Just as our April issue was going to press, news broke of Lighting Science Group’s voluntary recall of more than a half million LED replacement lamps due to possible fire hazard. This came after 68 known reports of product failures, including eight with visible smoke or fire. Apparently, the bulbs overheated, causing damage to the sockets and/or fixtures. Certain A19, G25 and R20/PAR20 lamps sold under Sylvania, Westinghouse and Lighting Science Group’s own Definity and EcoSmart brands were included in the recall. A complete list can be found on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website, www.cpsc.gov.
This story gave me flashbacks to when halogen torchieres were vilified in the late 1990s because of fires caused by draperies and other flammable objects finding their way into hot-as-a-wok bowl shades. Or, as in the case of jazz musician Lionel Hampton that brought the problem to national attention: a lamp tipping over and igniting a piece of furniture in his apartment upon contact with the bulb. I’m not sure what was more tragic — the 19 people who were injured as a result of that blaze or the hideous cages that the CPSC required for the category afterwards. While these were not product malfunctions and the ”solution” was along the lines of saving us from ourselves, impressions can certainly be shaped by safety concerns. Several of my non-industry friends asked me if halogen was a safe light source after having their torchiere fears stoked by a “Dateline NBC” segment on the subject. Could this new setback be a blow to wider consumer acceptance of LED lighting technology just as it is getting off the ground?
It would be nice and tidy if it could simply be a cautionary tale about getting what you pay for when it comes to LED. After all, the EcoSmart line was famously launched via The Home Depot for less than $20 when many alternatives were still twice that price at retail. But another often-cited caveat is to stick with known brands. Lighting Science Group may not have consumer brand recognition, but Sylvania and Westinghouse certainly do. And Lighting Science Group has achieved a strong reputation in our industry in a short period of time. The company’s Definity PAR30 short necks and BR30 bulbs even won Lighting for Tomorrow awards last year, sweeping the LED Replacement Lamp category.
For me, it’s an unfortunate reminder that we are still at the beginning of a revolutionary journey taking us to uncharted waters. Sure, LED lighting technology is advancing rapidly — Lightfair introductions this month will remind us just how fast ”the future illuminated” is coming. Research and development is pioneering new territory, which is exciting, but not without its risks. And clearly thermal management is something needing greater scrutiny in the process.