CALiPER Round 4 of SSL product testing shows mixed results

Feb. 22, 2008
Further testing of SSL products by the DOE's SSL program shows a wide performance range and a continuing disparity between manufacturers' claims and actual test results.
The US DOE has completed Round 4 of product testing through its CALiPER program, which analyzes commercially available solid-state lighting (SSL) replacement lamps and fixtures. A summary report containing the results from Round 4 testing is available from the CALiPER program section of the DOE SSL website. In Round 4 of the testing program, 20 products were selected for testing, comprising 15 SSL replacement lamps and luminaires representing a range of applications, and five luminaires using fluorescent or halogen sources to provide benchmark comparisons.

Testing included five SSL replacement lamps (a candelabra lamp, a T8 drop-in replacement, and three MR16 lamps), two downlight products, several desk lamps and undercabinet fixtures, and a number of diverse outdoor luminaires.

The report says that a wide performance range was measured, from a wide range of product types, and care should be taken to generalize. While none of the products tested would pass Energy Star requirements for solid-state lighting, some offer very positive qualities.

However, as in earlier rounds, the greatest concern revealed by this testing was the inaccuracy of performance data presented in manufacturer product literature. "The continued practice of providing incorrect qualitative comparisons to other light sources and inappropriate quantitative performance values in manufacturer literature may mislead consumers and damage SSL market potential in the long-run," said the report.

The MR16 and candelabra lamps that were tested may fill needs in market niches (for example, for low wattage devices in decorative applications), but cannot serve as direct replacements for 20W halogen or incandescent products as claimed in marketing publications because their output levels are too low.

The three desk lamps all had higher efficacies than the halogen benchmark desk lamp that was tested in Round 2, although none of them come close to competing with the CFL Energy Star desk lamp in Round 4. Encouragingly, for the first time, one SSL desk lamp was found to have a zero off-state power draw.

Since at this stage the reliability of SSL products is still largely theoretical, claims of consistent color maintenance in luminaires and 50,000-hour lifetimes (or more) are at this point only speculative.

Purchasing decisions where the expected life of an SSL product is an important factor should consider product guarantees, knowledge about which LED devices are used in a product, the reputation of the manufacturer of the LED devices used in the luminaire, and the reputation of luminaire manufacturer.