What Makes a Great LED?
Now that LED lighting for the sign industry is a mature market, a number of potential concerns have arisen that you need to consider.
By Fritz Meyne, Jr.
Unfortunately the acronym / word LED has become overly generic so let's take a quick look at what you need to know, for any LED consideration.
Price has become the wrong determining factor as your purchasing reason in the overly crowed market. Let me explain and to be fair, LED technology has mirrored the computer industry from a technology standpoint …you continue to get more for less …in other words performance increases and the price goes down. However you do not always get what you pay for at both ends of the spectrum! If you think all LED are created equal, you are in for some great surprises, just after your buying decision, or in about 2 years give or take that will prove you wrong or right. How you run your business determines your future!
Lumen / Brightness
The real problem here is there are no testing standards in the sign industry for the total package! Thus when one brand says its lumens are XXX and a competitor offers there is XX and another XX.5 etc., most of you take that data as your relative sole decision making fact; and it is not! For reference, in the "Lighting" industry the IES / Illuminating Engineering Society has specific test standards for all lighting fixtures, thus when lighting company A offers XXX lumens and competitor B offers XX, the XXX is brighter. Period. As with price if you make your decision solely on the lm / brightness "data" you are doing your company and your customer a real disservice.
Of utmost importance, for you are the buyer, is to understand these differences. A prime example is the new optics enhanced Channel Letter Module (CLM.) Considering a CLM just on price (and for this example w/o optics) is the wrong decision when compared to an optics enhanced CLM. Typically an optics enhanced CLM will totally outperform the non-optic CLM and while the non-optic CLM probably costs less, you will need at least a double row of them to counter the optic CLM. SO if you use price as the determining factor you will be paying more for the non-optic as you need 2X the quantity, if not more and you also have more labor to install 2X the CLM...getting the picture?
What should you do?
Per the above you hopefully can understand there is more to your purchase decision process than making a generic decision. Another is import brands, with no real US presence and one warehouse with one person is not a real distributor, just as dealing direct with a foreign country can be costly and time consuming.
So where do you get the facts, and even more importantly the credible facts? A whole lot of diligence. Do you think a national brand is the best performer? I can assure otherwise and can prove it. However that alone might not be a reason for your decision, maybe it is. Is the LED "spec'd and if so maybe you are stuck with it, then maybe you are not.
LED performance like everything available to us at all levels is a sum of its parts. Do you make a decision one aspect? Some do that for sure, however if you are in it for the long term you need to know more and do more research if for no other reason that the playing field is NOT level. The best analogy is one brand vs. another is the epitome of the "Apples and Oranges" scenario at least in the Led / Sign market.
Fritz Meyne, Jr / Vice President Sales / Bitro Group Inc.