8 Questions to Ask Before Buying LEDs

Authored by Sri Rahm, Senior Lighting Application Specialist at Current 

On the surface, most LED products look like a wise investment. Their packaging may tout good lumens per watt, solid life ratings, good color and a fair price, but these numbers do not tell the full story. LED fixtures can fail due to lumen degradation, driver failures, material problems, color shifts and more, and many undergo very limited testing that does not take all these issues into account. 

So how do you choose? Before making any decision, ask these questions to see if you’re making the right investment. This will help protect you from regrets down the road. 

  1. What’s wrong with the fluorescent or HID system I have now? 
    If you haven’t upgraded to LED fixtures, you’re wasting money. Not only are your energy costs higher, but you are spending time and money on increased maintenance and replacements as well. And if you keep waiting, it will only get more expensive: Certain components of your system may already be obsolete. 
  2. Why should I look to LEDs? 
    Every light in your facility will eventually become an LED. As the most efficient and longest lasting light source, LEDs are outpacing all other lighting technologies. You need to upgrade—now or later. 
  3. Is LED technology mature and stable enough to justify an upgrade? 
    While LEDs will continue to improve, they are absolutely good enough today to warrant an upgrade. The advantages you would get from any minor improvements to LEDs in the future are far outranked by the money you’re wasting on energy now by continuing to use outdated systems. 
  4. Whose LEDs should I buy? 
    You need a reputable company with a history of reliability testing, impressive performance and outstanding customer service. Newcomers to the LED scene may offer low prices, but will they be around to honor warranties if anything goes wrong? Have they thoroughly tested their products? 
  5. How do I determine which new product is right to replace my existing fixtures? 
    There is no one-size-fits-all approach for selecting replacement fixtures. A lighting expert is your best bet for answering this complex question, as they can help guide you toward quality solutions that will reduce energy usage and help you build for the future. Some key questions to ask are: How many lumens was my earlier fixture producing, and how many does the new fixture produce? And how long will it take to install the recommended solution? 
  6. How will saving energy affect light levels and light distribution? 
    Beware of solutions that boast about large energy savings but drop your light levels. If your space gets darker and you cannot see properly in a space, any savings are useless. Make sure you’re inquiring about the footcandles before and after a switch and the difference in light levels. If possible, ask for a mock-up area so you can see exactly what the space will look like after the upgrade. 
  7. How can I ensure that the fixture is going to perform as claimed?
    You must ask the manufacturer for specifics about LED performance. Here are some technical questions that should come up in conversation:                                                                                                                                             
    • Is this fixture listed on the Design Lights Consortium (DLC) website?
    • Do you have LM79 photometry report from a certified lab attesting to initial lumens, color point and wattage? 
    • Do you have LM80 and TM21 calculations based on temperature measurements to justify life ratings? 
    • At what ambient temperature are you warrantying the fixture?
    • What can you say about the expected life of your driver?

    Don’t just trust their word for it, however. Ask: who has used these fixtures in the past and if there are customer testimonials. You should also reiterate the request for a mock-up area or ask to see a real site.

  8. How can I believe life ratings? 
    You should not believe a standard spec sheet or the promise of a warranty. Ask the manufacturer: 
    • How much actual life testing has been done? 
    • Have you done stress tests or thermal cycling? 
    • Has a certified lab tested the lumen output and color? 
    • What reliability testing do you do on your driver components? Who makes the drivers? 
    • What is the longest this fixture has been burning at a site? 
    • Historically, what is the failure or return rate on these fixtures? 
    • Who has used these fixtures before? Are there customer testimonials about them? 

    When it comes to warranties, be sure to ask business-related questions, including how long they have been in operation and what guarantee there is that they will still be operating if and when you file a warranty claim.

You will ask many questions on your path to purchasing LEDs. But if you start by using these eight basic queries to provide a good framework for examining your options and evaluating manufacturers, you’ll settle on a quality product that will work for your business. 

Do you have questions about LEDs? Contact Current today to get the answers you need.