INTERVIEWS

Managing director, Neonlite International

The barriers to LED are price and education
Price is of course an issue and one that should gradually diminish as technology and manufacture move on, bringing prices down with them. But education is as big a – and some believe a bigger – barrier to LED adoption. There is a lack of understanding of LEDs and many lighting professionals are seeing technology changing all the time and opting to continue to wait.

Sealed products create an even bigger barrier
So if we are in an environment in which specifiers are waiting because they do not want to be left with an installation that goes out of date very quickly, producing sealed units only adds to concerns about obsolescence. The only option is to throw away the whole thing and that creates an even bigger barrier. At [LED-standardisation organisation] Zhaga we are working to overcome some of these issues, but the future must surely be in units that can be modified and serviced, allowing them to be upgraded and protecting specifiers from the speed of change.

We are not getting the message across
Misunderstanding of LEDs shows that, as an industry, we are not getting the message across. We seem to be obsessed by metrics that don’t matter. Lamp life is a good example; there is this obsession with 50,000- hour life but in a scheme operating 10 hours each day that adds up to an awful lot of years, in schemes where in reality the space is likely to be refurbished every five years. Only in environments such as hotels where some lighting may be on 24 hours a day does 50,000-hour life become pragmatic.

Perhaps the emphasis on life is wrong and we are missing an opportunity
I wonder then whether we are missing a trick. If the engineers were told to focus on 15,000-hour life rather than 50,000 hours, is there something they could get out of an LED unit that they are not getting now? Could they decide that if it does not have to last as long then the priorities could change and it could be pushed a little harder or achieve a slightly better efficiency, or output?

It is not about lumens, it is about lumens where you want them
We are in danger of letting LEDs become a lumens game, with too much obsession with lumens and too little on where those lumens are going, which is the real point. Lighting is all about the quality not the quantity of light. We have all seen office schemes in the past designed to meet all the regulations and requirements but which create the most awful places to work. What we need is metrics that work.

I would like to see lighting designers involved in the Zhaga process
At Zhaga we are pushing for standardisation and for common systems, but I feel we lack the perspective from lighting designers. It doesn’t matter what the numbers tell you, lighting is about creativity and we need more input from end users. We need to get their thoughts on lighting space with LEDs.

I have heard of specifiers writing their own spec sheets for LEDs
This illustrates the problem of confusion. I don’t blame the specifiers but it shows that the information is not standardised. A specifier should be able to choose a product against a standard without having to worry about it any further. Do we really need them to understand technology down to a chip level?

The replacement market for LEDs offers astute contractors a big opportunity
Interchangeable LED units offer a new opportunity for contractors, especially at a local level. If a contractor can offer routine maintenance schedules that also allow the opportunity not just for energy audits but also for technology upgrades, then they can offer a valuable service to end-users. They can determine when a scheme has reached its useful payback and when that payback could be accelerated by replacing it with the latest technology. It will be an installation by installation process, which is why it is particularly suited for local contractors, and it’s something they should be looking at now.

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