LED Floodlights - quality equals performance


by Paul Dawson of ESP

Light-emitting diodes have been around for years.  But within the past decade LED’s have gone from being simple indicators on electrical devices, to bright white light sources capable of illuminating vast spaces whilst offering significant savings in power usage.

The obvious benefits of this new technology have created considerable interest in LED floodlights amongst end users, installers and manufacturers alike. Already a very competitive market has been established and reducing costs are fuelling sales. This would suggest benefits for all involved - cheaper light, less energy use and more sensible pricing.  However, despite surprisingly similar outward appearance and specifications, not all LED floodlights are the same.

Most manufacturers will confidently quote 50,000 hours life, but this in itself is a controversial claim according to recent much publicised thinking. The question must be what the 50,000 hour life refers to. Closer inspection will reveal the life is expected, not guaranteed, and only refers to the LED itself, not the driver - which in reality is more likely to suffer premature termination. Let’s accept that 50,000 hours life is possible. In many cases this can easily require the unit to happily operate in all weathers for over 45 years. How many external fittings from the 1970’s are still faring well today? To stand the test of time the physical construction of these new super long life LED products needs to be pretty tough. The standard spray painted aluminium housings employed by the majority of halogen or sodium floodlights will not be up to the job.

Some of the LED floodlight suppliers, inevitably those offering a more premium priced product, have addressed this issue. Their products feature pre-treated toughened coatings, SUS304 stainless steel fittings and most importantly highly over engineered rot proof weather seals. All vital to the longevity of the fitting and often reflected in the length of ‘whole product’ warranty the manufacturer is prepared to provide.

A fast developing market will always produce a wide spectrum in the quality of the components offered. The two main components of an LED floodlight, the driver and the COB LED, are already sorted into cheap, better and best, and the difference in quality and reliability is showing. Lumen output per watt, power factor and average running currents should all be considered.  These are all good indicators of the quality of the components being used. By far the most troublesome and potentially dangerous effect of a substandard product is its EMC output. Stories are already surfacing of newly installed LED floods knocking out everything from Wi-Fi routers to baby monitors, which leaves open the possibility of vital communication equipment becoming vulnerable.  Better quality units should be able to quote compliance to tough emission restrictions required by CE standards, specifically EN55015:2006 A1:2007 A2:2009. Every unit on the market will display a CE mark but what does this refers to?  The manufacturer should be able to provide full EMC emission test results from a reputable third party.

There is no doubt that LED floodlights are here to stay and offer a great alternative to past outdoor lighting solutions.  However, buyers need to be aware that, as with many things, it doesn’t pay in the long run to go for the cheapest option and that a premium product will bring with it quality, reliability and reassurance.