There are LED tubes and then there is the rest of the shady, shoddy, crappy, low cost, ultra-budget LED tube options that are now prolific in the South African. This makes buying an LED tube that is going to do as it promises a difficult task. There are a lot of LED tubes out there that are giving the industry a bad name and I’d like to share with you the kind of questions you need to ask about your desired purchase before you lay a single cent down. Check this video or read on:
Is the price too cheap?
When the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. You can’t buy a new BMW for R150,000 in South Africa. It’s just not possible and anybody that would say this would be laughed at. This is precisely because the market in general, including pretty much anyone who has ever bought a new car, knows that this is an impossible price because of the quality, materials and the brand name attached to such a vehicle. If the price is too cheap, there is something fishy, something wrong.
The problem with LED tubes is that very few people understand what goes into a good product and what would indicate a cheapo range. What I can tell you is that if you are being offered for example a “quality” 4ft LED Tube for under R70 you should run for the hills because quality will not have much to do with your purchase. It just not possible at this stage in the game so you’re going to be smart and not hear lots of told you so later, you need to expand your consciousness beyond the single differentiator or price.
Does the LED tube have a warranty and how long is it?
Linked to price is warranty. Generally, better quality LED tubes will have a longer warranty as the units have the type of components and engineering that result in long term use. Cheap stuff, like the crap you buy at a flea market doesn’t last, and naturally doesn’t come with a warranty.
Beware of buying a “deal” that comes with a 6 month warranty. Your warranty minimum should be at least a year and even then it is a better idea to spend a little more money to enjoy a longer warranty. It would be a good idea to learn more about what should be in a solid LED Tube Warranty.
Now on to some technical particulars that will help you understand what you are buying and what to avoid.
What is the LED Tube’s voltage input range?
We live in South Africa, which lives under the inconsistencies of a struggling Eskom. This means a lot of power surges and spikes. Remember there is no such as thing as constant current of 230VAC even on very stable first world energy grids.
Ask your supplier for your voltage input range. If it is between 200 – 240VAC, you should look for a different option as the driver, which takes the heat in conduction and is the first component to get fried, will not be able to withstand an over or under voltage fluctuations. Either way can damage your driver and no driver equals no light. A good LED tube should have a voltage input range of anywhere between 100 – 265VAC.
Is there a heat sink made out of aluminium inside the LED tube?
If the LED tube you are buying does not have an aluminium heat sinc then it is not worth buying. Actually, it is dangerous to buy something like this as the manufacturer has obviously skimped on the aluminium bit to cut costs. The aluminium backing of an LED tube IS the heat sink. Without metal to absorb and dissipate the heat caused by conduction through mostly your driver and then somewhat through your LEDs, the heat has nowhere to go. Often perspex or plastic or even poly-carbonate is used which simply absorb the heat and then end up warping…
This puts a lot of wear and tear on the driver which will massively reduce the LED tube’s life. If this is not enough, because the material warps, your LED tube can then fall out of its fitting… I have seen this happen to some customers that went for the “deal” over quality and found themselves in the most un-ideal situations.
What is the LED Tubes lumens per watt?
Low lumens per watt, can mean low light output or more watts to get the same light as a high output, lower wattage alternative. Generally what low quality LED tubes will do is utilise more watts to push out more lumens.
This is not necessarily a good thing as you know you’re probably dealing with a low quality driver and / or a budget led chip. The driver is the important thing though as it is what converts the power as a power supply / transformer and it is what powers the led chips. A decent lumen output now should not go under 100 lumens per watt so higher quality LED chips, like Epistar, will likely push out more light than a brand you’ve never heard of before.
What is the LED tubes power factor?
Although this does not affect how much power you actually end up using in the end, a low power factor indicates that an inferior driver is being used, specifically one that is just not very efficient. A low power factor means that a significant portion of the electricity being supplied is being wasted.
If you are truly looking to purchase an energy efficient and green LED tube one with a low power factor (of between 0.5 and 0.6) should not be an option. The locally manufactured LED tubes we supply with pride are all over 0.97 in terms of their power factor which is basically the best you can get.
Is the lens made of glass?
Glass is cheaper than polycarbonate and hence the reason why so many manufacturers use it. A lot of these manufacturers are cutting corners elsewhere so you should be weary of glass tubes in general but that is not to say there are not some good quality glass tubes out there. Polycarbonate is just a very good material to use, more expensive than glass, specifically because it does not shatter which is good for sensitive environments such as factories, food protection, etc.
Is the product an import or is it manufactured locally?
We supply a number of LED tube ranges that are manufactured right here in South Africa and although not the cheapest, they are of the highest quality. There are a number of very good reasons to buy from local led tube manufacturers and this alone should heavily influence your purchase decision.
Is there a post warranty repair option available?
Again this is often linked to whether you are buying local or buying imports. With cheap imports you can forget about a post warranty repair options. When that tube goes dead, after your usually short warranty period, you can kiss it goodbye and you’ll have to just settle on buying a new one. A good quality tube and supply will make provision for a post warranty repair option that will seriously affect your return on investment. For between R35 and R50, a new driver can be installed, allowing you to enjoy the use of the same LED tube for pretty much the same initial life time length.
So here’s your list of questions in a nutshell with the best answers:
- Is the price too cheap? > No, it is realistic;
- Does the LED tube have a warranty and how long is it? > It’s at least 2 years;
- What is the LED Tube’s voltage input range? > Between 100 and 265VAC;
- Is there a heat sinc made out of aluminium inside the LED tube? > Yes, Aluminum;
- What is the LED Tubes lumens per watt? > At least 100 lumen per watt;
- What is the LED tubes power factor? > At least .90 (or 90%);
- Is the lens made of glass? > No, Polycarbonate (or PC);
- Is the product an import or is it manufactured locally? > Yes, by a local manufacturer;
- Is there a post warranty repair option available? > Yes, at fraction of the cost of buying a new LED tube.
To conclude, if you don’t get satisfactory answers to most of these question above, keep looking. You’ll regret paying less if you LED tubes don’t do the job the way they are supposed to. Shop smart and ask the right questions.
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