How to choose LED lights

LED lights are now capable of serving a wider range of applications, so doing your homework will help you choose the appropriate fixture. 

Whether you are using light emitting diode (LED) fixtures in OEM applications or simply to light your work space, the technology offers the latest in energy efficiency lighting options. However, with LED lights now suitable for a wide variety of applications, product quality can vary, and sourcing those that live up to expectations can be tricky – not to mention costly.

“The first areas for high-output white LED luminaire developments were smaller, less powerful street lights, commercial lighting applications such as downlights and architectural coloured feature lighting. For the past five years lighting manufacturers and component suppliers have been working closely to capture the exciting opportunities high-output LEDs now provide the manufacturing sector,” Wadco Lighting general manager, Robert Day, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

According to Day, LED industrial light fitting design and development has been driven by two major industry groups: electronics component companies, and traditional industrial light fitting companies. This has led to an influx of a wide variety of industrial LED lights becoming available in Australia from existing and new overseas suppliers.

“The manufacturing sector in Australia has high standards in occupational health and safety rules and regulations, building codes and Australian Lighting Standards. Light fitting designers must consider horizontal and vertical luminance and glare control, and newer LED fitting designs are now incorporating a wider variety of narrow and wide light distributions and the use of cut-off reflectors or refractor lenses to control glare whilst properly managing heat conduction and convection,” he said.

“Manufacturing lighting applications typically require light levels range from 80–160 lux for occasional inspection or reading, all the way up to the 400–600 lux, depending on the size and frequency of the task.

“New LED technology with electronic control gear is naturally more expensive, but manufacturers in Australia running their light fittings for long periods of time have been able to take advantage of this new LED technology through energy savings ROI (return on investment) analysis and State Government energy savings certificate rebate schemes (currently available in NSW and Victoria). Manufacturers running shift work have a faster ROI and have taken up the new LED technology more rapidly.”

LED developments

Tenrod Australia managing director, Rodney Lai, agrees that continuous developments are making LEDs more efficient, offering more light for less power. Technology improvements have also made LEDs brighter and more powerful, allowing them to be used in overhead lighting applications.

“LED lights turn on immediately upon power up, and off immediately when power is turned off. They do not require cooling down before turning on again, nor do they require firing-up devices like starters which cause flicker and irritation. They can be switched on and off at will and so save power whenever lighting is not required – no matter for how short an interval,” Lai told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Reputably-built LEDs should be Reduction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) Compliant, which means they are mercury- and lead-free and therefore less hazardous to the environment. LED light sources are generally lighter and smaller than other light sources, making the fittings lighter. They also have a much longer service life than others, and can be made to emit different colours – such as stage lighting, wall wash or flood lighting – without the use of filters.”

Uptake issues

Clearly, LED fixtures offer numerous user benefits, however the viability of LEDs as replacements for traditional light sources has been a hotly-contested topic among manufacturers. 

“One of the main issues is differentiating between the poor-quality LED products and the ones that stand-up to the claims,” Hella Australia Manager – Fixed Lighting & Industries, Craig Middleton, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“When using a quality LED product, benefits include: energy efficiency; no maintenance for the life of the product; improved colour rendition; greater uniformity of the lit space; and instant start operation.”

APS Lighting & Safety Products Company chief executive officer, Jeff Baxter, agrees, adding that LED technology has caused a significant shake-up in the lighting industry, with a large number of new lighting manufacturers and suppliers entering the market in the past five to 10 years.

“Rapid development of LED technology is resulting in a much shorter product lifecycle, causing an issue for manufacturers’ ability to recoup design and manufacturing investments before the technology used in that fixture is obsolete,” Baxter told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“There have also been increased concerns as to LED lighting safety and the integrity of information and consistency in terminology used by companies in marketing their LED products. High variability of product quality in the market has also led to increased buyer risk in choosing fixtures that aren’t optimised for their application.”

Baxter advises those buying LEDs to ask for more than product specs. to make more informed decisions.

“Ask them to provide total cost of ownership comparisons, references of projects where the products are already working, and light layouts or comparisons pertaining to the types of fixtures they are currently using so the buyer can ensure the layouts meet their lighting standards prior to purchase,” he said.

According to Baxter, vehicle (in particular off-road), heavy equipment and accessory manufacturing companies have been early adopters of LED technology.

“This has been in part driven by demand from their customers to fit-out the vehicles with LED lighting. However, the primary products in this market are work lights, for which there has already been a rapid uptake in the Australian market. Most OEMs are offering LED alternatives on their equipment, and the LED work lamps are offering very real benefits in terms of efficacy, output, maintenance, and lighting control,” he said.

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