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Technical Lighting Help

Shooting Ourselves in the LED Foot

If you have read any number of my blogs posts, you know I am “bullish” on technological advances in the home. I was involved, early-on with adopting LED to residential products. I firmly believe smart home automation is inevitable and self-controlled residential environments are going to be more common than not. That said, the lighting industry has NEVER been a tech-industry and as such, they are wholly unprepared to deal with problems, such as quickly evolving and improving products. This inability has gotten them into trouble with consumers.

A friend called last week. He was trying to re-lamp his dining room and foyer chandeliers with LED retrofit candelabra lamps. In a previous conversation, I suggested he stick with a major brand, buy all the same product at one time and I also gave him color temperature (CCT) recommendations. (This is advice I also give to industry personnel and related design professionals.) He needed 23 lamps, so he “cleaned the shelves” at a local retailer. The ladder was out, the lamps were going in and once he had finished, he noticed a difference.

To create an LED version of a flame-shaped candelabra lamp, the engineers have strung LED into bands to visually replicate the appearance of a filament. Most of the lamps employed two bands of LED, but a handful use four. While the lumen output was equal, the appearance was different.

The packaging was the same. Lumen output was the same. The UPC number was the same, as were two additional sets of numbers. The rub arrived in the sixth number printed on the back of the carton. There lay the difference.

My friend did all of the right thing. He consulted with a lighting expert (me!), bought the same brand product with the same color characteristics, bought them from the same retailer, at the same time and still got burned. Honestly, I wonder if I would have noticed the variation and I have been helping people buy the correct lighting for almost a half-century.

The exact same lumen output, wattage consumption and carton appearance, but inside were decidedly different looking lamps.
The same PC number, the same description code, the same UPC number, but a different Res number, the only indicator that there is something amiss.

The incandescent light bulb you bought in 1985 is exactly the same as the ones on a shelf today. That is how consumers currently relate to light bulbs. It is also, apparently, how major manufacturers treat them. It is time for them to do better so the consumer can easily transition to the new world.

Visit your local Best Buy and ask them for a 2015 Samsung flat-screen and you will be laughed out of the store. There are a ton of iPhone 8 still in use, but you cannot buy a new one. Technology companies, with rapidly changing product know how to get the correct version to their customer. Lighting people do not.

I recently bought a sleeve for my iPad and could not complete the order without including the model and version. A small, one-person, technology support supplier making hand-stitched, felt covers for computers, iPads and phones has adapted her business to the multiple versions of tech products. It is time for the lighting industry to up their game. We are not living in Thomas Edison’s world any longer.

For a long time, I have indicated a preference for new integrated LED luminaires, as opposed to socketed luminaires using retrofit LED lamps. That works for most product, except where the lamp is a part of the aesthetics. Integrated luminaires will not have this problem.

We still live in an incandescent world, we are incandescent-inclined, we are born into a world where lighting fixture maintenance and repair is an innate skill. We feel compelled to change light bulbs. This will be hard habit to break. Dumb missteps by lamp suppliers will make the path harder, not easier.

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