The demand for every light bulb to be LED has seen an incredibly fast expansion of the LED market. At the same time the larger, more established manufacturers (GE, Philips, Osram, Feilo Sylvania) have all struggled to keep pace with all the raft of changes that have come through, both in terms of EU legislation but more importantly the rapid falls in price of LED chips and the, equally rapid, increase in their respective capabilities.
This has meant that a lot of new, smaller, more nimble manufacturers (Lumanor, Lumilife, Lightwell etc. ) have sprung up to take advantage. In reality these new manufacturers are actually just distributors as they simply take whatever product they can get, for the lowest possible price, direct from a handful of Chinese factories. This means that their product ranges are constantly changing as each Chinese factory keeps changing the product specifications that they want to produce. In turn this means that the UK market is flooded with endless LED variants of what was once a straightforward light bulb market.
For instance a 60w clear, bayonet cap light bulb now could be a 4 watt, or 4.5 or 5 or 5.5 or 6 or 9 watt bulb with over 30 different potential brand names, and this doesn’t even take into account the actual colour of the light coming from the LED. Most LED bulbs will claim 2700 lumens (meant to be warm white) but when tested very few of these LEDs will actually come close.
On top of all this UK customers assume that any incandescent or halogen bulb will work in their dimming switches, and they would be right. But with LED this is not the case. Each LED can have a dimmable and non-dimmable version. Often the dimmable version still will not work with many dimmers. All this just adds to the complexity of buying light bulbs for baffled customers.
From our perspective at Casell Lighting the LED light bulb market is like the Wild West with each day bringing a new product at an ever lower price and wattage with increasingly more outrageous claims on length of life and light colour.
But in this mini gold rush these new manufacturers/distributors have not stopped to consider their customer. Everything has been about driving down the price of the LED’s that they sell in order to capture elusive volume sales. This has created a total mess of a market that we at Casell are trying to navigate as sensibly and safely as possible.
There are five key points that no-one is addressing in LED lighting and we at Casell are obsessed about.
- LED Performance
- LED Safety
- LED Testing
- LED Customer understanding
- LED Customer satisfaction
What we mean by this is how well the LED actually does its job as a replacement to a halogen or incandescent bulb. It is not just about how long the LED might last for. In fact most LEDs will last many years but over that time the LED chip will degrade and simply change colour from the sort of acceptable warm white back to its original blue state. Not many UK homes like having blue lighting. This is referred to as the Colour Shift. In addition to this, the output of an LED will diminish over its life. The lower quality the LED chip, the faster this will occur. This is termed Lumen Depreciation. The other key indicator in a lamp’s, visible, performance is CRI (Colour Rendering Index). This measures how accurately light sources display colours and is determined by comparing a coloured object’s appearance under an incandescent light (which has a CRI of 100) vs. an artificial source.
So for us LED performance must not be exaggerated. Our criteria for performance is:
- We aim to produce LEDs that last for a minimum of 2 years and we give a no nonsense guarantee to replace any that do fail to back this up.
- Superior Lumen maintenance & Colour stability over that 2 year period.
- Fully dimmable with the vast majority of modern dimmers.
- High CRI rating of at least 80 and where possible 90. ( incandescent is CRI 100)
- Safe heat dissipation
This is one of the main reasons not to buy those tempting, ultra-cheap LEDs that you see on Amazon, EBay or the many pop up websites that appear one day and disappear the next who stock nothing and rely on cheap imports with no guarantees. Everyone knows that incandescent and halogen bulbs generate a lot of heat, but what is less well known is that LEDs do the same. This means that any light bulb put in an enclosed light fitting (e.g. a downlight) is going to generate a lot of heat unless there is a way of letting that heat dissipate.
The hotter an LED gets the more rapidly the chip that is giving you the light will degrade. This will mainly reduce the light output and colour that the LED bulb is producing but it will eventual reduce the life of the bulb. But to keep safe in your home do not just assume that because you have fitted an LED you have instantly reduced your fire risk. Where necessary downlights should be fire rated or fitted with a fire hood and any bulbs near curtains or other soft furnishings should be carefully monitored.
In the rush to get the latest cheap wave of LEDs from factory to shop floor many of the new distributors or LED brands have skipped the testing part. This is why we have so many poor LED products washing around the UK, damaging the reputation of all LED products and under investigation from Trading Standards. We understand that with falling prices everyone needs to sell their LEDs fast, but we at Casell Lighting are a bit more patient. We know that if we supply a poor, untested product, it will cost us hugely as we stand by our 2 year guarantee. LEDs MUST be tested and tested to proper UK and EU standards. All the bulbs that we design in the UK and make abroad are fully tested before sold. All our testing is done in The Netherlands by a third party company.
All our LEDs are tested using the Everfine GO SPEX500. This beast (shown below) gives us a report on every single one of our bulbs. Countless times we have had to reject designs and adapt to produce a light bulb that will pass our own stringent tests. This is the main reason it has taken us over nine years to develop our range of 450 different light bulbs.
The GO SPEX500 can test all LED, halogen and incandescent lamps up to 3000 Watts AC and DC ("in-house") tests.
On an ongoing basis, from every delivery of LED bulbs we receive we send a batch for random testing and only when these tests are approved, will the bulbs be released for sale.
If a bulb does not pass these initial or random tests we can then trace the issue back via our stored ISO9001 records and take the necessary actions with our factory partners to correct anything.
LED Customer understanding
The biggest problem we all have with LEDs is making sure each customer is actually buying the correct LED to properly meet their requirements.
As we can see from all the points above this is not straightforward. Customers understandably find LED bulbs confusing and frustrating. But this is where we are keen to help. We have over 20 years experience just with light bulbs and this is the main reason we started Casell Lighting. We want to keep on trying to offer, clear, simple LED, halogen and even incandescent lights for customers.
But we do not want to overstate what certain LEDs can or cannot do. We want to improve perceptions of the LED market and try to explain why, just going for the cheapest bulb is not the most sensible method. Particularly now when some LEDs cost less than a takeaway coffee. LED Customer satisfaction
Price is normally the first point on anyone’s list when it comes to LED light bulbs. For us it is the last. The product has got to be specified correctly, designed accurately, tested exhaustively and perform as a customer would expect before we can put a price on it. We know we are not the cheapest on all LED bulbs. There is always someone else rushing to develop a cheaper alternative. But that is the point, it is an alternative – it is not a direct replacement to the bulb that a customer needs. We make direct replacement bulbs and we make sure that they work. This is the only way to ensure customer satisfaction with the LED products that they are buying.