What is a Dedicated LED Anyway?

Back in 2010, Patrick Harders and I, Damien Sanchez, decided to start a lighting manufacturing company and eventually found ourselves inventing a term to describe what we created. This is the story of the Dedicated LED Luminaire. It all began with the first iteration of the company. We initially wanted to do a co-op where like-minded guys could go in together and buy direct from overseas and "save money". What a disaster and a bad idea. It turned out you can't just get a container and get a great product that is turnkey, we actually needed someone doing quality control. In the end, we ended up with poor quality products and being the warranty guys on this initial product we bought because nobody wanted a co-op.

After an initial failure at the business, we learned and knew there was still a need for field serviceable luminaires designed for lighting professionals experiencing the same problems we experienced in the field. We love a challenge, so we set out to start an actual business to deliver solutions, and in 2011 Patrick Harders, Josh Palmer, and I decided to start a company. The initial thought was "how hard can it be" and Sterling Lighting came to be. Amusingly, it was a lot harder than we ever could have anticipated.


We had to learn by trial and error. At the time, LEDs were new to the market in landscape lighting, and at first, we thought bulb changeouts as a service would be a thing of the past because LEDs promised tens of thousands of hours of service life. Unfortunately, it took us about 14 months to figure out that we were not going to make better MR-16s because they were actually designed for an open-air interior fixture. The bulbs had undersized drivers, designed to fit in such a small space, and the heat produced literally compounded on itself since the driver was right next to the LED, sealed into the bulb that was sealed into a solid brass fixture. These bulbs produced heat which is the enemy of an LED and a driver, and we put it in a fixture with an air insulator that helped to keep the heat in, then to top it off the fixtures were not completely sealed so water and moisture could enter from the bottom and sides. All of this ultimately led to the slow death of one diode at a time in these bulbs. Our MR16s at the time used 4 diodes with variability between each diode of several hundred degrees Kelvin. What happened was we had installations that didn't have lights that were out per se, but the color temperature produced would shift either way of 3000K, changing the look of the design while reducing lumen output about 25% per diode lost. Unfortunately, the bulbs would also just have rapid sudden failures due to manufacturing inconsistency coupled with burn out from heat. We tried many things in an attempt to solve this during 2011, attachments to the bulb that connected it better to the fixture to better pull heat away, we sealed the fixture better so water and moisture could not get in, but all attempts were inadequate and you could not expect an LED MR16 to last any longer than a halogen.

Our goal originally was to match the lumen output, color temperature, and reach of a halogen PAR 36 bulb, we thought it was the ideal to aspire to for all our LEDs. In addition to the LED problems, we also found that the optics were all wrong too. MR stands for Multifaceted Reflector, which isn't ideal in our opinion for organizing and directing light. At this point, we decided bulbs were too limited to use as a reliable option in an outdoor lighting business. Again, our goal was always to come up with solutions to ultimately help outdoor lighting designers and installers be more efficient and more profitable. We started toying with integrated luminaires in 2008 and I recall putting jobs in with some awesome looking American-made integrated luminaires, but they never lasted. We had garbage bags of luminaires that really could not be field repaired and we never got very far with getting them covered under warranty, so all you could do was recycle the brass. To try and fix these things in the field you would have to go through an elaborate time-consuming process removing small screws, running a thin wire down a small hole, reconnecting a tiny connector, and then splicing a watertight connection for the driver. Needless to say, at the time, the integrated luminaires we used were not field serviceable, and it was difficult to get the parts from the manufacturer anyway.

This brought Patrick to an idea in 2012 of designing a driver that stood separate from the LED but was still housed conveniently inside the luminaire where the LED made good contact with the brass luminaire to pull heat away through conduction. That the LED and optic fit perfectly together but could be easily changed and that the driver was sized perfectly to support the LED. We also moved away from LED arrays to a single cobb LED for high CRI results and better color temperature consistency. All this while adding adjustable lumen output that would match across luminaires.


The results of this R&D effort in 2013 resulted in the SL01 and SL07 being born, but because there was no name for this type of luminaire to describe what it was, Sterling Lighting coined the term, Dedicated LED. It was field serviceable but optimized to achieve long-lasting results. We still have systems in service with luminaires from 2013.

Quick Tip: You will know a Sterling Lighting driver from the fakes because all Sterling Lighting drivers have batch numbers with our logo.

Since 2013 we have continued to improve our drivers and LEDs, making incremental improvements each year. We carry some integrated LED luminaires and many Dedicated LED luminaires designed to last the L70 hours, have 96CRI or higher and are easy to field service. Ultimately the goal of a dedicated LED is to help our customers have what they need to complete a service call quickly but even better not have to go do a service call to begin with.

I hope you enjoyed the story of how the dedicated LED came into being.  For more information on Single Source vs Multi Source LED's Click Here