5 Cautions When Using LED

LED_shutterstock_LEDs are taking over project specifications at an alarming rate. LEDs are dominating rep office visits, and ultimately the lighting specifications we develop. LED Lighting manufacturers have taken a page from companies like Microsoft and by moving at the speed of light continue to issue new releases and improvements to LEDs faster than we had envisioned.

Innovation, new releases, and improvements to performance are great for those that specify lighting. The LED has moved the lighting designer back to their lighting design roots. An understanding of wattage equivalents and color temperature has been replaced the need to inspect the LEDs actual color and lumen output. We always push for mockups, yet now that mockup is crucial.

LEDs are the coolest thing since sliced bread, yet not unlike white sliced bread, LEDs have a dark evil side. This blog is not intended to scare you away from specifying or using LEDs, yet be the angel that sits on your right shoulder, when the devil is whispering in your ear from the left.

Here are just a few key cautions you need to consider when evaluating LED on your project as a possible lighting source.

The Wattage Caution: Although lumens (actual light output) is the true measurement of how much light a bulb will generate, we have become accustomed to doing the wattage comparison having an understanding what the light output difference between a 60W A-lamp and a 75W A-lamp is. We even have short cuts to correlate equivalents between a low wattage CFL and an A-Lamp. LEDs have no uniform way to recognize light output or make comparisons based on wattage. The wattage is so small and varies with different lamps that the lumen output is the only true measurement.

The Lumen Caution: Having an understanding of why lumens over wattage is important, improvements to the LEDs performance are creating new lamp releases in as little as 6 months. When your project is built out in 18-24 months the key will be making sure that the manufacturer is matching the lumen package you specified taking into account any improvements in light output on the manufacturing end. Over-lighting your project may not be the surprise you welcome when the project is close to punching.

The Color Caution: Our knowledge of color temperature, warm and cool, combined with an understanding of how we can pick combinations of fluorescent, metal halide, or tungsten halogen to work together is challenged by the LED. Unlike the other color challenged lamps like mercury vapor (blue/green), or low pressure sodium (orange), the LED is the color challenged lamp that we want to incorporate into specifications with other light sources. One of the color challenges with the LED is the color temperature. An LED made by two different LED manufacturers will not produce the same color temperature nor visually look the same. No real standard in place to ensure uniformity in actual color.

The Replacement Caution: Similar to the construction caution, after the project is complete it is possible you will not be able to find the exact replacement for a section of LED that has gone south. Not all LED fixture manufacturer’s approach replacements like the auto manufacturer does. Our experience on a few current projects has been once a specific generation of LED has been replaced with an improved generation, that’s it. Typically, there are no stockpiles or methods to go back and manufacture old LED technology.

The Environment Caution: LEDs respond poorly to temperature extremes, high winds, vibrations, salt, water, sand, etc. I have seen statements endorsed by reputable manufacturer that LEDs are great for the extreme cold or hot environments. In extreme cold weather the LEDs may become brittle and start cracking. LEDs, especially the phospors in the LEDs do not like extreme heat. A wafer that heats up, and warps, disrupts the phosphors intended color temperature. Today’s LEDs are very complex sometimes fragile, arrangements on a wafer to create the desired color output, lamp life etc. These LEDs are not little bionic light modules that can resist all environmental challenges.

Having the knowledge that there are approaches to specifying LED that can help protect your project and your specification will help ensure success. LED is a great light source, and LED does have its place, yet the LED has to be specified with caution and an understanding of the current day limitations.

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