LED lighting is indeed the wave of the future, offering long, useful life of 50,000 or more hours with an accompanying reduction in energy consumption that approaches 50 percent in some cases. So it’s no wonder that the prospect of lower lighting costs associated with not needing to replace the lighting for five or more years and with paying less in energy costs is causing such a stir for both consumers and suppliers of energy alike. But buyers need to beware if they expect to have their cake and eat it too.

Commercial and industrial consumers of lighting are driven by the prospect of lowering their energy maintenance and replacement costs by trading the high-cost, inefficient fluorescent tubes in their offices and the high power discharge lamps on roadway and parking lots for more efficient, longer-life LED lighting. What’s more, the value of the energy saved will pay back the cost of the lighting project in less than three years in most cases and generate lighting investment returns that exceed the returns of other traditional investment vehicles, such as equities. Likewise, under the prospect of reducing the demand for power, thus postponing the high monetary costs and the environmental risks associated with bringing more power-generating capacity online, suppliers of energy and the government regulators offer incentives to energy consumers in the form of rebates for conversion to LED lighting.

But not all LEDs are created equal, and the consequences associated with embracing this emerging technology require careful due diligence on the part of the consumer to improve the odds of achieving the desired outcome from a lighting retrofit.

The LED industry is in its infancy, and the void created by the lack of long-term experience and empirical data for LED lighting rules out the existence of solid standards that are found in the more established, non-LED lighting arena. Manufacturers of LED lamps and fixtures come in all shapes and sizes, from the small startup that sells pre-manufactured products purchased from abroad, to the established name brand lighting companies that have been traditionally producing their lighting products domestically. While there are companies in both categories that produce quality, durable LED lighting products, in the absence of stringent universally applied industry standards, LED lamp and fixture producers are on their own to determine the quality and reliability level of the products they produce.

For now, consumers can improve their odds for a successful lighting installation by dealing with reputable lighting companies that not only offer long-ranging warranties with their products but have the staying power to remain in business long enough to honor warranty claims. So at this stage of the game, the watch words for buyers of LED lighting products are: to establish expected outcomes for their lighting retrofit project, to proceed with caution by asking lots of questions and to perform the due diligence necessary to assure their project meets expectations.

Ron Harrington is a member and past president of the Carroll Technology Council and owner of PLC Lighting Solutions, which assists commercial consumers in making informed lighting decisions. He can be reached at rgh@protectronsolutions.com.