalent mark indicating the fixture has been tested for all applicable safety requirements.
Jeffrey Goldstein is CEO at LaMar Lighting.
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