If you’ve been considering LED lighting over the last few years, you’ve probably been approached by at least a few different manufacturers touting the superiority of their products. You’ve probably also noticed the explosion of new vendors and products on the market. It’s enough to make your head spin.
But some big questions still loom over the LED decision-making process. How do you commit to a product and avoid the anxiety that something better is going to come out in two months? How do you weed through the onslaught of new technologies, vendors, and options in the lighting industry?
We too get approached by a myriad of manufacturers that want us to distribute their products, so we’ve developed expert vetting skills. We, of course, perform due diligence and ask a long list of questions, but they tend to center around one rule of thumb we like to follow: if something is 20 percent better, more efficient, cheaper, shinier, or [insert your favorite value metric] than something else, then it is worthy of your consideration.
This helps us to weed out the minor, incrementally improved products that may cause product whiplash. No one wants to spend time and resources on things with diminishing value.
But in the constantly-evolving world of business, what other considerations are important? After all, this 20 percent rule doesn’t necessarily address our previous warnings about manufacturers whose warranties span longer than they’ve been in business.
Here are a couple more things that might make a new product worth considering, so long as the company manufacturing that product can answer some difficult questions.
When is a newer lighting manufacturer worth considering?
A new lighting manufacturer may be able to identify customer needs and innovate quickly enough to beat some of the larger manufacturers to the market. This was the case when Lunera first released their plug-and-play LED replacement for 4-pin CFLs. They were able to meet a need for many customers simply because they were able to quickly deliver a quality, innovative product. And while they're still a strong player in the lighting industry, many of the products that they were first to market with are now also being offered by some of the largest lighting manufacturers in the industry.
By the same token, you may not have solid options for an industrial LED lighting retrofit, and Lighting WowPopNow just happens to have a product that seems to fit the bill. Should you consider it? As we did with Lunera, be sure to ask some tough questions about their sales history, longevity, and ability to support a warranty. If you just can’t live without the product and the manufacturer’s stability is in question, it may be a good time to consider a third party warranty for your project.
Just the same, Archipelago was one of the first manufacturers to successfully push a filament LED bulb to market. Those lamps, which resembled the Edison bulbs we're all accustomed to seeing and thinking of when we hear "light bulb" were more than 20 percent better. Some would tell you they were 100 percent better than the extraterrestrial-looking LED fin bulbs that first made their way to market.
How do I choose a product with new LEDs constantly being released?
Selecting a new manufacturer is one thing, but what about choosing between new products in general? It seems like LEDs are on an update schedule that's almost as fast as smartphones. Well, we still apply the same principle.
You can see in the table below two generic products – a contractor grade LED A19 and a professional grade LED A19. These are prices similar to what you've find from a major manufacturer.
Comparing LED A19 Bulbs
|Contractor Grade||Professional Grade|
|Lumens (light output)||800||800|
|Incandescent wattage equivalent||60||60|
|Lumens per watt||94||73|
|Average life rating||10,000||25,000|
*The prices above are not set prices, but show average, middle-of-the-road pricing for LED A19s.
The contractor grade lamp is more than 20 percent less expensive than the longer-lasting professional grade lamp. But the professional grade lamp lasts two-and-a-half times longer than its less expensive counterpart.
When it comes to making a decision like the one above, you can simply weigh the key driver for your purchase. Is it price or maintenance?
If up-front price is your primary concern, the contractor grade lamp is the clear choice.
If maintenance is your primary concern, the professional grade product's long life rating is a no-brainer, as it will last significantly longer.
One word of caution, though. If your main concern is making sure that you get the best return on your investment, you should take a comprehensive look at the savings each of the products will give. The total cost of lighting, including energy and maintenance costs, might mean that a more expensive product could generate more savings and a more impressive payback than you might expect.