Technology Corner: Corn cobs vs new fixtures

LED Corncob Lamp in a high bayCorn cob LEDs are marketed as a simple replacement for existing metal halide or incandescent lamps. And when used in the appropriate application, they may be just the right product to meet your client’s goals. However, “appropriate application” is the operative phrase. There are good and bad applications for this type of LED; trade allies need to consider the right application rather than the affordable one.

What is a corn cob LED?
True to the name, corn cob LEDs resemble an ear of corn. They’re an easy, go-to product and can screw into almost any existing light fixture, which can be misleading. Contractors think, great, I can turn this fixture into an LED fixture with a simple screw-in bulb. Not so fast. This quick installation may be easy but it is a short-cut that may deliver substandard results. Installing the wrong kind of corn cob lamp in the wrong kind of fixture is a recipe for an unhappy customer.

What’s the problem?
The optics inside older, existing fixtures aren’t designed for corn cob products. Most existing fixtures are made for a nice, single light source, not a corn cob that emits light from the side and not the bottom. Corn cobs come equipped with a cooling fan inside, producing a regular humming noise. In outdoor uses the noise may be no problem, but inside a closed environment, the noise may become an irritant for workers. How can you tell if the wrong corn cob is in the wrong fixture? The LED will produce an intense glob or glare bomb of light signaling it was a poor fit.

How do I research the right application?

  1. Vet the product manufacturer. Make sure you research QPL-approved products from a trusted manufacturer. The cut sheet should properly describe the product and outline compatible fixtures. Read your product material and make sure it comes from a reputable source.
  2. Examine existing fixtures to assess integrity and longevity. Is there rust? Is there metal fatigue? Is it inside or outside? How old is it? Outside fixtures take a beating so you’ll need a really good quality fixture to stand the test of time. If there is significant metal fatigue, and the fixture is 20-25 years old, the components are on their last legs. Corn cob LEDs can last from seven to 10 years, so make sure the fixture has the same life span. Why install an expensive new LED in a fixture that may fail? If you can’t take advantage of the full life of the corn cob, you’ve lost the value of your investment.
  3. Match the product to the owner’s goals. As always, consider how the product will save energy, improve light quality or fit into long-term facility plans. No short-cut is worth sacrificing your customer satisfaction.

There are so many variables to consider when evaluating new fixtures or replacement lamps, the best option may be to recommend new fixtures that are likely to deliver the benefits your client demands.