Generic PAR Retrofit Lamps

Posted: December 2, 2008 in Reviewed - Fair Performers
Tags: , , ,
These are PAR Lamps available at a wide range of on-line retailers.

These are PAR Lamps available at a wide range of on-line retailers.

Ideally, reviews here should be of specific manufacturer’s products so specific claims can be attributed directly to the point of origin. Unfortunately, this is impossible when the manufacturer is concealed behind retailer identities. In the case of these three products, there is no marking on the products to indicate their origins, nor are they UL or CSA approved. This means the claims of the retailer are all that are offered, with no supporting data.

This is unacceptable of course, and is another case of where the solid-state market needs to be more involved in controlling the technology.

That said, because these lamp replacements are widely available, and after having them in use for a year, I offer that they are worthy of mention and at least a perfunctory review.

The lamps shown here are claimed to utilize quality 1W LEDs. The PAR20 and MR16 lamps are advertised to produce 130 lumens using 3 watts, and the PAR30 size product 294 lumens using 7.5 watts, which is in line with the 42 lumen per watt expectation for available 1W devices. However, this is the rating of the LEDs themselves, not of the retrofit lamp itself. Measured consumption of the 3 watt device is 4 watts, and the 7.5 watt device consumes 8.4 watts. This is a common issue, and is a grossly inaccurate statement of actual performance. Internally, the optics used are common internal reflecting clear parabolic, which do an acceptable job of redirecting light into the intended bam pattern.

The MR16 lamp is advertised as a direct replacement to 20W MR16 lamps. This is simply not true in any measure. Total light output is considerably less than the MR 16, simple tests showed a 15″ distant target illumination of 262 Footcandles with a 20W BAB MR16 lamp (which has an apparent beam pattern similar to the LED products), and 55 Fc with the LED replacement product. The PAR20 product was advertised to be equal to a 30 watt halogen lamp, which is a fictitious product. In fact, the lamp produces roughly the same light as the MR16 LED, which is far less than any PAR20, or R20 for that matter. If we compare the target illumination of 262Fc at 20 Watts, to a target illumination of 55Fc at 4 watts, the 20W MR16 produces 13.1 footcandles per watt, while the LED replacement generates 13.7. This shows the MR16 LED replacement lamp generates roughly the same efficacy as the halogen product. No surprise here, as this is exactly what the DOE is discovering when testing similar MR16 replacement lamps. The PAR30 LED replacement exhibited virtually the same effect. However, with its narrower distribution, works ell, due to the greater number of LEDs focused on the target surface. Unfortunately, comparing this product to a 50PAR30 Spot or Narrow Flood embarrasses the LED replacement lamp in light output, while efficacy is essentially the same.

The PAR30 (left) and PAR20 (right) have good color and reasonably good beam control.

The PAR30 (left) and PAR20 (right) have good color and reasonably good beam control.

The MR16, PAR20, and PAR30 retrofit lamps tested exhibited very similar beam characteristics. Generally good optical control, with a noticeable beam center. Some waste light is apparent, which is a characteristic of the clear plastic reflectors. Color between lamps (sample of 24 lamps reviewed in PAR20 and MR16 configurations, and 7 in PAR30) is very good, at least equal to that of halogen MR16 lamps. However, not apparent in these images is a decided whiter beam center and a yellow tint to the beam perimeter. This is problematic when lighting a surface at an angle, where the different colors will be most visible.

None of the lamps tested work well on dimmers.

Overall, these lamps a

re interesting and useable. However, at a cost of $17 for the MR16 and PAR20 lamps, and $37 for the PAR30 lamp is not supportable by normal ROI (Return on Investment) terms. If the reduced light is acceptable, dimming a standard halogen lamp will produce a long service life. The lack of any improvement in energy used to attain the stated target illumination indicates these retrofit lamps are not producing an improvement in applied efficiency, so are really not “energy saving” devices in terms of delivering equivalent light output for less energy.

Summary: For the early adopters out there who want to play with LEDs, this is not a bad place to start (more on this in another article.) These lamps produce usable beam patterns, have no heat in the beam pattern, and are good in color, and have no more glare than the conventional lamps they replace.

This now obsolete Color Kinetics MR16 repalcement lamp produced similar performance to the generic MR16 replacement, and have been replaced with better performing products.

This now obsolete Color Kinetics eW MR16 replacement lamp produced similar performance to the generic MR16 replacement, and have been replaced with far better performing products under the Philips brand.

Recommendation rating = 4 of 10. An acceptable introduction to LED products for those who want to dabble. Can save energy where low light levels are acceptable and dimmed halogen lamps are now employed, but not enough to justify the added cost. Too expensive to justify their use over halogen lamps, especially when operated on dimmers.

Actual product performance against manufacturer claims = 1 of 10. These products will not actually replace the lamps they are claimed to replace. Efficacy claims do not include losses in the electronic and optical package, or operation of the LEDs at temperatures within the package. Be sceptacle of claims for products where the manufacturer is not visible.

  1. SSLPro/ Dennis M says:

    In the process of assessing quality charteristics , do you dis- assemble the various products?
    I know this is uncommon but do you evaluate things like the soldering, lamp weight or
    the quality of the optics. Beside for Don Ellinghams @ SevenGensLabs are there any other
    entities/ concerns doing evaluations of performance characteristics, photometric data as well as fit finish, weight etc ? I mean besides the ITLs, I’m a fan of un afiliated – non beholden types
    with an altruristic agendas of warning of garbage or praising quality. Kinda like a poor mans
    CALIPER TESTING ala Consumer Reports.

  2. kwillmorth says:

    I have had most of these lamps apart. They were not impressive. All contained lead solder, packed empty space with silicone thermal grease in an attempt to thermally couple the housing with the LED board, and used very simplistic driver circuitry. For the several that have failed since, I use the LED boards for other projects, since the failure is always in the driver side. While I do some testing here, most of it is confidential work for customers, or personal evaluations that are used for product development work. I have some ideas for some standardized reports, but am not interested in promoting retrofit Edison base lamps, so will likely focus on actual working product types.

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