A guide to LED

It’s hard to navigate the market with so many LED products and companies to choose from. LED technology is still relatively new and has evolved so fast that regulations and standards have been slow to keep up.

There are lots of brands, but no clear industry leader setting the bar for standards, so the range of quality varies greatly, in some cases we have been shocked by the lack of quality being openly promoted by some vendors, and wehave called on regulators to act.

When it comes to commercial applications, selecting the right LED product is imperative. Upgrades can only be claimed one time under the Victorian Government’s VEET scheme. This guide will help you know what to look for and how to tell the good from the bad.

Safety certificates

The most important thing above all else is that the product you’re going to install is safe. The major difference between LED luminaires compared to traditional lights is that LEDs are an electronic devices made using semiconductors. They are far more complex and expensive to produce than traditional lights.

When making your decision; ask what safety certificates the new LED lights have. There are many standards and certificates available in the LED industry. European, and in particular German standards are the highest in the world. Australia often lags behind. In fact it’s common for Australia to adopt the European standards years after they have been introduced overseas.

For example, the standard in Europe makes it compulsory to test for blue / ultraviolet light, which can hurt or damage human eyes. This has yet to be adopted by Australian standards. Tubes where the LED chip is fully visible to the naked eye will not pass the higher safety standards in Europe, yet these are a commonly sold in Australia.

Around the whole world, a VDE certificate issued by independent VDE research laboratory in Germany is the strictest standard anywhere. It is regarded above any other certificate issued by any another laboratory. It is not surprising that in Europe, many large corporations will only use LED products that carry VDE certification. In fact; as a result some manufacturers falsely claim to have VDE certification. In response to this VDE publish an extensive list of manufactures falsely claiming to hold VDE certification of their website. Always verify the authenticity of any certificate with the lab.

TUV GS certificates are also well regarded, and are required for products sold in Europe. While all VEET (Victorian Energy Efficiency Target) approved LED lights will meet the minimum Australian standards and most will have SAA certificates, it is also worth asking what other certificates they have.

Lighting levels

Not only should your LED upgrade be more energy efficient, it should also improve your lighting environment with the correct lux levels (brightness). Research shows a well-lit workplace is safer, more comfortable and far more productive.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of consistent standards in product specifications, the total lumen output stated on LED product packaging, sales material, and user manuals can have totally different meanings. This means two products with the same lumen rating may actually produce completely different actual real world results.

Further to this, the usable lumen output is more important than the total lumen output. Many luminaires send light out in all directions, in effect wasting some of their lumen output. Other luminaires will direct all or most of their light to the area where light is needed. Lumen output is important, but the end result should always be to light the relevant area with the correct lux levels.

Ask the sales person to guarantee that the new LED lighting will be brighter than your current lights using the same measurement conditions. You can download a “Light Meter” application for free on your smart phone and measure the lux readings using your phone at desk level. If measured at the same spot, at the same time, under the same conditions, using the same phone & software, whatever readings you get, should be higher or at least the same after the upgrade as before.

If the sales person cannot guarantee the light levels, then look around for other options. Reputable lighting companies will be happy to put the expected lighting levels in writing prior to installation.For information about the minimum legal lighting levels for your industry, see the AS/NZ lighting standards. Remember that these are minimum standards and may not be the optimum for your business operations.

Lifespan

As a general guide it’s safe to say that good quality LED chips will last longer. However, it’s easy to claim a long lifespan, so you need to look for an independent lifespan report issued from a reputable lab stating the number of hours the LED product is rated for. TM21 is a method for lumen depreciation projection using a complex formula that is based on the LED chip manufacturer’s LM80 report. Ask to see the TM21 report and verify its authenticity.

The lumen levels from all lights decay with time. So it’s worth asking what is considered the as being the end of the product lifespan. Is the end of LED product’s life considered as a loss of 15% of the lumen output, or 30% of the lumen output, or until completely dark?

If you can’t get hold of the TM21, or if you find it’s too technical and full of jargon, it can be easier to ask about what warranty the company providing your LED are offering. A robust warranty is a good sign that the company takes quality seriously and will stand behind their product.

Summary

Upgrades can only be claimed once under the Victorian VEET scheme. So it’s important to spend a little time to research product specifications. The most important thing to look for is safety, VDE certification is the best, TUV GS certificates are also very good, but products must have SAA certificates at a very minimum, otherwise they should be avoided.

A well-lit workplace is safer, more comfortable, and far more productive. Ask for a written guarantee that the new LED lighting will give you an agreed lighting level prior to signing. You can download a basic “Light Meter” to test before and after lux levels yourself to be sure your space is lit correctly.

On big projects, try before you buy. Ask for samples, have a look at the product up close. The other simple test you can do is to see if an object’s colour under the light is close to its true colour. Good quality LED will have a high CRI (colour rendering Index) this is especially important in retail environments where stock and goods must look their best.

Be selective, the quality of LED products on the market varies greatly, ask for samples so you can check visually to see if the light is comfortable to the naked eye, for example, does it glare or does it sting your eyes. Check the specifications and the authenticity of certifications with the lab and make sure you get a robust warranty.

Good quality LEDs will lower your energy costs, maintenance costs and give your business better light. For more information on LED lighting specifications, contact Paradigm LED, Melbourne’s supplier of fully certified premium quality LED lighting products made for commercial environments.

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