Survey shows ‘watt’s’ up with consumers of LED lamps

May 18, 2018
Consumers are ramping up their solid-state lighting (SSL) savvy, but still show gaps in understanding LED lighting performance, according to the latest survey results released by LEDvance. More education is needed to clarify LED lamp characteristics for the average home user.

In my “voluminous spare time” (editorial shout-out to former boss, Lightwave’s Stephen Hardy, for that expression), I perused LEDvance’s announcements regarding its international consumer survey conducted in 2017, and there are many bright spots contained within. The survey, conducted by independent firm Research Now, covered nine countries and revealed some interesting insights about the consumer knowledge base. You can download a copy of the full press release here.

Regardless of which country you’re in, consumers are interested in purchasing LED lamps and in many cases already have. Younger consumers from ages 18–39 and consumers with higher income and education generally show interest in smart lighting technologies and more awareness of the impact of lighting on health and wellbeing.

According to LEDvance’s own website publication that contextualizes the survey results, priorities in lighting product purchasing across all nations are price, energy efficiency, and lifetime or longevity.

Lighting consumers have come some distance since the last time we covered a LEDvance survey. LEDs Magazine reported that in years past, the main talking point of the annual socket survey was LED adoption being driven by lifetime and energy efficiency of products. But in 2016 the tide had turned toward details beyond general illumination, with 76% of respondents saying they thought smart lamps would displace conventional light bulbs.

However, this latest survey underlines a disconnect in understanding the basic features or parameters that should be used in LED lamp selection. In the self-assessment by consumers, 71% of respondents “indicated that they knew about the various lighting technologies and their advantages and disadvantages” (download a full PDF of the infographic snipped below). But only 44% of those surveyed correctly identified the most important measurements used for light, not entirely understanding what kelvins and lumens represent.

In the linked press release above, Wolfgang Mailaender, LEDvance head of marketing for the United States and Canada, said, “With choice can also come confusion as demonstrated by the fact that our survey discovered that a majority of Americans and Canadians, 77 percent and 69 percent respectively, have at some time bought a lighting product for their household that was the wrong fit, shape, size, and/or light temperature.” And a European survey we reported in 2017 uncovered some confusion about identifying lamp types, which affects recycling and waste handling compliance — another issue altogether. But this brings me to a point about consumer education and labeling.

Let me first say that I wholeheartedly agree with a LEDvance spokesperson with whom I chatted today: Consumers’ comfort level with and acceptance of technology often hinges on making it seem “familiar,” as is the case with lamps that are designed to look like the conventional A-lamp or tube that they know and have purchased in the past. Yes to that.

But we are long past the point where we ought to question the energy consumption of LEDs. Wattage on a consumer lamp is not even a deciding factor. So in my view, it confuses the customer when wattage equivalency is used to describe the lamp they’re going to purchase.

What they need to understand is the qualities of the light output they will be getting — comparing luminous flux and correlated color temperature (CCT) on individual products. The appearance of the light is NOT a given when you look at the wattage equivalency. You can buy a 60W-equivalent LED lamp that is much brighter and whiter than you want for your space if the CCT is 3500K or above and blasting you with 850-lm per lamp in a multi-lamp orientation such as we have in our dining area. But that might be exactly what you want for visibility in your food preparation area.

An important takeaway from such a study is aim not to overload prospective buyers with complex information but to convey the most pertinent information in a simple and constructive manner. That can and should also apply across commercial and municipal purchase decision makers. Personally, I’m doing my best to educate the lay people in my life who have yet to come to the light side. As with many things, I’m calling it a work in progress.