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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Guest blog : Trust and the need for independent lab tests
by Rory Wilding, Which LED Light

For anyone shopping, switching to LED lighting represents one of the biggest opportunities to make significant money savings whilst also reducing our environmental impact.

Despite the clear financial benefits of investing more money upfront in a longer lasting LED light bulb, which produces strong white light and is dimmable, we have seen little excitement about this new technology from the average person on the street.

This is strange as unlike other sustainability initiatives, switching to LED lighting is one of the easiest changes an individual can make on a day-to-day level. No major new habits are necessary and no sacrifices in lighting performance are required; people can have all of the light they are used to at a fraction of the cost by simply switching a new underlying technology, which increasingly looks just like the old one.

Even better, once the switch has been made its not uncommon for LED light bulbs to have lifetimes of up to 25 years before needed to be changed again. So again, why the hesitation?

Partners on both sides appear willing – customers clearly want cheaper bills and manufacturers, at least on paper, have a product to sell that can help achieve this goal.

Well, at Which LED Light we think there could be some trust issues in the market!

In recent years there has been a tide of stories where consumers have been the only real victim; the horse meat scandal, rising energy prices in contrast to falling oil prices, and the price fixing of milk to name a few. The latest? Fudged emissions data by Volkswagen to get their diesel cars through the emissions testing process.

People originally bought into diesel cars on the promise of a greener more efficient technology. This has dramatically shifted into consumers being fooled into purchases through corporate fraud and with senior executives looking potentially complicit in the process.

Volkswagen found a way of cheating in the lab tests for their vehicles’ emissions with a ‘defeat device’ that could sense when the car was being tested and adjust its NOx emissions downwards accordingly. Another way of putting this is VW had cheated because they were allowed to mark their own homework and avoid both independent scrutiny and full public disclosure.

This highlights a real need for transparency in the way data is gathered and the software systems being used during and after performance tests. It also adds fuel to the fire when it comes to consumer confidence in so-called ‘green’ or ‘clean’ technologies.

Make no mistake we are all for LED lighting and believe its one of the biggest no-brainers of the last decade; the global cost of lighting energy is approximately $230 billion per year, of which $100 to $135 billion can be saved with present-day technologies. However to realise these savings there is a desperate need to create confidence with end-users to accelerate uptake.

Unfortunately, an implicit assumption from consumers is that there will be gap between what brands claim in terms of quality and what they will experience with LED lighting once they buy it. The fairest way to tackle this problem is to put all lights on an even playing field and test their performance claims through an independent test lab in a consistent fashion.

We request that manufacturers provide us with independent lab test to verify LED product claims. We can then allow our users to filter products to see which LED bulbs have had an independent lab test to verify the manufacturers claims. We hope that implementing this proposal would help to create the trust needed by this new and uncertain market place. Such a measure would allow people to make a truly informed purchasing decision based around transparent data and impartiality rather than brand strength alone.

Remember – Volkswagen has been the top selling automaker in Europe for the past two decades. The point we are making here is that data is essentially meaningless unless gathered in an independent fashion. To truly inspire consumers to make that leap of faith with a new technology means the onus is on manufacturers to reduce the risk on the individual by providing as much transparent data as possible.

Relationships are built on trust. At Which LED Light, we have discussed the psychology of consumers before in relation to manufacturers and LED lighting. In the age of information, on-demand brands need to look at consumers in less of a transactional fashion and more as an ongoing relationship. The truth is just a Google search, tweet, or Facebook post away. If people trust the technology and the benefits are clear then uptake is inevitable and potential payback for people and planet is obvious.

The LED lighting market is becoming increasingly crowded with large corporate non-traditional lighting players like IKEA and Dyson entering the market alongside an influx of start-ups. The manufacturers that are aware of this and act early will be the ones that win out. Without trust LED light bulbs may take years to move into the mainstream thus reducing sales for manufacturers and denying consumers one of the most disruptive technologies of recent years.

In lighting, as in all areas of life, trust is not granted, it has to be earned.