Smart Uses for LEDs

  January 9, 2014

"LEDs are not magical." That's one quote from a recent tradeshow in Chicago for lighting specifiers. While the main conversation was not aimed squarely at facility managers, there were a few tips and food for thought. If there was one take-away for facility managers it was to consider the strengths and weaknesses of a lighting source and match it appropriately with the lighting application.

Here are two misconceptions lighting designers have experienced from their clients (you!) in regards to using LEDs in commercial applications:

- LEDs are great, everywhere! When a small project with a focused application for LEDs has great success, facility managers can be tempted to want to deploy LEDs everywhere. But their attributes — chiefly their highly directional nature — and operating characteristics, make them unsuitable for a wholesale deployment without careful consideration for the needs and challenges of the application.

- LEDs last forever and are maintenance-free! While it is true that quality LEDs from proven manufacturers have shown very long lives and high-reliability, the LED module is just one component affecting maintenance. As one presenter said, there are still birds in the world, there is still dust. Lenses can still discolor with age and other components in the luminaire can fail.

Other challenges posed by LEDs are brightness and glare problems, but lighting specifiers report that facility managers are so taken with LED technology that they're willing to be more lenient on these points than perhaps they should be. Color matching is another hurdle with LEDs, as color temperatures can vary between manufacturers, or even between batches of the same product. The industry is responding to this by developing color-tunable LEDs and also seeking to develop new standards to describe the quality of the LED light output as perceived by the human eye.

LED technology has evolved to the point where it is being deployed in a broad range of applications. Some of the best ways to deploy the technology still seem to be in highly-directional applications, as well as to highlight architectural features, where the lack of radiated heat is a benefit, in very tight spaces, or on bridges or other areas where vibration is present, as LEDs are less affected by this than other light sources.

For more pros and cons of LEDs, check out this.


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