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I’m currently in the process of planning a kitchen remodeling project and learning even more about LED lighting in the process. For example, one of the electricians looking over the room for an estimate noted that his company pretty much only works with dedicated LED downlights, now – in other words, fixtures that work with embedded LEDs, rather than more generic units that would work with LED bulbs – or any other kind of bulb, for that matter.

How to Ensure Lighting Controls Match the Longevity of Today’s LEDs

Chuck Ross
I’m currently in the process of planning a kitchen remodeling project and learning even more about LED lighting in the process. For example, one of the electricians looking over the room for an estimate noted that his company pretty much only works with dedicated LED downlights, now – in other words, fixtures that work with embedded LEDs, rather than more generic units that would work with LED bulbs – or any other kind of bulb, for that matter. These fixtures are really shallow because they don’t need the housing can old-school downlights required. And, of course, they feature the great advantage of extremely long life – the products this contractor uses come with a five-year, full-replacement warranty and likely will last decades longer.

One potential disadvantage with LEDs, however, can result in their connected controls burning out years before the fixtures need replacing. This is due to the high inrush current LED fixtures can generate when they’re switched on. Other lighting technologies also can generate these currents, but not at the level of today’s LEDs, which can expose connected controls to inrush transients that reach 100 times their recommended operating levels. Over time, these currents can damage or destroy a fixture’s controls.

This issue of inrush currents is especially important now, as more energy codes are calling for increased use of vacancy and occupancy sensors in commercial buildings. The devices now often are required in conference rooms, offices and even in individual workers’ cubicles. Maintenance teams could end up having to replace the sensors in large numbers without some sort of solution to the problem. Homeowners are installing these devices too, and could experience similar difficulties, down the road.

Fortunately, that solution exists in the form of “zero-crossing” technology, which a number of manufacturers now are incorporating in their vacancy and occupancy sensors, along with dimming switches and other controls. This approach enables load switching when AC voltage is at its optimal point, rather than when operating current is at its peak. This protects connected equipment from possible damage and helps ensure it continues working as long as the lighting fixtures being controlled.
Photo courtesy of Intermatic
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