LED warranties: Why pay more?

Property managers should check the small print when commissioning LEDs, says Future Lighting MD Jamie Willsdon. Some warranties are not all they seem.
Where LED lighting is concerned, all warranties are not created equal

There are as many different guarantees on the market as there are manufacturers out there. With bold claims being made that these lights will virtually last a lifetime, you could be forgiven for thinking that the warranties they come with will be equally durable. But, as block managers are finding to their cost, this is not necessarily the case

There are as many different guarantees on the market as there are manufacturers out there. With bold claims being made that these lights will virtually last a lifetime, you could be forgiven for thinking that the warranties they come with will be equally durable. But, as block managers are finding to their cost, this is not necessarily the case

Life lessons
Jamie explains that the rated life of an LED is the point at which lighting output drops below a certain level. “The consensus in the lighting industry is that that this should be 70% of the initial output - referred to in technical literature as L70,” he says, although some LEDs also come with a longer rated life of L90. Of course the lifespan of any lighting unit is also affected by a range of external factors including ambient temperature, switching cycles, dimming and light/power output and so individual blocks may experience longer or shorter lifespans depending on their particular circumstances

Failure to launch
Once you know the expected lifespan of your lighting system, what about defining ‘failure’. When can you realistically expect to be able to claim on your warranty and when is a failed unit something you just have to live with? This is a more complex issue. Some warranties limit the use of the product to a particular number of hours over five years. If the unit fails within this time, all well and good. If not, you’re out of warranty. Others will only permit claims on products that exceed a ‘normal’ failure rate of say, 0.2% per 1000 hours of use. Most manufacturers will expect you to demonstrate burn hours before accepting their product has failed. This information can be obtained from the building management system, if there is one, or a time clock or photocell for outdoor installations.

Labour: in or out?
Once these questions have been answered, arguably the biggest issue of all for property managers is whether or not the cost of labour is included in the warranty arrangements they have made with their lighting supplier.

Property managers are unlikely to be commissioning lighting systems direct from the manufacturer – there will be a lighting design company or electrician involved too. So don’t simply assume that the warranty that comes with your lighting is fit for purpose and don’t take it for granted that the labour costs of replacing failed units will be covered.

“In fact,” says Jamie, “the likelihood is that the end user will end up paying considerable additional maintenance costs should their lighting supplier need to come and replace failed units.

Future Lighting estimates that from a resident reporting a failure to getting the replacement installed, logged and signed off by the block manager, the cost of changing just one failed bulb is around £45. Where drivers or other more complex parts have failed and the job involves more than simply replacing a bulb, clearly higher costs will be involved.

So right from the beginning, Jamie recommends checking exactly where your lighting consultant/supplier stands on call-out charges. Are they part of their overall guarantee or will they be charged separately?

““Have the discussion. Ask the question,” he says. “We guarantee five years free maintenance to all our clients on every single installation. They don’t have to worry about hidden costs and that gives them the peace of mind they want”

Here are some questions he suggests block managers ask before commissioning a new or replacement lighting installation:

  • Does the warranty specify a maximum number of burn hours per annum?
  • Does the warranty include driver units as well as lamps?
  • Does the warranty match the performance detailed in the specification
  • Does the warranty cover colour and lumen depreciation?
  • Is labour included?

It really pays to check the small print, so take the time to talk through the warranty with your supplier.