Earlsmann regularly attend the spring and autumn lighting fairs in Hong Kong every couple of years to see what the latest trends in the lighting industry may be.
5 years ago only around 40% of lighting shown was LED. Now it’s over 99% which indicates the huge improvements in the technology, improving from 40lm/W to well over 100lm/W now making it a genuine alternative to traditional light sources such as fluorescent and metal halide.
We saw that apparent quality has improved significantly and prices have fallen through the floor making replacement lamps an affordable commodity.
There were hundreds of exhibitors showing panel lights and virtually nothing to distinguish them. They all provide uniform illumination and deliver around 3000-3500lm from 36 Watts. A couple had a new diffusing layer to give a glare rating of 19, good for office and health environments. I say apparent because with low prices there may be long term reliability issues. Improvements in manufacturing techniques mean that LEDs are now a very cheap commodity bought by the kilo. In many cases, however, it is unlikely the LEDs used will have had long term LM80/TM21 testing so longevity cannot be assured. The latest panels are worth an informed look to ensure that the immediate low price doesn’t have a much higher cost later.
LED tubes are now available for just a few dollars making them little more than a fluorescent! As mentioned earlier, it is debatable what the quality is like, but they can be changed every 2-3 years having made substantial energy savings, providing there is easy access to low cost maintenance contractors.
Down lights are now available for under$5 – this is a complete solution and replacement for a GU10 and simple housing. But how? A plastic/ceramic housing, a drive circuit and a chip on board (COB) LED are being assembled and profit being made, all for such a low price that quality must be questionable.
What is significant are many more products quoting UL approval. If this is the case then the quality and performance may be assumed to be good as UL test houses are extremely stringent. However, for the unscrupulous, it is easy to make a claim and quote a file number so it is worth checking the file to make sure it exists when considering the cheapest tubes or panels.
One of the most interesting developments is “driverless” LED technology. These have reached 100lm/W so the efficacy is as good as DC LEDs but without the need for the driver and its inherent reliability issues. Low power versions are starting to be used in some of the down light products available, and in tubes. There was only a handful of products exhibited using them but we believe this is the future, at least until something else comes along.
For us, the main interest is in high power COBs, eg 20 watts and above, allowing us to build our larger luminaires much more easily. In most cases this will allow for quicker assembly and improved reliability.
Whilst in Hong Kong we were pleased to be invited to the Lux Review Global Hotlist party held at the Grand Hyatt hotel. The hot list is their top 20 of global movers and shakers in the lighting industry and includes some obvious companies such as Philips, Aurora and Samsung but also Apple who are moving into the lighting control market. It was a very enjoyable and interesting evening which confirmed some of our own thoughts on the market direction and the speed with which the industry is changing. As many in the industry already know, Samsung are pulling out of lamp manufacture, although they are still going to produce LEDs, and Philips are selling their lighting division. It will be interesting to see what further changes occur in the future.