LED Lighting: It’s What’s Inside that Counts
The American Architect, Louis Sullivan, is credited with the phrase “Form follows function”. In industrial design, this wisdom is still true today. While there are certainly unique elements of design used in some decorative LED lighting fixtures, fixtures for most commercial and industrial applications look remarkably the same. This is because the environment and function of the light require a common construction. For example, if we compile brochures for all of the LED High Bay lights on the market they are often called “UFOs” because they all look like flying saucers with fins. If we judge them only by their appearance, we can’t differentiate one from another. How then should we choose our fixture manufacturer?
We can find many similar situations in other technology products. If we remove the automatic transmissions from random cars on the market, we see them as large aluminum castings with some bumps, pipes, and wires attached to them. They all look similar because their form must follow their function. Can we tell by looking at the transmissions how long each will last? 90,000 miles? 150,000? 220,000? Outward appearance is of no value in predicting transmission life. The actual life of each is determined by the design, the quality of the components used inside, the care taken during assembly, the testing, and finally the maintenance and conditions that each transmission was subjected to.
The Major Components Inside the LED Fixture
With so many LED fixtures looking the same, let us share what makes Big Shine LED your first choice for quality and performance. The major components of LED fixtures include the LED chips, the circuit board, the electronic driver, the heat sink, the heat transfer interface, the materials for polymer optics and cover and, in LED panels, the Light Guide Plate. Certainly, it’s what’s inside that counts!
Most people aren’t familiar with the major manufacturers of LED chips used in lighting. However, even if the chips in a fixture are a well-known brand, there is an additional step to separate top quality from the rest. It is the process known as “Binning”. LED chips are mass produced by the millions. Because LEDs are multi-layer crystals made by deposition processes, there will be variations in the properties of individual chips, even from the same production line. To avoid assembling chips from opposite ends of the quality and color range into the same fixture, each chip is very rapidly tested and then assigned to a bin with other chips that behave the same.
Fixture manufacturers buy their sets of chips according to the bins they choose to use. Better quality chips cost more. They are sorted into bins according to three criteria: Correlated Color Temperature (CCT); lumen output; forward voltage. Chips that are shifted from the intended color temperature (CCT) will also tend to be less stable over time. Chips with different Forward Voltages cannot be efficiently matched to the driver. At Big Shine our LED chips are selected according to the best bins for consistency and performance.
The care in handling LED chips affects their performance and their life. If a chip has been protected from excess temperature, static electricity or voltage spikes, and the circuit board is kept in intimate contact with the heat sink, the LED chips can easily last 100,000 hours or more in service. All of our fixtures are burn-in tested at the factory to confirm that all aspects of fixture assembly are correct.
The heart of every LED Lighting system is the electronic driver. It’s no exaggeration to say that the driver plays the key role in determining fixture life. No matter how much talent and skill an athlete has, they cannot endure to become a champion if they have a weak heart. In the same way, the driver is the heart of the LED lighting system. LED chips require a carefully regulated DC current. In contrast, our building electrical systems are AC and the voltage can fluctuate by 5% or more from one moment to the next. The driver accommodates these fluctuations and has built-in protection against overload and overtemperature. The driver limits how much input voltage distortion and fluctuation the light can tolerate. Consequently, the system durability depends on the driver’s ability to withstand heat.
Cheap drivers sometimes produce undesirable levels of electromagnetic interference. The quality of the driver also determines the quality of the LED light output. A robust driver will provide years of consistent, reliable, flicker-free light. At Big Shine, our drivers are carefully matched to both the electrical and environmental demands of each fixture type and provide top performance earning DLC Listing.
Polymer Optics and Cover
One method used to make cheap LED fixtures is to provide diffuser, cover or light guide plates of polystyrene (PS) plastic. When new, PS has excellent clarity. However, PS will turn yellow even after only one year. This is why Big Shine fixtures use the premium grades of polycarbonate (PC) and acrylic (PMMA). In LED Panels, the yellowing is accelerated if the reflecting pattern was formed by silkscreen printing rather than by laser or machine etching. From the outside, cheap LED panels look the same as the premium panels. In the same way, all automatic transmissions can look the same. However, the light output and consistency of a cheap panel will begin to decline in less than two years. As a result, the color change will become very objectionable.
Our confidence in our products is reflected in our warranty. We provide full parts and labor warranty on all professionally-installed Big Shine fixtures. Our comprehensive warranty covers both the LED light sources and fixtures without restriction on operating hours. Driver warranties vary by fixture type. Contact us for full details. With so many options available in LED lighting, our Big Shine Energy division provides a full turn-key solution to meet your lighting needs. We provide a lighting audit, photometric plan, incentive rebate assistance, professional installation on a flexible schedule, controls commissioning, optional Measurement & Verification and more. To upgrade your lighting, and cut your lighting bill by 60% or more, call us today!
Technology Office November 12, 2018
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