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Pitfalls of Buying LED: Avoid Bad Purchases
Many commercial and industrial facility owners are thinking about replacing their Metal Halide lighting or converting fluorescent to LED. When you upgrade your lighting system to LED, there are many options. Some are riskier than others. Here are some of the pitfalls to avoid when making your purchase. The second part of this post relates to those who have made those mistakes, and what they can do. More of our business comes from customers who have bad lights and have been abandoned by their supplier. We will list some of the more common problems we see and what the potential fix is.
Common Pitfalls of Buying LED
Pitfall #1: Buying Old Product
It’s a well known technique that manufacturers dump old product on large eCommerce websites. It’s a good way for them to get rid of old inventory. It’s good for them but horrible for you. Think of the LED industry as the computer industry.
Would you want to buy a new laptop only to discover that you bought a 3-year-old design with a slow processor, limited memory, and a slow hard drive? Or would you want to take advantage of all the improvements that have been made over the past 3 years?
LED is like that. So much has changed, and will continue to change, in the LED lighting market. LED is not like the old lighting technologies like Metal Halide or Fluorescent tubes. These older technologies suffer from short life spans and lumen depreciation.
It evolves and gets better all the time. Drivers improve, and their lifespan improves as engineering improves. LEDs improve, and we need less heat sink to keep them cool.
The problem. How do you know if a product is old or not? You don’t. There are clues that you can look for, but it’s not always obvious or apparent. Even to us, and this is our business.
Why is LED Lighting Supply different? We don’t have old product. We only bring in the latest and greatest product and we turn it over quickly. We don’t sell old and stale LED Products.
Pitfall #2: Buying Product Without Knowing the Important Specifications
Part of doing our jobs is to research the competition. To see what they are offering. To see how our product compares and competes. And many times, we come across products where important specifications are missing.
For example, we came across a 300-Watt LED Shoebox on a major eCommerce site that was designed to replace a 1000-Watt Metal Halide.
Missing in the specification was the beam angle / optic specification. Was it Type 3? Type 5? Or even worse, Type 1? Was it old stock with a bad optic that the seller is trying to get rid of?
The problem: When you only buy on watts and lumens and price, you have no idea how the light is going to be distributed. Results will vary greatly based on the optics installed.
Why is LED Lighting Supply different? We always list all the important specifications. And more importantly, we provide free lighting plans to take away the risk of buying into a bad lighting distribution. You’re at-risk buying LED Lights on a site where you can also buy coffee, popcorn, and toasters.
Pitfall #3: Warranty? What Warranty?
You buy a product from a large online eCommerce store. The same one you can buy soup on. The eCommerce site has a 30-day return policy. Awesome. They also offer an extended 2 or 3-year warranty.
Better, but it’s still not great. So, you buy the lights and the lights fail. Whom do you call? Where is this vendor? Vendors are constantly being replaced on these sites. They either leave or are kicked off.
It gets worse. The second light fails. Then the third. The thrill of buying cheaply is now replaced with the realization that you may have made a bad purchase.
Why is LED Lighting Supply different? We’ve been in business for 15 years. And our commitment to you doesn’t end when the check clears. We are here to work with you to get the warranties fixed. And to solve your problems.
What number do you call when there’s a problem? The same one that’s on the top of our website. Because we know that if we fix your problems, you’ll consider us for your next purchase. And we’re more interested in keeping you as a happy customer.
Pitfall #4: How Long Will the Product Last? the Warranty Period is a Good Clue.
Manufacturers are not going to warranty a product for 5 years if they know it will only last 2. Not all LED products will last 5 years. Some will only last 2 or 3 years.
We will explain why in the next pitfall, “Why Cheap Lights are Cheap”. One of the reasons you’re considering purchasing LED is to reduce maintenance costs. Buy one of these products, and you haven’t solved this problem.
Why is LED Lighting Supply different? The smallest warranty we have on our site is 5 years. That means this product will appear to be more expensive than a competitor’s product that only has a 2-year warranty.
So over 5 years, you’ve already replaced the Cheapo LED Fixture. And I can promise you our fixtures are nowhere near double the price of their products.
