Lighting Issues with Mood, Accent and Special Effect Lighting

What light Source is Right? What could go wrong?

We are designing and fabricating lighting features but in the end we are also a consumer buying light sources from manufacturers. As such we certainly are not biased to the issues involved. We work with all kinds of light sources every day and have learned a thing or two.

Our main concern is to give the reader pros AND cons of major available light sources and offer a decision making guide.

One of the noteworthy issues regarding LED's vs. Fluorescent (T8, T5) light sources is that around 10% of LED setups we buy are faulty in all kinds of possible ways (strips malfunctioning, controllers not working properly, adapters failing, etc. etc.). NONE of the fluorescent have ever failed yet.

Caution: Even though some manufacturers claim to produce their goods in the US does not mean that they don't buy certain parts like LED's from China (where most of them are in fact manufactured). We all know that Chinese quality control is not the best in the world. And please don't believe the "up to (???)" 50,000 or even 100,000 hr. lifetime claim, it is pure speculation and thus rubbish. Do the math and you will find out that a 100,000 hr. test at 24 hrs. burn time daily would take more than 11 years!

Does this mean that LED's are a questionable light source? Of course not, LED's are great and will be here to stay for sure. However, quality counts and has its price! This is particularly true for LED panels. Standardization will eventually be achieved but we are definitely not there yet.

Everyone of our projects depends heavily on lighting. The quality of design and engineering will determine the looks of the end product and its longevity.


So what are the core issues?

in short: Power, Safety, Color Temperature, Lumens, Durability, Life Expectancy, Maintenance & Serviceability, Manufacturing Standards, Installation Standards, Reflective & Translucence Properties, Sensors, Light Source Spacing and Operation to name a few.

What should the Designer or End User do with this info?


Go with Socrates who said: "Scio me nihil scire" (I know that I know nothing).

Well, no Designer I know would attempt to sell a car, AC or solar panel system to a client, right? It is the same with feature lighting, we have seen "unfavorable" situations where we ask ourselves how much thought was put into this and by whom were these things designed.

So we recommend to leave the design of feature lighting to a pro. If we are chosen for a project we will coordinate/ adjust and test lighting and surface material for each individual project thoroughly. Splitting tasks by hiring an electrician for the lighting and us for the surface is not a good idea if the looks of the project are important. Electricians cannot make proper adjustments as they do not know our material nor do they have our specialized equipment to make necessary adaptations. Messing with experiments on site will lead to a waste of resources.

The following examples show what can happen:

  • Lighting strips falling off behind inaccessible designs ruining an expensive piece
  • inappropriate spacing of LED's producing hot and/or cold spots
  • Using the wrong approach to lighting altogether (T8's, T5's, LED's or RGB LED's, strips or panels)
  • Wrong construction planning and/or wrong placement
  • Mis-judgement of ambient lighting
  • Wrong color temperature (i.e warm white vs. cool white, etc.) will unfavorably influence the surface appearance; there are many different color temperatures available.
  • The use of incompatible components leading to premature failure
  • No plan for future lighting maintenance, i.e. gluing substrate, LED panels and surface together causing future maintenance nightmares
  • Insufficient installation techniques encouraging corrosion
  • Substrate burns due to heat emission
  • Not considering the thickness of the translucent surface material producing ill effects
  • Heat jam due to improper ventilation


All these issues are completely avoidable, including the headaches of serving a disgruntled customer and fixing things post installation. The latter being costly and time consuming in most cases, eating away profits very rapidly.

Whomever you entrust your project, make sure they know what they are doing.


A rudimentary and non-scientific comparison based on our experience:

LED vs. Fluorescent

Technology fairly new
Very low power consumption
Many different non-standardized sizes, spacing, components
Up to 50.000 hrs. can also mean only 10 hrs.! ("up to" statements are rubbish)
Adhesives on back of strips will fail within a few months (our experience) sometimes even a few days
PCB contacts on strips are extremely thin (microns) and likely will corrode before the 50,000 hrs if not potted.
Heating issues and safety – heat burns have been reported particularly with RGB's
RGB LED's on plastics may create fire hazard
Heat sinks will help extend LED's life
Spacing of LED's is critical to generate uniform light disbursement
Adding of dimmers or remote controls may be required but sometimes impossible
MAINTENANCE and accessibility issues often not a consideration
LED installation is not standardized; can be a nightmare maintenance issue
Wiring not standardized, mix-up of wires is a common problem
Compatible parts and availability not yet
Consideration of surrounding. Dry / damp / outdoors and wire connections
Omitted potting of connections in damp environments lead to premature failure
If LED's don't go out, wiring and printed circuits may (depending on environment)
If LED's don't go out, adapters, controllers or sensors may
LED color distortion especially in the whites.
Concerning our products:
Spacing can be as low as 1 inch
Total product depth minimum 1 ½ inches
Size limitations on LED panels
One dimensional applications only with LED panels

Evolved long standing (50 years +) technology
Low power consumption (much lower than incandescent but higher than LED)
15 – 20000 hrs. life expectancy is normal and proven
Generally more powerful light source
Easy maintenance
Light sockets and bulbs standardized
Compatible parts widely and readily available
Concerning our products:
Spacing should be at least 3 1/2 inches
Total product depth minimum 4 inches

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