Originally Posted by David Gretzmier
we had some substantial ( greater than 75% ) failures on all LED fixtures and retrofit bulbs that are older than 3 years. all have failed from 4 years back. we are running about 20% failure rate on 24-36 months, ( but most are much higher on less expensive retrofit mr-16's), and 8% on 12-24 months. less than 2 % on 12 months or less. all these 3, 2, 1 year numbers are far better than they have been in the past.
but my 5 year track record does not give me the freedom to tell folks to invest in LED.
Ok. First of all, I can almost guarantee you I know the reasons why you're seeing failures. First, if you were installing LED retrofits 4-5 years ago, that stuff was junk compared to what they have today. We were at the very beginning of the outdoor LED venture back then. But second - and this is the biggest reason - I really believe the biggest problem with most outdoor LED light fixtures is that they don't take care of the heat issue. Two things. First, in every LED "light" there are really two main components. The LED array and the driver. And almost always it's the driver or soldier joints that fail, not the actual LED array itself. Problem is, with most manufacturers of aftermarket LED lamps, these are all put into the same "light bulb". So you have the driver sitting right in the same tiny little area as the LED array. They're putting the driver in a super confined area where it doesn't have room to dissipate the heat sufficiently. So over time it gets too hot and fails. To make matters worse, this method is also more prone to water or moisture intrusion as well.
That's why I love the way Kichler builds their fixtures. Particularly their spot lights. The driver is in a totally separate chamber from the LED array. It's completely encased in resin with a really well thought out heat sink in it. So not only is it totally separated from the LED array by a few inches, it's also completely sealed and has a huge heat sink that keeps the temperature around the driver cooler. It also makes it pretty much impossible for moisture or water to ever get into the area where the driver and solder joints are.
I've heard Vista say that their spot light is XX% cooler to the touch than the Kichler spots - as if that's a good thing. If I was them, I'd never utter those words as long as I loved again. That means that your driver isn't dissipating as much heat! It's actually a good thing to be putting off a little heat. That means heat is being dissipated from the driver area, which means your LED fixture is actually going to last a long time!
I bet you that almost none of the "failures" you're seeing are with Kichler LED fixtures. And if you said they were, I'd seriously challenge you on that. I have only been installing Kichler for a year now as my lead-off product. But I do have one job that we did all Kichler design Pro LED a little over 3 years ago and we haven't had any failures at all. I know guys in other states who've been installing them a lot longer than I have with little to no failures. And I know what the return % is at Kichler as well.
I think what you're seeing is a result of not very well thought out LED arrangements. And this is the problem I have with most of the other low voltage lighting companies on the market. They aren't separating the LED array from the driver and they aren't sufficiently protecting the driver from heat, water, moisture, etc.. So yah, you're going to get failure much sooner in that case.
Originally Posted by David Gretzmier
I had a gentleman say this to me the other day- you know, if we were just talking about 1, 3, heck even 10 fixtures inside my house, and I knew they were needing to be outright replaced in 8, 12 years, I would never agree to that. why would I even remotely agree to replace 38 fixtures in 12-15 years. "ridiculous". I can't really argue the point.
Ok. So we're clear - you're speaking about the need to replace the entire fixture, as is the case with Kichler.
First of all, you have to understand that there has been a fundamental change in the way light "bulbs" or lamps are made. It used to be that there was just a filament that lit up and that's what made light. You were just depending on one component - the filament. Now, there are two components. The driver and the LED array. And what research has shown is that when they are placed too close together and too much heat is allowed to build up without having a method to dissipate the heat, then we end up with failure pretty quickly. Just as you've seen - in 3-4 years. So the solution Kichler has found is an ingenious one; put the driver a ways away in it's own isolated chamber where it is away from the LED array and build a heat sink that sufficiently takes heat down to below the threshold where they've seen problems. You eliminate the heat issue, you eliminate the issue of them going out so soon. Which is why Kichler can safely warranty their "lights" for 15 years.
