Residential vs. Commercial Grade Lighting

You have heard the quote “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside…it’s what’s on the inside that counts”. This is especially true in lighting. There are many options to choose from that appear the same on the outside, but the inside of the product varies significantly.

As a commercial lighting distributor, we are often asked the question on why certain products cost more from us than they would from a big box retailer. The reason is simple and hence the reason for this article – there are commercial grade lighting products and there are residential grade lighting products.

So what’s the difference between the two? The answer depends on the specific lighting product that is being compared. For the sake of keeping the article brief and to focus on the product this question is most often asked about, we will outline the difference between residential grade and commercial grade screw-in LED light bulbs.

LED PAR vs LED MR16 vs LED Globe

There are many types of LED screw-in light bulbs, but they all have the same manufacturing process. What differs between residential and commercial grade products are the components that go into the light bulb.

For LED bulbs the components consist of the following:

  • LED Housing and Heat Sink

    Housing and Heat Sink

  • LED Chip

    LED Chip

  • LED Screw In Driver

    Driver

  • Lens

    Lens

When you assemble them together, you get a final product that looks like this:

Make an LED Bulb from led chip, driver, lens and casing

Although the completed process looks similar from brand to brand, each one of these components vary. The most significant parts are the LED Chip and the driver. As you can see from the driver picture, there are a lot of smaller components that go into making that which vary in quality. Also, there are hundreds of LED chip manufacturers to choose from. With choice comes quality differences again. The same applies to the Housing and Lens. In summary, it’s what’s inside the light bulb that counts.

In addition there are significant warranty differences between commercial grade and residential grade product. Often times residential grade product labels their product as if it will last up to 20+ years, but when you look at the fine print the warranty states otherwise. Here are common examples of what the warranty is on a residential grade product sold at the big box retailers:

Warranty on a residential grade lighting product

limited warranty on residential light bulb

You can see the warranty is on this item is 3 years and based on an average of 3 hours per day. That means they are stating that this product is warrantied for 3,285 hours, but the package says it will last for 20 years? With a commercial grade product you will see a warranty like this:

Warranty on a commercial grade lighting product

This item is rated for 5 years regardless of hours of operation. If the light stays on for 24 hours per day 7 days per week for 5 years that would be 43,680 hours. The package doesn’t state anything about the life being some outlandish number of years, but rather it is covered for 5 years. That is peace of mind and important to consider when you look a the upfront cost.

Why are the warranties different? It comes back to what’s inside the bulb. Commercial grade products have better drivers, heat sinks, led chips, and lenses, therefore they will last longer than residential grade products.

Another legitimate question that gets asked is about the brand name. Often times you will see the same brand name at a big box retailer that a commercial lighting distributor offers, but as discussed previously there is a difference in the components that go into the product. Like all businesses, lighting manufacturers are trying to make as much money as they can and by having product offering for business and residential, they are hitting all market segments.

In conclusion, if you are looking for lighting for your business go with commercial grade lighting product. If you are looking for lighting for your home and don’t want to spend the extra money for the quality, go with residential grade lighting product.

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4 Responses to “Residential vs. Commercial Grade Lighting”

  1. Henry KochFebruary 15, 2015 at 12:23 am #

    Good article, but in place of “heat sync”, you want to correct that to “heat sink.” The mass of metal is needed to act as a sink to draw heat away, rather than something that synchronizes multiple things (sync). The two words are homonymns.

    • GregFebruary 15, 2015 at 11:39 am #

      Corrected – thank you for pointing that out Henry.

  2. Craig W ShermanJuly 8, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    Are there no differences in radio interference generated/allowed by commercial versus residential grade lighting?

    • PremierJuly 8, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      Generally the issues you find with radio interference are with fluorescent ballasts. For example if you use Type A LED T8 lamps that rely on the ballast to function, the ballast will still have the potential for radio interference regardless of the quality of LED T8 you choose. If you go with a Type B LED T8 that would bypass the ballast, there will be no radio interference.

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