In this edition of Fast Facts, Mark Salt of the LIA Laboratories explains why independent verification of lighting products is important for FMs who are looking for guaranteed improvements in performance and reductions in life-cycle costs
How has lighting changed in recent years?
The principal driver for developing new lighting technologies has consistently been a desire to improve energy efficiency by delivering higher light output for a lower power input. This enables the required lighting levels to be achieved with lower energy consumption.
There have also been other benefits in parallel with improved efficiency, including longer life for the lamps to reduce the maintenance costs associated with replacing them, more consistent colour temperature and improved colour rendering. All of these benefits are delivered by the latest generation of LED lighting.
While the light source is usually the main focus of development, this leads to modification of the light fittings that use them in order to optimise the light distribution from the fitting. For example, LED light sources are quite different from traditional types of lamp so the optics of the luminaire need to be designed differently to achieve optimum performance.
There have also been significant advances in controls technology, enabling the lighting to be controlled more efficiently to prevent energy being wasted.
How is LED lighting different from previous types of lighting?
The key difference is that LEDs use electronic technology so that an LED lighting system is quite complex and the way it works is different to other light sources. A typical LED lighting system comprises the LED light sources themselves; LED drivers that convert mains voltage to a low voltage, constant current; the mechanical housing for the LEDs (including a heat sink) and control circuitry.
With LED lighting, the heat sink and other mechanisms for removing heat from the electronic circuitry (perhaps designed into the luminaire) are particularly important as high temperatures will reduce light output and the life of the lamp.
Are there any concerns surrounding the latest lighting technologies?
Given the complexity of LED lighting systems, as described above, the quality of components and the way they are assembled is of vital importance as each of these elements impacts on the overall performance. For example, the positioning of the LEDs within the LED module, the optics of the luminaire, control gear losses and thermal management can all influence the efficacy system.
Without a doubt, the LED light sources from the leading lamp manufacturers offer the levels of quality and reliability that specifiers and end users demand. Similarly, there are many new luminaires on the market that have been designed to exploit the particular characteristics of LED light sources to optimise overall performance.
However, as with any new technology that proves popular, there will always be companies trying to ‘get on the bandwagon’ with lower quality, lower priced products as the market grows.
In case of LEDs, this area of the market has also attracted companies that have traditionally been involved in electronics but have no in-depth lighting knowledge or experience. As a result, they may not fully understand the conditions that their products will be expected to operate in.
This means there are also a lot of products entering the market that do not meet the required standards – yet they achieve a certain level of market penetration by being low-priced. Some of them though, may have packaging that suggests they are compliant with all standards – and they may also state performance data that has not been verified and turns out to be inaccurate.
How can I be sure that the lighting I buy will deliver the performance I am expecting?
Until recently most of the information about a particular light source was on its packaging or buried deep in the product’s supporting documentation. This meant there was very little independent verification of the claims that were made regarding compliance with safety regulations, lumen output and lamp longevity.
It was for this reason that the LIA Laboratories, as part of the Lighting Industry Association, launched its ‘LIA Labs Verified scheme’ last year to provide a complete accredited testing, verification and certification service. This service provides independent verification of the performance of all lighting equipment, from lamps/LED modules and control gear through to luminaires.
How does independent verification work – and how do I know it’s independent?
The testing process begins by verifying basic safety, such as checking for overvoltage and that components are mounted correctly – the purpose of these tests being to make sure that if a product fails, it fails safely. Subsequent tests assess photometry using our goniophotometer and photometric spheres, while lamp life is measured in our specially designed lamp room.
Products verified by the scheme, which operates in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust (EST), get a certificate and can carry the LIA Labs verified and EST brand. Verified products are also published on LIA Laboratories certification website with full report details.
Many leading lighting manufacturers are now using the service to provide independent verification of their own test data.
What benefits are there to me of insisting on independently verified lighting products?
There are major benefits to engaging with your consultant or contractor at the earliest design stage of a project and making it clear that you expect them to use independently verified lighting products.
For example, you will have the peace of mind that the lighting specified will achieve appropriate light levels and light quality for your internal customers. This will ensure the workplace is visually comfortable and supportive of workforce productivity, whilst keeping complaints to a minimum.
Equally, you can be sure that any energy-savings you have anticipated will be delivered in line with the stated performance of the lighting.
How can I ensure that the products my contractor is using meet the required criteria?
As the client you are in position to insist that any lighting products used for a project have been independently verified. Depending on the nature of the contract, this may be by briefing the consultant, lighting designer or contractor accordingly. It is also advisable to check that any such specification isn’t changed as the project proceeds.
Why should I look for LIA Labs verified products, rather than some other form of verification?
LIA Laboratories Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Lighting Industry Association (The LIA). The LIA is at the heart of the industry, representing all areas of the lighting industry in the UK and is Europe’s largest lighting trade association.