WhichLEDLight: Lack of LED Standards Still a Big Issue in UK

The lack of LED standards is still a big issue, and users do not always understand the LED terminology jargon, which often leads to dissatisfied consumer experiences, said WhichLEDLight’s Commercial Director Rory Wilding in a recent interview with LEDinside.

Q) We’ve observed in China, Thailand and other Asian countries the negative impact from lack of LED standards. Is this also a serious issue in UK? What is the LED bulb/luminaire market situation like in UK? How has the UK LED market changed since your website’s establishment in 2012?

A clear lack of LED standards has been a big issue in the UK and Europe. We often see product recalls. There have picked up on a couple of high profile cases in the media such as a spec savers burning down due to a faulty LED down light. First and foremost safety is a massive issue when the industry expects lighting products to go in people’s homes. After basic safety, output quality is an important factor. We continue to observe issues around quality in the market and our website has been set up partly in response to this.

The gold standards we look at right now are LM79 and LM80 certificates from an independent ILAC affiliated test laboratory. This testing puts all lights on an even playing field meaning manufacturers can justify their claims to the market. Brand reputation is important in the market place and consumers are wising up to product claims meaning manufacturers need to be careful with product claims. As awareness and interest in LED lighting grows, so will market vigilance and product scrutiny. The manufacturers who take the bold step of providing independent test certificates for their products will win out in the market place and build credibility with end users. If you're a manufacturer who wants to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace we advise you to take that step. Those who don't may make short-term gains but in the longer term do not have a sustainable business model.

Since 2012 we have seen the changes in the market that other members of the industry will be familiar with – Haitz’s law means the cost of the technology is dropping every year as the products improve. We believe that 2015 will be a real tipping point in terms of cost/benefit analysis for households in the consideration phase of making the switch to LED lighting. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing. Energy bills are an increasing concern for households and people are getting frustrating as the bills continue to rise. If more people see LED as a solution then we can see awareness spreading. As this awareness spreads organically meaning more people are brought into the consideration mindset.

In the UK we feel like the consumer LED market is just getting going. Early adopters have embraced the technology and we have noted some high profile businesses making the switch because the business value and payback are clear. What is lacking is an understanding of what LED lighting is and how it can help from the broader consumer mass market. We know that there are plenty of fittings out there in homes all over the UK that need switching over to LED but people are confused or don't see LED as worth the effort.

Which LED Light was established in an effort to accelerate the uptake of LED lighting in households by making it easy and quick to make the change to LED. We see the industry as a place that needs to empathize more with homeowners. Terminology is a good place to start; the industry call something an LED lamp – consumers are used to the term ‘bulbs’. We are trying to be the organization that helps bridge the two worlds because right now the new terminology can alienate those who don't understand the technology. Beam angle and color temperature are entirely new concepts. Not everyone has access to a lighting designer or a lighting expert so it becomes crucial to communicate new concepts as simply as possible to see a meaningful adoption of an exciting new technology.

Q2) What is the most sought after LED product among UK consumers or other end users on your website? What kind of specs do UK consumers usually look for in LED luminaires (Do they value quality more over pricing? Do they value luminous efficacy and C/P ratios?)? What is their preferred LED color?

Most of the product we recommend are direct retrofit replacements. We see that traditional or classic style LED retrofit replacements are popular as they are easy to understand. GU10s are always a popular choice because many houses have ceilings with recessed down light fittings. Candles have got more popular recently. MR16s and strip lighting are products that interest people but are a bit more challenging for people to understand due to the requirement for drivers.

The market is broad – we see some users are highly price-sensitive where as other users are feature driven. LED colour normally depends on the use case as many manufacturers and merchants probably know already with warmer whites for living areas and cooler whites for a cleaner effect in environments like bathrooms. Again it is important to reiterate to the customer what color temperatures are because some users don't even understand this is a factor in LED lighting. Often we see this lack of understanding is where the problems start for LED lighting as a technology. We hear users talking about their experience with LED lights and a common complaint goes something like ‘I tried LED lights but the light was too harsh and blue’. This sounds to us like someone has taken the decision to switch to LED but their lack of understanding has left them with an uninformed purchase decision and ruined their experience. At this point the user is typically going to either take a more informed approach by seeking out education or abandon the technology and go back to incandescent.

In terms of motivations for adoption, it’s also important to consider the environmental impact of LED lights. Whilst many people are driven by cost and maintenance benefits, we are seeing users who are motivated to make the switch due to concerns about the environment. We know that if all the white light sources in the world are switched to LED we will reduce energy consumption by 1000TW per year which is the equivalent of 250 500MW coal plants. Our impact on the environment can be a really motivating factor for some people so the industry should not overlook this.

(Author: Judy Lin, Chief Editor, LEDinside)

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