LED lighting is all the rage these days. I often speak with churches who are looking into buying LED fixtures to either add to the functionality of their lighting system, to make maintenance easier, replace old gear, be more efficient or any combination of the above. But I also see a lot of churches who have made poor decisions buying LED fixtures and been disappointed. If you look out into the LED market these days, you will see that it is flooded with lights in all price ranges- literally Led armatuur from $100 to $3000 and above! Which is the right product for you and your congregation?
So can I Buy Cheap LED Lights?
I wish I could just give you a simple, 1 word answer, but I can’t. Yes, you can buy the cheapest thing you can find, but you will probably be disappointed. I have seen churches buy LED lights from companies I’ve never heard of that don’t carry much of a warranty. They’ve been disappointed when, 1 year down the road, some of the units are breaking and not as bright or consistent as they used to be. Cheaper LED lights are often poorly designed and allow heat to dim the LED’s early in their life and poor electrical connections can cause units to fail prematurely. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Moving past the negatives, I do advise churches who are looking to get into the entry level to buy less expensive LED’s from reputable lighting companies who have been around for some time, such as Chauvet, American DJ and Elation. These companies have great fixtures in the lower price range. They may not be as cheap as others you’ve seen, but you do get what you pay for! I read late last week of a cheaper, newer name of LED fixtures that is going out of business at the end of this year. That makes it really hard if you need replacement parts in the future or want more matching lights!
Here are a few things you need to know and consider before buying LED fixtures.
1. Consider the quality of light coming out of a RGB-only fixture. These only have red, green and blue LED’s inside. You may have seen some marketing material saying that these fixtures can put out “16 million colors”, and while that may be technically true, I bet you can only tell the difference between a few hundred of those at most. You’re not going to get a good brown, amber, or white color out of these no matter how good they are. The laws of physics will win every time. They’ll make your flesh look pink if you try to use them as front light. However, with these fixtures you can get a bunch of good colors for a great price and these are great for lighting set pieces or walls.
2. Non-“tri”, “quad” or “homogenized” LED’s have individual red, green and blue LED”s that you can see. So, when you mix up a yellow, purple, aqua or anything that’s not pure R, G or B, you’re going to see multiple colors when you look at the light. This may be distracting if you’re using it as backlight, or anywhere that congregation members can see the front of the light fixture. The good news is that these non-“tri” LED fixtures are great for lighting set pieces and other items that hide the fixture from the congregation’s view.
3. Cheaper fixtures will flicker when you videotape them or use IMAG to put the video on screen. If you are shooting video, make sure that you buy fixtures that are guaranteed “flicker free”, because fixtures that aren’t will flickr on video- I have seen it myself too many times! Some units may look okay at full, but not when dimmed due to the way that LED’s are dimmed. If you have this problem with lights you already own, try running your units only at full which often looks okay on camera.
4. Always buy lighting products that have a warranty of at least 90 days – if the company won’t stand behind it, I don’t feel safe doing so either!
5. Think about the construction of the fixture vs. actual light output. You don’t need something built like a tank if it’s just going to be installed in your church and not move often. Those units are made for production companies. There are budget fixtures from many companies that have the same LED’s as expensive fixtures, in a cheaper and less durable unit.
6. Keep in mind that different manufacturers use different tinted LED’s in their fixtures. Fixtures may also vary in color by each run, or batch, of fixture. For the best color consistency, buy all of the LED fixtures you’ll use at once. If this isn’t possible, buy in groups based on use- such as buying all of the units to light your backdrop at once, then later buying the ones you use for backlight, etc. It is best to stick with one manufacturer for all of your LED fixtures for color consistency, but if you have to change, it’s not the end of the world when the colors don’t match perfectly.
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