There are a few potential problems raised by the growing prevalence of LED-integrated fixtures, especially where consumers are concerned:
- LEDs impose expiration dates on fixtures.
- Replacing failed LEDs may prove difficult.
- Current warranty coverage may disappoint consumers.
While LEDs may prove to last as long as a furnace or roofing, integrating the light source into the fixture can nevertheless be seen as placing an expiration date on the fixture itself. Consumers tend to see their light fixtures as more or less permanent installations, with indefinite service lives as long as they’re willing to keep replacing the bulb. Purchasing an LED-integrated fixture therefore carries some risk. While it could theoretically last decades without requiring maintenance, product flaws and failures do happen. And once the LEDs finally expire (whether after decades or only a few years), it can neutralize not only the light source but the entire fixture into which it’s embedded.
So what happens if, as a fluke, an LED fixture dims after five years because one of its LEDs fails? Electricians commonly offer light source replacement and fixture repair services, but as diverse as the LED lighting industry is so far – with nothing like the standardization of the traditional light bulb market – a replacement LED module may not be available at an affordable price. In fact, it will likely be more expensive to replace the light source alone than to replace the entire fixture.
Even if you can find reasonably priced repair services and a replacement module, many fixture warranties don’t last as long as five years (and those that do can add substantially to the up-front cost of the fixture), potentially leaving consumers on the hook for the cost to repair an LED-integrated fixture. This isn’t actually any different from the warranties typical of furnaces, roofing, and other major purchases. But it is different from the type of maintenance that general purpose lighting has required for the better part of the last century, so it may be difficult for consumers to accept that they’ll be on the hook for an LED-integrated fixture that doesn’t last for its full service life.
LED lighting is helping us to make great strides in energy efficiency, and it has a lot of potential to be more convenient and aesthetically pleasing than the lighting of the Edison era. But it remains unclear exactly how widely LED-integrated fixtures will be accepted by consumers, given how rapidly the market has been revolutionized.