> FOCUS BY SUSAN BLOOM
In today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving light-emitting diode (LED) market, the subtle
and sophisticated decisions involved in choosing and installing an LED system can be difficult enough.
Combined with the added complexity and confusion often associated with selecting a compatible LED
driver in an industry still undergoing standardization, the task can be even more daunting.
Experts say that the time taken to understand LED system
compatibility upfront and in the field is well worth the effort.
“It behooves a contractor to do their due diligence in making
sure that the LED fixture and components they choose and/or
install for their customer are compatible or else it could lead to
early life failures, flickering, dimming issues, or, in the worst-case scenario, sparking that causes the system to burn itself
out,” said Scott Barney, vice president of sales and marketing
for ERG Lighting, an Endicott, N. Y.-based designer and manufacturer of power supplies.
Jim Benya, principal illuminating engineer and lighting
designer with Benya Burnett Consultancy, Davis, Calif., said
he has long witnessed the fallout of system incompatibility.
“Many driver-makers these days are electronics companies,
not lighting companies, and they don’t always understand the
context,” he said. “For example, water-ingress protection and
surge suppression are major issues for outdoor luminaires. As
a result, I’ve seen drivers that test fine in the lab but then blow
up once they’re on the sign or pole because they simply aren’t
compatible either with the LED system or the application
they’re in. It’s not always about whether the LED and driver
are compatible but whether the LED fixture is compatible with
the building it’s being installed in.”
Benya was recently called out to investigate a situation in
which 500 LED fixtures “blew up” when they were ultimately
connected to a lighting control system.
“Both the controls and lighting fixtures were fine and met
all UL [Underwriters Laboratories] standards until they were
hooked up together, at which point everyone started blaming each other for the system failure, which cost twice as
much to fix as the fixtures had cost in the first place,” he said.
“Every driver and lighting output control module had to be
replaced in situ.
“There’s a lot of risk and liability from these incompatibili-ties. Contractors are often the first ones in the hot seat for being
responsible, and these issues can suck up a contractor’s entire