For a long time, halogen lighting systems were the go-to choice for outdoor lighting. But now LEDs have moved to the forefront, and with good reason. LEDs offer a much longer lifespan (over a decade, vs. annual replacement), use much less electricity and require less maintenance. Unfortunately, because of the popularity of LEDs there are lots of manufacturers out there churning out junk and selling it cheaply. It’s tempting, but you won’t get the same benefits from the cheap stuff. So, what are some things to ask your lighting company about LED lighting to ensure the best results?
- What is your warranty? The warranty will give you some insight into the confidence the installer has in the product and in their workmanship. For LEDs, the fixture and transformer should have lifetime warranties. The LED lamp should have a 5 year warranty, and the wires and connections should have a 10 year warranty.
- Are the electronics incorporated fully potted and specifically approved for outdoor use? Indoor usage lamps are cheaper. For a reason. They will not keep moisture out as well because they are not fully potted. Also, they can overheat because they are constructed for open fixtures, unlike the closed fixtures of outdoor lighting. Fully potted electronics are the only ones properly protected from the elements. LED bulbs utilize a circuit board. Get moisture in there, and it’s not long until they short out and quit working.
- How do you make your connections? If it’s the pierced kind, find another installer. Look for heat-shrink connectors for years of corrosion free, consistently working lights.
- What chips are employed in the LED lamp? When talking about LED chips, there are two leaders in the industry–Nichia and CREE. For consistent quality, insist on one of these two. If your installer doesn’t know what chips are in the product they sell, they don’t enough about their product. Find someone else.
- Is the binning tight? Binning (how the manufacturer selects their LED chips) determines the product’s color consistency. Poor binning from cheap manufacturing can lead to a fixture putting out multiple colors of light. It’s noticeable.
- Do the LEDs have a voltage operating range, or constant current? LEDs are more flexible than halogens in their voltage range of operation (usually 9 – 24 volts, compared to 10.8 – 12 volts for halogen) but operate longer and/or more brightly with constant current. Choose constant current.
Asking a few questions can help you weed out the less qualified outdoor lighting installers who may use questionable techniques or materials, which will save you money and hassle in the long run. Before you even get to asking any of the above questions, make sure your technician is certified. Without certification, you can’t be sure they are properly trained to design and/or install outdoor lighting. Beyond that, you want your lights to be a quality product with the best materials and techniques for the installation, so ask away!
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