The LED Situation

May 18, 2012
When Will LEDs Become Generic?

The marketing energy behind LEDs grows ever stronger. At last month’s Lightfair show in Las Vegas, the number of LED displays on the floor seemed to outshine that of all other lighting types. But there is a disconnect with the number of actual installations in buildings.

According to a DOE report released in January of this year (but titled 2010 U.S. Lighting Market Characterization), LEDs account for less than 1% of general illumination in the building sector. While solid-state technology and special LED applications are astounding, LEDs for general illumination have attracted very few facility managers looking for more efficient lighting. One reason is the high initial cost; another is the total lack of standardization, which contributes to that initial cost. These two hurdles are inevitable with many emerging technologies. In the case of LEDs, there are efforts underway to help the technology reach the next level of evolution.

An example is the Zhaga Consortium (www.zhagastandard.org), which is promoting interchangeable solutions for LEDs in general illumination. Zhaga’s members, which include suppliers of LED engines and fixtures, are focusing on such matters as the fit and size of heat sinks, the size and height of light-emitting surfaces, driver design, mechanical fit, and general photometric properties.

Another example is the TEMPO 21 certification introduced by chip supplier Cree. The program certifies LED luminaires for such factors as lumen output, efficacy, durability, and color quality. Standardized reports provide testing results and performance data, thus offering prospective buyers a baseline.

A common LED caveat for buyers has been to seek out “reputable” manufacturers and suppliers, but there are no easy ways to rate reputation. Given the lack of standardization and the extraordinary performance claims for LEDs – particularly in terms of lifetime service hours – that shortcoming undercuts buyer confidence. In the meantime, facility managers wanting to compare LED products can refer to IES test standards, including LM-79 (electrical and photometric measurements of complete LED luminaires), LM-80 (lumen maintenance of LED modules only), and the recent TM-21 (extrapolation of lumen maintenance beyond LM-80’s actual test periods).

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