Lighting Maintenance: LED Lighting Retrofits
Facility Executive, August 5, 2016
When it comes to LED lamp failure, the industry standard is 3%. For most, that’s an acceptable rate—but should it be? As solid-state electronic devices, LEDs are similar to TVs or other consumer electronics: They tend to fail early if they’re going to fail at all.
However, many building owners and facility managers that purchase LED lamps and fixtures are experiencing incredibly high failure rates in excess of 20% and find themselves asking, “How did this happen?”
High failure rates occur due to numerous issues, and are often a direct result of inadequate quality control, substandard construction, or poor component use.
Here are four steps you can take to avoid LED lighting failure at your facility.
1. Check Your Source. A $450 billion industry, LED lighting is more expensive than conventional lighting. As prices come down, people tend to buy based on price and ask themselves a great question: “Why should I buy a four-foot linear LED fluorescent tube replacement for $16 when I’ve seen it for $9 elsewhere?”
Believe it or not, as mentioned above, the biggest cause of LED lighting failure is the source—where and how the lamps are manufactured. (It’s important to note, however, that there are other causes of LED lighting failure. For example, shipping may bump a connector loose and negatively impact performance.) From the type of lens to the heat sink and the chips that generate light, in order for an LED to function properly and provide acceptable light output, its components must be built to last. A lamp is only as good as its weakest link.
2. Inquire About Lamp Testing. Most facilities directors don’t have time to investigate manufacturers inside and out, learning about their individual procedures for getting an LED product to market.
To minimize the chances of LED lighting failure, ask the manufacturer about its testing procedures. Some manufacturers fully test completed LED lamps before shipping. For up to 10 days at a time, some manufacturers will place LED lamps and fixtures in a specially designed room and test them by repeatedly turning them on and off, and by leaving them on for extended periods of time. If a lamp is going to fail, it’s likely to do so during this time. By properly testing LEDs before shipping, failures can be caught before lamps are shipped out.
3. Look Up UL Registration Number. Just because a product has an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) mark doesn’t mean the mark is real. Some LEDs may carry a counterfeit UL mark, or a UL registration number that doesn’t belong to that manufacturer or product. The UL number may not exist at all, or may belong to a product that was discontinued three decades ago (yes, this does happen).
There are certain types of building products you shouldn’t purchase just because they look similar to something else with a different price tag.
You can easily verify a UL mark by visiting the free UL Online Certifications Directory. It’s wise to use this tool to confirm UL listings and classifications, as well as to learn about product safety standards.
4. Search For DLC Qualification. Design Lights Consortium (DLC), a project of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, is a resource for facility decision-makers to help avoid LED lighting failure. After hearing numerous complaints from building owners and facility managers who were frustrated after investing in LEDs that failed far short of implied warranty periods (as opposed to the 50,000 hours promised), the DLC was formed.
When commercial LED luminaires, retrofit kits, linear replacement lamps, and E39 screw-base and other LED replacement lamps are qualified by DLC, it means these have been tested and evaluated to specific performance requirements—they’re manufactured with high quality components and held to such a standard that a five-year warranty can be offered to assure quality.