This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


What We Have Learned

The Department of Energy has issued a new report on lessons learned as a market for solid-state lighting develops. The lessons mostly have the character of things that need improvement.

12 LED Market Lessons

  1. Rigorous testing requirements adopted in the early days of SSL industry development were necessary to counter exaggerated claims of performance by some manu­facturers, but they eventually led to unreasonably high testing costs.
  2. Despite the promise of long life, there is no standard way to rate the lifetime and reliability of LED products.
  3. Specifiers prefer complete families of products, but the rapid evolution of LED technology presents a challenge to manu­facturers in creating and maintaining complete product lines.
  4. The range of color quality available with LED-based products and the limitations of existing color metrics may confuse users.
  5. The color delivered by some LEDs shifts over time, enough to negatively impact adoption in some appli­cations.
  6. Some LEDs flicker noticeably, which may negatively impact adoption in some appli­cations.
  7. LEDs can cause glare, which may negatively impact adoption in some appli­cations.
  8. Achieving high-quality dimming perfor­mance with LED lamps is difficult, but improving.
  9. Greater interoperability of lighting control components and more sensible specifications of lighting control systems are required to maximize the energy savings delivered by LED-based sources.
  10. Lack of LED product serviceability and interchangeability has created market adoption barriers in certain sectors.
  11. Existing lighting infrastructure limits the full potential of SSL; more effort is needed to open the doors to new lighting systems and form factors.
  12. Programs that provide ways to identify quality LED products have helped support market adoption.

The authors of the report, "Solid-State Lighting: Early Lessons Learned on the Way to Market," say that they selected lessons where "useful information can be applied going forward." In other words, this is not an account of solved problems.

The sidebar lists all 12 lessons in the report's language. I would like to touch on a few nuances and implications that struck me while reading through the 47 pages of lessons.

A lifetime of control
Lesson 2 states that LED lifetime and reliability cannot be exactly predicted. The report notes that the presence and growing importance of lighting controls compounds this problem into intractability. The standard testing that is used today to try to extrapolate luminaire lifetime assumes that conditions are static when the luminaire is in use. Controls allow the level of light, and perhaps other variables such as color or CCT, to be set over wide ranges. There is no theoretical basis for assuming what the effect of running a luminaire at 50% light output will be on a product's lifetime, let alone extrapolating to arbitrary levels of light output over time.

Lesson 3 notes that, while specifiers prefer complete families of lighting products, manufacturers have a difficult time meeting that desire due to the rapid evolution of technology. One fallout of this situation is that, since specifiers cannot necessarily find the variety of products needed for a project offered by a single manufacturer, they may mix and match luminaires from different suppliers. The result is often mismatched color (even for products nominally having the same CCT), disparate rates of lumen degradation and color shift, and an inability easily to stock replacement parts.

Another factor mitigating against manufacturers' ability to offer complete product families is the burden imposed by combinatorial product testing, as Lesson 1 details.

Tighter binning
Lesson 4 touches on a topic we have examined here recently, some LED makers are exploring ways to narrow the color variation in the binning they offer -- indeed this has been going on for some time. Lesson 4 notes that color has become a point of confusion among consumers in the SSL era. Among the report's recommendations for remedying this situation: "Standards organizations should consider establishing tighter tolerances for chromaticity bins to reduce product-to-product variability at the same CCT."

Shifting color
Lesson 5 involves the color shifts that many luminaires experience over their lifetimes. There are no agreed-upon standards to characterize this behavior and no way now to communicate it to consumers. Thus it is not surprising that manufacturers' warranties rarely if ever mention guarantees of color stability. As we discussed last November, this issue is a sleeper that could cause the public to sour on SSL as its true dimensions become more widely known. Standards describing and circumscribing color shift are sorely needed.

The DOE's report is packed with such insights into, and implications of, the issues the SSL industry faces today. It is recommended reading.

Related posts

— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting