We discuss two of the factors that customers must consider when taking on any LED lighting project:
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Project criteria is the framework or outline customers set based on what they want to achieve with their lighting project. At Stouch Lighting, we often refer to this as a customer’s “desired outcome.” You choose your project criteria based on this desired outcome.
The project criteria is set by the customer, NOT the lighting supplier or manufacturer, and often consists of the below criteria. We go into detail on each below.
You can click these terms to jump directly to each corresponding explanation!
The product criteria are the technical specification and performance attributes of individual LED fixtures and lamps. This information is generated from industry-approved testing methods, processes, and laboratories. It's imperative that you derive the product criteria from these industry-approved testing methods only so you don't end up with lighting that does not meet its expected performance standards.
How long of a manufacturer warranty do you want? The emphasis is on MANUFACTURER, as you want the product to be supported by the company that made it. Often, a supplier or vendor will add a few years on top of the manufacturer’s warranty on their own, saying things like, “well, the product warranty is five years but we will give you an additional five years on top of that.” What does that really mean? It means they are offering you a product that does not meet an aspect of your carefully selected project criteria and trying to make up for it with their "additional warranty." If a manufacturer warranties a product for five years, that’s how long they plan on supporting that particular product or model. What happens in year seven when there is an issue with the product? Is the vendor you used seven years ago going to replace that fixture with a product from the same manufacturer? What if the manufacturer no longer provides components or supports that particular model? Is that vendor going to buy you a completely new or different fixture, maybe from a different manufacturer? Good luck keeping track of your product warranties after that.
Manufacturer warranties should be listed on the product cut sheets/specification sheets or provided as a statement on their letterhead and signed by someone with the authority to do so. If a turnkey vendor provides a product cut sheet with their own branding on it (not showing who actually manufacturers the product), make sure you find out who actually MAKES the fixture (since it’s very unlikely your turnkey lighting vendor manufacturers, distributes, and installs LED lighting fixtures) and obtain a cut sheet from that manufacturer so you can see the true product information.
This one is straightforward. How much money do you have to spend on a project? Many customers hesitate to provide potential vendors with a budget out of fear that those vendors will price out their solutions to maximize your budget, which is an understandable concern. Don’t forget, however, that LED lighting is not a commodity and it is important to understand that simply seeking the cheapest material without establishing your project and product criteria (keep reading, we'll get to product criteria) properly will leave you with exactly that, the cheapest material. When it comes to LED lighting the phrase, “you get what you pay for” is unfortunately very accurate. It’s not like lighting is a minor aspect of your businesses. You need it so your customers can safely drive and park their cars, or clearly see the merchandise you’re selling. Think of it this way; sure, you can buy a car for $500, but are you going to rely on that car to get to work every day?
LED product lifetimes are measured in hours and often include the term “L70." L70 is the point in time (measured in hours of operation) when the initial light output of a lamp or fixture has degraded by 30%. Not all LED products have the same lifetime, and that’s okay. For example, the L70 of an LED fluorescent tube replacement is much different than that of an LED parking lot fixture, but that doesn’t mean the LED tube is low quality. You will need to establish the rated lifetime criteria for each of the products and applications in your project. For example, minimum L70s of 50,000 hours for LED T8 lamps, 100,000 hours for LED high bay fixtures, 125,000 hours for LED parking lot fixtures, etc. A manufacturer-neutral supplier or vendor should be able to provide guidance on what lifetime standards a customer should expect. The most important part about product lifetimes is that they are not simply something a manufacturer arbitrarily claims. L70 claims are generated from independent testing results (more on that later). So just because a product cut sheet says L70 = 100,000 hours, unless the manufacturer can provide the supporting documentation to prove it, it’s just a number on a piece of paper. And to make it extra confusing, L70s should be based on TM-21.
When do you plan to start and when do you need to be done? The reason this is important is that not all manufacturers have domestic inventory. In fact, many products are built-to-order or must be shipped in from foreign countries such as Korea and China. This can mean a very long lead time. The reality of the LED lighting industry is that there are a lot of products that look great on paper and have all of the required technical specifications and testing results to support their product performance claims, but if they can’t produce and deliver the volume your project requires within the time constraints you require, those products aren’t valid options. Being able to deliver material in the time frame needed is a key component of your project criteria. Be sure to require that any vendor you are considering can prove that they can deliver the material on time.
What types of lighting are you looking to purchase or convert to LED? By “application” we mean products such as parking lot, wall pack, garage and canopy, high mast, sports field, fluorescent replacements, troffers, high bays, vapor tights, etc. Basically, what applications of your interior or exterior lighting do you want to address/change? The reason customers need to clarify what LED lighting applications they want to purchase is because, as we mentioned, different LED applications have different lifetime standards, warranties, and other product criteria, and having an understanding of your intended lighting upgrade enables you to get the technical specifications you desire. For example, if you are replacing the fluorescent lighting in the interior for your building or facility and the parking lot lighting in the exterior, you need separate sets of product criteria for each application. If you were to use an LED T8 L70 of 50,000 hours for both the fluorescent replacements and parking lot lighting, you would get a quality LED T8 lamp, but drastically sell yourself short on the exterior lighting, since its L70 should be a minimum of 100,000 hours.
This project criterion applies mostly to retrofit and conversion projects and not so much to new construction projects (since the project’s budget usually addresses potential product pricing).
Speaking of budget, that is NOT what we mean here. What we are talking about are return on investment (ROI) requirements. Is there an ROI requirement for your project? Do you need to see a payback in five years? Three years? Your vendor understanding the investment criteria is helpful because it helps to narrow down the viable LED product solutions. If your vendor understands your operating conditions, such as energy cost (kWh rate), hours of operation, maintenance expenses, etc., they should be able to select LED products with the appropriate price points and technical characteristics to ensure that the required ROI is achieved. Setting the ROI also ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding expectations during the RFP or bid development process. For example, if you have a warehouse that currently utilizes four lamp fluorescent T5 fixtures, operating six hours a day, five days a week, paying $0.04 per Kwh, all while using occupancy sensors, and you are requiring an ROI of two years for a lighting conversion to LED, your vendor should probably tell you up front that it is unlikely that you are going to achieve that ROI.
As we mentioned earlier, product criteria (NOT PROJECT CRITERIA) are the technical specification and performance attributes of individual fixtures and lamps. This information is generated from industry-approved testing methods and processes. The manufacturer of any LED product in consideration for a project of ANY size needs to be able to provide validation that the technical specifications listed are accurate. We cannot stress this enough!
Below is a list of some technical specifications that should be listed on a manufacturer’s product cut sheet.