Solar Landscape Lights and LED Landscape Lighting The right fit for SOME applications
LED Landscape Lights
The goal of this topic is to be truly informative and unbiased so that you can make the proper decision about LED. There are many positives and there are many negatives.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting is exciting technology and the future of lighting.
LED Lighting uses less power and each bulb potentially lasts up to 10 times longer (40,000 hours vs 4,000 hours). Their efficiency and long life make LED lighting a great green solution.
The positives of LED lighting:
LED technology is improving, but before you make the jump you need to educated yourself. The market is flooded with misconceptions, false claims, and inferior product – all of which can make you very disappointed in LED lighting. You must be careful and use LED for the right application/reasons.
Some quick realities about LED:
As the table below illustrates, the lumens for LEDs are lower than halogen, and when you get into the higher lumen LEDs they tend to be very high color temperatures.
The brightest LEDs tend to be the coolest color temperature (undesirable blue-white color). The inexpensive LEDs tend to be low lumens, undesirable color and tend to fail quickly (often with-in a few months). The challenge is finding an LED that is bright, has an acceptable color, is well made so it doesn’t fail prematurely, and that is reasonably priced. You good news is you can find these now. Right now (as of 10/1/09) a quality LED with good color temperature can output about a 15 watt halogen equivalent and costs from $35-$50 wholesale. The customer will usually pay ~ $50-$100 premium for an LED lamp.
Price and LED technology is changing quickly, but as of 10/1/09 LED bulbs under $10 are worthless, under $20 barely acceptable, and are in the $40-$50 range wholesale for a decent LED lamp that is worth using for landscape lighting.
There are some other issues to be aware of:
Selling both sides of the fence. I can show either side and make a very compelling argument—for or against LED. If you don't believe me read below:
I’m a contractor selling you LED solutions:
"LED is 80% more efficient, green and will save you money. The lamps last 40,000 hours which is around 20 years. No more burnt out lights, no more service calls. Reliable, cool to the touch, energy efficient, cutting edge…and you are saving the environment and being green. A true win-win."
All of it is largely true, depending on how you look at it.
I’m trying to sell you halogen, or am against LED:
"You will pay roughly $1000-$2000 more for 20 LED landscape lighting fixtures over halogen. You will save about $.04/day in electricity. Why would you pay $1000-$2000 now to maybe save $1000 10 years from now IF the lamps even last that long?
You will get less light, a worse color light, a worse beam spread and overall worse landscape lighting result. Additionally the color and brightness of LEDs degrades after a year or two.
The life span claims are ludicrous. Most light fixtures don’t last 20 years and you think a high tech computer component will last in an outdoor wet, hot environment for 20 years?
Regarding no service calls, lights need to be attended to at least every 1-2 years regardless. Wires cut by landscapers, plant growth covering fixtures, calcium build-up on lens—this has to be done anyways—you still need the same service calls. If you think you can put landscape light fixtures in the ground and leave them for 20 years without touching them you are dreaming.
Bottomline—less light, worse color, $2000 more all to save a few cents per day—make no sense unless you are doing it because you have the extra money and just want to support the technology. Did I even mention that no one knows the real life span of these bulbs you are hoping to breakeven on in 10 years. A couple cents a day in energy savings is not being green. If you really care about the environment, save energy on high amperage devices. Oh do you live where it snows? Your LEDs run too cool and do not melt the snow that covers them so they work be much good in the winter. If you really want LED, use halogen for now and when the technology gets better you can swap out the halogens with retrofit LED lamps."
Real acceptable applications of LED:
What to do?
If I were a contractor, I think you can make more money by pushing LED. You are offering something more unique and cutting edge and it has a compelling story. But if you do, be sure to educate the customer on the pro’s and cons. Also choosing the right LED is a must. At this point the only quality integrated LED I can recommend is DG Lights. For retrofit lamps, we are not there yet, but feel we will be in the Spring of 2010, at which point we will start carrying the best of breed LED Bulbs to fit into quality brass outdoor lighting fixtures.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting is exciting technology and the future of lighting.
LED Lighting uses less power and each bulb potentially lasts up to 10 times longer (40,000 hours vs 4,000 hours). Their efficiency and long life make LED lighting the great green solution.
LED lights use solid state technology and semi conductors to make a silicon chip diode glow. Low output LEDs are cool to the touch, however in higher output applications, the driver and chip generates intense heat and needs to be cooled or it becomes less efficient. Efficiency, life span and output decreases as lumen output and driver heat increases. Retro-fit bulbs statistics can be deceiving, their ability to live up to their claims is largely depending upon the quality of the manufacturer.
LED’s are intensely efficient and long lasting in low wattage applications because they do not produce a vast amount of heat or require significant heat sinking. The goal is to scale this technology to lumen outputs that rival traditional bulbs. Tremendous advancements are being made during this exciting time. LED technology statistics are based on low wattage applications. Based on lab tests using optimal heat sinking, output data is higher. To reach near perceived LED efficiency, higher output LED technology should be built-into a specific fixture and the fixture designed as a massive heat sink for the driver. Hence, high "true" LED spotlights are full of heat dissipating fins. Unfortunately, the cost to manufacture heat sinked fixtures with the proper drivers is very expensive. Currently, such set-ups are only available from niche manufacturers on a made to order basis for roughly $300/fixture. This is not to degrade LED lighting or retro-fit LED bulbs. We recognize great value if your purchase is to support green lighting initiatives. Soon, LED will be an efficient substitute for traditional lighting.
There is not an abundant amount of information regarding LED brightness compared to regular bulbs. LED bulbs do not have official lumen ratings or hour ratings like traditional bulbs because LED performance is dependent from the heat sink/fixture it is placed. To reiterate, the actual light output, life span and energy efficiency of the same LED varies. It is related to specific fixture and heat sink it is built into. Moreover, it would take 4.56 years of constant illumination to test each fixture version to see if it lasted 40,000 hours so testing is "interpreted". Manufacturers have taken optimal industry LED data for possible performance results and list that as the data for their product.
For more information on LED technology and LED landscape lights, there is a site and blog called Lizard Lighting that is dedicated to the discussion of LED www.LizardLighting.com
The concept of solar fixtures - renewable energy, no wires or transformer and easy installation—just stick fixtures in the ground, is optimal, but it does have drawbacks. Most importantly the light is not strong enough to illuminate an area properly. Solar lights will glow like a marker light, noticing that the fixture is on, but will provide very little useable light in a landscape lighting application. Currently, Solar fixtures are best served to be used to identify the edge of a driveway or walkway. Because we focus on selling lighting that a contractor would use, at this time solar does not fit out product mix. Until then, you may want to try the following two retail sites that offer a variety of solar fixtures: www.mysolarshop.com and www.eco-lights.com. If you are looking for solar lights and are aware that the lumens (light output will be very minimal), but you like the ease of installation, you can also try our friends at Solar Lights today.
As technology improves, solar will become a more useable alternative for professional contractors.Shop for Landscape Lighting Fixtures >
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