There’s a significant disconnect between what customers are looking for when they evaluate lighting solutions and the information that we in the lighting industry typically give them.  This is especially acute when customers are investigating LED-based solutions as a replacement for traditional light sources.

Here’s the disconnect…  When a lighting engineer or facility manager is considering LED lighting, he or she wants to know about performance in the real world, not in controlled laboratory conditions.  “Will we have the right light levels to support the activity in the space?  How much energy will this system save?  How long will it last?”

The information on light output and lifetime that the lighting fixture industry supplies through tests such as LM-79 and LM-80 is a step forward from the more obscure (and easily gamed) evaluation metrics of yesteryear.  But that information is still ‘inside baseball’ for the lighting industry.  It doesn’t tell a prospective customer what they want to know.

This is further complicated by the fact that LEDs change the metrics that matter.  Lumens per watt – a figure lighting engineers are used to considering – no longer tells the whole story.  Because LEDs offer an intense and highly directional light, they can deliver high foot candle levels with a lower lumen-per-watt number.  For those who still want an ‘insider’ metric, it’s easy to calculate what we would call ‘target lumens’ – the light levels delivered to the intended surface (rather than the raw lumens thrown off in any random direction).

The lighting industry has the opportunity to ‘lead with the headline’ and give customers the information they need to successfully evaluate LEDs’ performance for their chosen application.  Those data points — actual foot candles delivered and kilowatt-hours saved — are typically the most relevant. However, if we – manufacturers, consultants, and standards bodies – continue to focus on whether or not products simply meet thresholds in LM-79 and LM-80 tests, we will be doing a major disservice to the lighting buyer and will hinder the adoption of one of the most accessible energy efficiency solutions available.

Our goal should be to ensure that a prospective customer has solid, verifiable, and understandable answers to their questions around performance and lifetime so they can make an informed choice about how a given lighting choice will perform for their application.  If, instead, we provide arcane ‘industry speak’ and expect every customer to successfully decipher it, we will compromise our collective credibility and miss a terrific opportunity to accelerate widespread LED adoption across numerous lighting categories.

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