By James Brodrick
The market is being hit with a tidal wave of LED lighting products, with new ones coming out on an almost daily basis. While some of these products perform quite well, others leave a lot to be desired and are likely to disappoint. That is why the DOE created the CALiPER program (ssl.energy.gov/caliper.html), which tests a wide range of commercially available LED lighting products and publishes the results online in several different formats.
Since its launch in 2006, CALiPER has tested more than 350 solid-state lighting (SSL) products representing a wide range of lighting applications. Taken as a whole, the results offer a series of candid and instructive snapshots of the LED lighting market.
After 13 rounds of testing, one of the things learned is that SSL is on a decidedly upward trajectory, as indicated by the steady increase in the average efficacy of the LED products tested—from 21 lumens/W in 2007 to 61 lumens/W for Round 13. In fact, the minimum efficacy found in Round 13 (36 lumens/W) is higher than the overall average efficacy for 2008 and is close to the average efficacy for 2009-2010.
But despite that progress, CALiPER is still finding a wide range in the performance of LED lighting products. For example, those tested in Round 13 ranged in efficacy from 36 to 80 lumens/W; in Round 11, from 26 to 93 lumens/W; and in Round 9, from 17 to 79 lumens/W. As a result, buyers who do not do their homework risk inadvertently choosing lower-performing products.
That risk is compounded by a disparity between actual performance and manufacturer claims, which has been found in every CALiPER round to date. Although there’s been a definite improvement in the accuracy of those claims overall, many LED products still carry product literature that can be misleading.
The DOE’s Lighting Facts program (lightingfacts.com) seems to be helping in that regard, as recent CALiPER rounds have found manufacturer claims to be more accurate for products bearing the Lighting Facts label than for those that do not.
Along with an overall increase in the efficacyof LED lighting products has come an increase in the number of such products that can compete with—and sometimes even surpass—their traditional counterparts in terms of light output, distribution, and color quality. This has been especially true for certain applications, such as recessed downlights, parking structure and wallpack fixtures, and 2´x2´ troffer luminaires. These three LED lighting applications involve integral luminaires that have SSL technology incorporated into their designs in order to take full advantage of it. By contrast, LED replacement products are hampered by the fact that they are used in fixtures that were designed for traditional light sources rather than for SSL.
This does not mean that LED replacement lamps can’t compete with traditional lighting, though. As CALiPER testing has shown, there are some excellent small directional LED replacement lamps on the market, and the performance of other LED replacement lamps is improving all the time.
The expected market appearance in early 2012 of the first winner of the DOE’s L Prize competition—an LED replacement lamp from Philips Lighting that uses less than 10W and matches or surpasses the performance of a 60W incandescent bulb—will offer consumers still more choices and is likely to be followed by other high-performing LED replacement products.
Since CALiPER cannot test every LED lighting product on the market, buyers who want to reduce their risk should learn how to use the different kinds of CALiPER reports: Summary Reports analyze the results for all products in a given CALiPER testing round; Detailed Test Reports, which are searchable online, provide extensive data on all individual
CALiPER-tested products; and Benchmark Reports provide detailed analysis of test results for traditional and LED lighting products for a given application, comparing them and noting potential issues.
Although SSL is making rapid progress, the LED lighting products on the market are still very much a mixed bag, which makes educating consumers as well as buyers a top priority. The DOE offers a number of online resources that can help in that regard; find them at ssl.energy.gov.
Brodrick is lighting program manager for the Department of Energy. Reach him at James.Brodrick@ee.doe.gov.Tagged with distribution, LED, lighting, tED