But because this is a fully integrated fixture like that - and because the driver is fully encased in resin material - you cannot just take out a "bulb" and replace it. We're not talking bulbs anymore. It's a whole system. Even if you could replace the LED array, how do you know that's the component that went out? Did you know that the LED array is usually not
what goes out? It's typically the driver or solder joints, due to too much ongoing heat. So you go replace the LED array and then the light fixture still doesn't work. What then? Now, you've wasted an hour or more driving over there and the time trying to replace what you thought was broken. But no, it's something inside. So why not just replace the whole damm fixture. What's your labor rate? By the time you wasted 2 hours trying to figure out if it's the LED array or the driver or a solder joint that went bad - even if you could replace all those things - you will have wasted more money in labor than the fixture is worth!
On one hand you're saying most LEDs don't last, and then you're bemoaning the very thing that makes the Kichler lamps last so much longer than all the others! (The fact that they use integrated fixtures with components that are isolated and protected and can't be changed out).
Second, your analogy is a bad one. House fixtures don't need to be waterproof, rain proof, weather proof, etc. They don't have to be built so that they can handle extreme cold and extreme heat either. They're usually in a nice dry house that always stays within 10-20 degrees or so. So of course you wouldn't ever have to replace a house fixture! But that's not even a fair comparison at all! The very thing that makes a really good outdoor light fixture so awesome - the very thing that makes it able to be waterproof, rain proof, weather proof, and able to handle all sorts of changes in heat, etc. is the very reason why it has to be replaced entirely if it goes out! It's a whole system! It's not just a light bulb! If it's built well, it's a fully integrated, sealed, protected system! And that's what you want it to be!
A better analogy would be the tail lights on newer cars. Have you noticed that most newer cars are going with LED tail lights? Many have even gone with LED headlights! Guess what? Many of those are integrated fixtures as well! When you go to replace them, you're not going to be able to just go to NAPA and buy a "bulb". Mercedes, Audi, BWM, etc. are going to make you buy the entire tail light fixture! And I bet you that rich guy who asked you that question wouldn't fret about that when it happened, would he? I would have LOVED it if he had asked me that question. It would allow me to educate him a little on the topic. I bet you he would change his mind after he heard my response.
I love the fact that Kichler not only builds a product that they know will outlast everyone else - but they also put their money where their mouth is. They give you a whole new fixture if it ever goes bad within 15 years. That's freakin' awesome! I bet even Mercedes doesn't do that with their LED tail lights.
Originally Posted by David Gretzmier
The "field replaceable" modules do give me some hope. but again, they are very new...
Why should they be "field replaceable"? LED technology is good enough right now that if it's done right, it shouldn't HAVE to be replaced - not for at least 15-20 years! The term "field replaceable" to me means they are building in failure. They know it's going to fail sooner than you'd consider reasonable, so they're going to give you an easy way to replace their failure. And then charge you for it! Wow! Really? No thanks! How about just making a fixture that will last a long time without
failing and doesn't need
to be replaced any time soon? What a novel concept!
Let's say that these "field replaceable" units go out every 7 years - twice what you tell me you're getting now from the drop in LED retrofit lights you say you've installed over the past few years. So you install one of these field replaceable units today and in 7 years it goes out. So you go spend $55 for a replacement "module" or whatever, and then that one goes out in 7 years again. So you have to replace it a second time. Now you've been out to work on this fixture 3 times in 14 years, including the original installation. And someone has had to pay for that! Either you charged the customer a service call and parts on two additional occasions or you ate the cost for that. Either way, it's been spendy for someone. Or you could have just gone with a Kichler unit and left it there for at least 15 years without any worry. If it ever did go out, the most you'd be out is the 1 hour of time you'd need to go replace it. But the fixture would be totally free. And I bet Kichler would even find a creative way to help reimburse you for your time if that happened.