LED flexible strips have long established themselves in the lighting industry, used extensively for things like corridor lighting, bulkhead recessed lighting, general accent lighting inside diffused aluminium channels and in signage. What we’re noticing is that so many of our new clients are unaware of something quite simple:
Not all LED flexible strips are the same and not all are suitable for your installation
There is the obvious difference between a quality LED flexible strip and one which is of poor quality. Some clients are aware of, and insist on high quality LED flexible strips, such as those with a 5 year warranty, and many others seem to think all LED flexible strips are quality. Oh how the latter group are so wrong. There are a few factors which determine whether one LED flexible strip is of a higher quality than another, such as:
- The quality controls in the factory, including whether they rigidly follow ISO9001 guidelines, and the range of QA tests performed, duration of burn-in tests, water ingress tests, brightness and light disbursement tests, ageing tests, etc;
- The thickness and width of the copper FPC : the thicker the FPC the better the heat dissipation, but too think will make the strip less flexible;
- The brand of the LED chipset : Epistar is simply better quality than any Chinese chip such as Hongling and Sanan;
- The quality of the resistors used;
- The quality of the 3M backing tape : not all 3M tape used by Chinese factories is made by 3M (i.e. a cheap knock-off) and not all is equally adhesive. Genuine 200MP or 300LSE 3M tape is far sticker than the cheap Chinese imitation 3M tape;
- The quality of the glue dripping used in IP65 strips : you get epoxy resin and silicone dripping ; silicone is better than epoxy resin, but more expensive. Western-manufactured silicone glue is better quality than Chinese-manufactured silicone glue;
- The quality of the silicone sleeves in IP67 and IP68 strips;
- The quality of the SMD placement and soldering process; and
- The quality of the soldering process when strips are joined together.
On the topic of quality it’s important to note: The higher the quality the higher the cost. This is an unfortunate truth.
Sometimes merely installing a good quality strip is not sufficient
We’ve dealt with quality and you understand some of the things which make one strip a better quality strip than another. But that’s only part of your challenge: you need to purchase and install a flexible strip which is fit-for-purpose – by this we men that you need to install the right product for the job. We’ve already said it: not all flexible strips are equal. Some flexible strips simply won’t be suitable for your installation and if you install the wrong product you or your client will ultimately end up disappointed. Here are some examples of strips which are not fit for purpose:
- You install a strip designed for 12 hour use per day in a hotel lobby, where it is lit for 24 hours a day. The strip will overheat and will begin to dim quite quickly – much quicker than the claimed L70 lifespan of say 50,000 hours (read: Can an LED luminaire really last 50,000 hours?). Perhaps you needed a strip which has a thick copper FPC, larger chips with higher current-limiting resistors to reduce the current and extend the lumen lifespan.
- You install a strip which is too bright or too dim for the installation, ruining the lighting effect the architect was after. Maybe you needed a strip with brighter LEDs or maybe more LEDs.
- You install a strip which shows hot spots, disappointing the architect or client; instead of a regular 60 LED per meter strip perhaps you needed a strip with 180 LEDs per meter with a very small pitch.
- You install a strip which draws 12 watts per meter but the client required 5 watts per meter but still something relatively bright; perhaps you needed a strip with more LEDs, but lower current draw through the LEDs.
- You need to mount the strip securely against a rough service, and your off-the-shelf strip with 3M backing tape started to pull away; perhaps it was not genuine 3M tape after all or maybe the wrong type of 3M tape for a rough wall.
The above are a great set of examples to demonstrate how you can so easily disappoint your client by simply purchasing “regular, off-the-shelf” flexible strips from your current supplier.
So what should you do? The best advice we can give is to discuss your installation and client requirements with us. We offer a unique service in South Africa: we will understand your client requirements and provide advice on what type of flexible strip you really require for your installation, and with a relative low MOQ, we will design and manufacture a customised LED flexible strip specific to your installation requirements. It’s OK if you have a preferred supplier other than LUMUL – but ask them for the operating guidelines for their flexible strips, ask them for the full technical specifications, ask them for the L70 lifespan – and remember you don’t have to settle for off-the-shelf – you have the option of getting exactly what you need, at a very affordable price and usually within 3 weeks of payment being received – from LUMUL.