Pitfall #5: Why Cheap Lights are Cheap.
One common way to make a cheap LED light is to use fewer LED chips and drive them to the maximum capacity. This means they use less material which costs them less to build.
One way to make a LED Light last is to add more LED diodes and drive them to less than maximum capacity. Add a more powerful driver and turn it down so it’s running under maximum capacity.
Let’s use another analogy. Say you want to drive a car at 100 mph. Every day and all the time. You can buy a cheap car that’s capable of only doing 100 mph. And drive it to its maximum potential. But soon the car won’t be able to do 100 mph. And soon it will fail.
Or you can buy a car that’s designed to run up to 150 mph. And only run it at 66% of its designed capacity. It will last a lot longer than the first car.
Why is LED Lighting Supply different? Our LED lights aren’t car #1. We do not sell cheaply engineered lights.
Common Problems We See with LED Purchases We’re Asked to Fix.
1. Premature Failure
All too often we get calls from companies who claim the lights they purchased from someone else are failing. Sometimes it’s the diodes. But most times it’s the drivers.
Cheap drivers fail. And even expensive drivers fail because of a bad component. The question is how do you fix it?
If you dealt with a reputable company (LED Lighting Supply) we would take care of your driver issues. But how can we help you fix your lighting problems?
We can help you purchase the proper driver to replace your failed fixtures drivers, or we can offer a solution for a new LED replacement.
2. Unresponsive Warranty Support
We hear this one a lot. Companies go under. Go bankrupt. Or just stop responding to their customers. In 15 years, we have seen this too many times.
Some companies offered a 10-year warranty. And now they are no longer operating. So what good is a 10-year warranty?
Once again, LED Lighting Supply might be able to help you. We can mitigate the cost of the repairs by offering new components, or working with you to help you replace your lights and offer you our industry-leading customer support.
We don’t get countless 5-star reviews without standing behind our customers.
3. Who is Honoring the Warranty?
This one goes to all the buyers who purchase on the big eCommerce sites. These sites offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Then on day 31, that’s when the magic starts.
Who is this company you just bought the lights from? What happens a year from now when the lights start to fail?
Vendors on these sites come and go every day. Sometimes they leave on their own initiative. Sometimes the big eCommerce company kicks them off. It happens more frequently than you can imagine. So, who do you call then?
With LED Lighting Supply, you call us. Or chat with us. Or send us an email. We’re here. And our team will help fix the issue.
4. Light Levels Aren’t What Was Promised
We recently were contacted by a large state division with an urgent need. Their LED High Mast Lights were not performing well.
In fact, the actual foot candle readings on the ground were about 30% less than what they were told the lights would do. They did their homework, bought a major brand-named light, and thought they would be fine.
Why would this happen? Poor manufacturing? False advertising? We don’t know. We took their IES files, and sure enough, the light these fixtures should have produced should have provided better lighting than what they were delivering.
They purchased eight LED High Mast Lights from LED Lighting Supply – after we did a free lighting plan for them. They installed the lights and were amazed at how much brighter our lights were and how much better the lighting distribution was.
What was even more astonishing – our lights consumed 80 fewer watts per fixture. They even commented that our build quality was superior to the original light – the fixture was significantly more robust – and the internal wiring was done professionally.
This is not an uncommon story. We are often asked to fix some other company’s bad lighting solutions.
5. Light Distribution is Horrible, Unbalanced, or Has Shadows
Light levels are one thing. Having it well distributed is another. In the section above, we talked about missing specifications on some competitive products.
Understanding optics and light distribution is just as important as lumen output and foot candle readings. Having 100 foot candles 10 feet away from an outdoor pole and 1 foot candle 20 feet away is not a good distribution.
How can you take the risk out of having this as your solution? Create a lighting photometric, or lighting plan.
That is why we offer free lighting plans to our customers. To take away this risk, and to show our customers how well lit the area will be before they buy.
One word of warning. Getting a lighting plan done and then swapping the light out with another light producing the same lumens is no guarantee you will get the same results. The only way to ensure great results is to run the lighting plan with this fixture.
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.