3 Criminally Shady Things Going on in the Lighting Industry
Some of these don't just apply to lighting, but like any rapidly growing market sector, there are legitimate players and then there are swindlers taking advantage of high demand to try to get rich quick. To help you educate yourself, here three important things to watch out for:
#3 Bait and Switch
Some companies sell on price and can often get jobs by being the lowest bid (true in every industry). How do they do that? It's simple: Skimping on components once they get the job. Take one type of fluorescent lamp for example. T5 lamps run 50% longer with a programmed start ballast than an instant start ballast. People selling lighting know this, people buying often do not. How can you tell the difference? You can't without opening the fixture. If a company sneaks in the inferior ballast, they'll pocket the difference and be long gone before your nice new lights all start going out.
#2 Overstating Numbers
Many people use Return on Investment as an important criterion for deciding to move ahead with a lighting project. Shady companies can use several ways to fudge payback time on proposals, and you can catch them if you know what to look for.
It is very useful if a company can offer you an estimate of the additional parts and labor savings you might get from longer lasting lighting. However, some companies deliberately overestimate maintenance savings and blend it into the payback calculation. It is important from an accuracy standpoint to make sure the educated guess of maintenance savings is shown separately from your energy savings. Energy savings is much more accurate - if I know your current fixture wattage, proposed fixture wattage, and the hours they are on, I can tell you pretty closely how much energy you will save in a year. However, see below.
Here is a real-world example a customer shared with us on a parking lot project: Traditional 1000W metal halide ballasts draw 80 Watts, making the true fixture draw 1,080W. Our customer was handed an LED lighting proposal which showed 1,200W as the 'before' wattage, making the savings on the proposal look larger by 120W per fixture. With 83 fixtures, the realized savings would have been almost 10,000 Watts less than promised. That's criminally shady. At Parallax Lighting we simply use a reference table of the same industry-accepted values that utility companies use to calculate rebates. That's consistent and accurate.
#1 Just Plain Fraud
Lighting and technology have converged. Light fixtures and LED bulbs now contain circuit boards and other sensitive electronics and have to be approved by UL for sale in the United States. There are literally hundreds of transient, mostly international companies right now that are slapping fake UL- and DLC- approved stickers onto near-worthless lighting products. These items are then spammed to resellers and consumers through the internet at 'very competitive' prices. If it seems really cheap, it probably is.
The best way to get things right the first time is to go with a legitimate company and be an informed buyer. Then instead of 'ow', your upgraded lighting can be 'Wow'.
- Stuart Wells