When purchasing LED lamps or fixtures, it can be tempting to go for the option with the lowest cost. However, the LED lighting market is flooded with all types of products, and not all of them come from reliable manufacturers. When low-quality products are used, the negative consequences outweigh the upfront cost savings, and they end up being the most expensive option in the long run. 

The two most common issues with low-grade LED products are poor lighting quality and a short service life, and sometimes both issues are present at once with the same product. 

How to Avoid Poor Lighting Quality 

The quality of lighting products is measured with the Colour Rendering Index (CRI), which indicates how their output compares to that of a natural light source such as the sun. The highest CRI value is 100 and it means the light source offers a high-quality output, faithfully representing the colours of objects and surfaces. As the CRI value is reduced colour perception is distorted, and the metric can reach negative values for extremely poor lighting quality. 

Reputable lighting manufacturers label the CRI in their products, giving the client a clear description of what lighting quality to expect. For example, an LED bulb with a CRI of 80 tends to have a lower price than one with a CRI of 98, but the lighting quality is diminished proportionally.  

However, some LED manufacturers focus on energy efficiency at the expense of everything else, even colour rendition. They advertise their products based only on energy savings, and the CRI may be omitted or displayed in small text that is easy to overlook. When customers purchase these LED bulbs, they are often disappointed by the poor lighting quality and go back to incandescent or halogen lighting, which have a perfect CRI of 100 despite their inefficiency. 

Is the Rated Service Life Real? 

LED products last significantly longer than older lamp types. For example, residential LED bulbs typically last for 25,000 hours, while commercial and industrial products typically exceed 50,000 hours. Established lighting manufacturers carry out laboratory tests to ensure that the reported service life is realistic, typically based on the LM-80 and TM-21 standards from IESNA, which provide a detailed procedure to calculate the service life of LED products. 

Any manufacturer can print a rated service life on a product label, however, and in some cases the value is completely omitted. Some of the cheapest LED lamps have not been tested properly and may fail in a matter of months or even weeks. A lamp replacement is necessary in these cases, negating any savings obtained from the purchase of a cheap product. 

Upgrading to LED lighting is an investment, with an upfront cost and long-term benefits that outweigh the expenses. However, there are low quality products that are unable to deliver what they promise: they have a very low price, but their lighting output is deficient and they tend to fail prematurely. To make sure you obtain a return on your investment, purchase products that have been properly tested and come from reliable manufacturers.