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What Does LED Hour Rating Tell You About Lamp Life?

Hour Rating

If you’re in the market for grow lights, you’ve probably come across many manufacturers boasting about their LED hour rating. You may even have heard about the 100,000-hour rated life of California LightWorks fixtures.

But what does it mean to have a rated life of 100,000 hours? And is it as great as it sounds?

An LED hour rating refers to the lamp life of a particular fixture. This statistic is a major selling point for any high-quality LED lamp. LED grow lights have a much longer lifespan than their HID competition, and California LightWorks products are especially long-lasting.

The long rated life of a premium LED fixture represents major cost savings for the grower. These lamps already cost less to operate as they consume about half the energy HPS bulbs require.

Considering LEDs outlast HPS lights by years, growers stand to save even more on the cost of replacement and maintenance.

That said, the LED hour rating is not as simple a concept as you might expect. Allow us to explain exactly what we mean when we say our lights have a rated life of 100,000 hours.

What an LED Hour Rating Really Means 

An LED hour rating simply refers to the average number of hours you can expect a fixture to operate under specified conditions before it fails.

This means you can expect to get 100,000 hours out of our lamps. 100,000 hours is about equal to 15 or 20 years of normal grow cycles.

To put it in more competitive terms, our lamps live about five times longer than the average HID bulb. Most HID bulbs are rated for around 24,000 hours but the spectrum shifts in as little as 5,000 hours. Therefore, most growers change their HPS bulbs every year or two.

Now, an LED hour rating is often very different from the actual lifespan of the lamp.

For one thing, luminaire testing standards and product specifications exist to help you set expectations. These metrics do not present the best-case scenario. Rather, they tend to under-promise so you can be delighted when the lamp over-delivers.

For this reason, our fixtures feature a rated lamp life of 100,000 hours, while the actual lifespan of a California LightWorks fixture could be much longer.

Additionally, many growers who are new to LED technology misunderstand what we’re measuring when we measure lamp life. It all comes down to the way we define “failure.”

At What Point Does an LED Light “Fail”?

When the average person thinks of a lamp failing, they imagine it burning out. You flip a switch and the bulb flickers, then dies. The light has failed.

LED lighting technology doesn’t quite work this way. Instead of burning out, the lumen output of an LED fixture simply depreciates over time. The life of an LED fades away slowly.

Therefore, we do not define LED lamp life based on how long it takes the fixture to die. This information is useless to a grower. Quality horticultural lighting isn’t a matter of illumination; it’s a matter of light intensity.

You need to know how long it will be before your LED grow light can no longer supply the light intensity your plants need. This is where the LED hour rating comes in.

Also known in the lighting industry as “L70 rated life,” the lifespan of an LED light is based on lumen depreciation. An LED hour rating tells you how long you can use your grow light until the fixture is only emitting 70% of its original lumen output.

So, a 100,000-hour rated life does not mean the fixture goes dark after 100,000 hours of use. It means you get 100,000 hours of premium light quality… often more in the case of California LightWorks fixtures.

Do Switching Cycles Influence the LED Hour Rating?

Many factors can influence the lifespan of a luminaire. For example, environmental conditions may impact the function and efficacy of a lamp.

One major consideration is switching cycles. “Switching cycles” refers to the number of times a lamp is switched off and on.

Switching a light on causes some degree of stress to a luminaire – especially for HID bulbs. As a result, a lamp that is constantly turned on and off throughout the day will likely die sooner than a similarly rated lamp that is only turned on once a day.

So, what does this mean for our 100,000-hour rated lamp life?

Not much. Our LED hour rating is based on testing that takes normal grow cycles into consideration. We know a lot about the conditions under which you would operate your lights, from humidity to switching cycles. And we test accordingly.

There are no smoke and mirrors here. We tell you how much use you can expect to get out of a single fixture under normal indoor growing conditions.

How to Find a Reliable 100,000-Hour LED Light

When you select an LED grow light, we strongly encourage you to ask the manufacturer for the details regarding their testing.

First, this helps you weed out shifty businesses who are just trying to cash in on the growing popularity of LEDs in indoor cultivation. Those vendors work with cheap factories in China. They can’t speak to the testing process because they don’t know anything about testing.

A premium LED grow light manufacturer, on the other hand, should be able to provide all the details you need. These companies can explain how testing was done, who conducted the testing, and what the results mean for you.

A key factor in the real-world life span of an LED fixture is heat engagement. High operating temperatures will reduce the life span of any LED diode. Heat management is largely a function of the heat sink and cooling system of the fixtures. Cheaper fixtures, especially from China, will reduce the cooling ability of a fixture to reduce costs. California LightWorks does all its own engineering in California and heat management is one of our primary concerns. This is the key to our long-life LED fixtures.

All this information ultimately tells you whether you can count on your 50,000-hour LED light to actually last 15-20 years.

At California LightWorks, we do everything possible to offer our growers total transparency. In fact, we do all our research, development, design, and manufacturing under one roof.

Every team member understands LED technology inside and out, which means we’re always ready with clear answers.

If you’d like to learn more about our products, we invite you to check out our collection or reach out to our team. We’d be happy to help you find the perfect long-term lighting solution for your grow room or facility.


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