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Two things recently got me thinking; I observed with interest the LEDs Magazine webinar: The Realities of LM-80/TM-21 & Setting False Lifetime Expectations having just read the Lux article: Will EU bring back lamps and luminaires?

Is reality set to dawn on the LED industry?   

Didn’t we all know as professionals that claims of 25,000 hours being superseded by 35,000 then 50,000 or even 100,000 became completely unrealistic? And, what was meant by lifetime was not exactly clear, (L70 life for example while neglecting to mention half will have failed by then).  

There was a focus on the LED component, when of course the drivers have many more circuit elements which can combine for an even shorter lifetime.  

Quite happily the industry then went into supplying light fittings with completely sealed in LEDs, non-serviceable units, knowing that with lifetimes of perhaps 35,000 hours at L70 it could mean significant failures in half that time (meaning just a few years use in some situations). By which time the fittings would have to be replaced. But what if the fitting is no longer available? Does the end user have to face replacing the whole installation? 

Zhaga did try (perhaps too soon) to work towards standardised platforms but the success was more on a component level as oppose to serviceable modules. For example, book 2 units – serviceable and hardly sold now, book 3 units basically a built in component, manufacturers ask more for interchangeability of components for ease of manufacture and procurement rather than with service in mind for the end user. This may change of course! 

The warranty issue 

What about warranty… contracts that force 3 or 5-year lifetime guarantees against this background. 

There are many reputable manufacturers out there, but equally, there are many that are not so reputable. All competing in the same market place, with little to differentiate them in the eyes of the end user. We need regulation to stop the race to the bottom and some mightily unhappy end users as unserviceable light fittings start to fail. 

Lifetime predictions can be improved and an understanding of the limitations of extrapolation must be communicated, in the meantime making units serviceable for both driver and light source would be best practice and ideally be supported by practical regulations. 

There is also a sustainability/environment issue here, easily serviced units will waste less material. Discarding an entire fixture that is faulty or fails early is a terrible waste, especially when it can be such a small component that has failed.  

Of course, not everything needs to be serviceable, simple small downlights are generic and easily retrofitted completely so no need for servicing in that case. Similarly, with 600×600 panels that drop in, or track heads that mount on a track.  

But there are many more built in lighting products that are not in this category and that is where the kick back will come.

What can we do about it? 

What can reputable manufacturers do in the meantime to restore confidence with end users that will get increasingly fed up as failures of unserviceable fixtures increase?  

One option is some kind of assurance scheme backed by insurance, a mark that end users could look for in much the same way as the travel industry does with ABTA. This could alleviate the unknown and provide some much-needed reassurance that they will not face unexpected costs with premature failures. 

Whether the industry goes down this route or purely a regulatory route the issue needs to be addressed, so the discussion and debate on this should be welcomed.