Chinese manufacturers have often made LED products which were far cheaper, but much poorer quality. The same can be set state side. Yet the likes of Philips, Cree, and Cooper are all announcing lower price products. Is this a race to the bottom, in terms of quality? In chasing retrofit dollars, are retrofit manufacturers hurting themselves in the long run?
I don’t think so.
The Primary Competition of Most LED Retrofit Fixtures is “Nothing.”
When it comes to LED retrofit fixtures – for my purposes anything meant to replace an incumbent technology like fluorescent, the primary competition for any LED manufacturer is the client simply doing nothing. Despite the demonstrated payback from investment in LED, decision makers often can’t see past the initial cash outlay. Rebates have trained clients that energy efficient lighting is always free. So when you calculate a project they expect ROI in 2 years or less. If you can’t make it to that point, you fail. Price point is a big part of being viable in the retrofit market.
Unlike Fluorescent Sources, LED is Infinitely Upgradable
In the fluorescent world, there have always been premium fixtures. Premium fixtures were simply built better. They were sealed better for medical and sterile environments. The housings and baffles were built better to allow less glare and easier installation. For all the variations possible to a fixture in a fluorescent market, there was one constant – the light source. There’s simply a head limit to how good fluorescent lighting can be, practically speaking. That’s a limitation of the fluorescent source. LED is infinitely upgradable, making it possible to offer a “standard” fixture with many upgrade possibilities.
When it comes to my clients, I will always recommend higher lumen packages, high CRI, and long warranties. These are all upgrade options to the light source, but these upgrades are the difference between being happy with your retrofit and being thrilled with it, especially when dealing with healthcare and education markets.
So what do you think? Is LED in a race to the bottom or do they need to be inexpensive to compete?