Note: In this blog entry, Richard Ashoff, CEO of Tylerco, Inc. sheds some light on how his SLABlite product for backlighting translucent surfaces works.With the growing interest in backlighting translucent materials, such as onyx, glass and certain types of quartz surfacing and solid surface, a lot of questions have been coming up. In an effort to help you understand the ins and outs of the process better, specifically as it relates to our SLABlite product, I have put together this blog post.
What are lumens and have you ever been concerned about them before? Lumens per sq. ft. would refer to lights that are used to illuminate commercial areas. There are requirements that lights have to meet for building codes. However, talking about lumens really just confuses the issue and really has nothing to do with backlighting surfaces.
There are many ways lighting translucent material can be achieved. You can use light bulbs, fluorescent lamps, LED strips or LED tape, and many companies have tried them all. However, more goes into lighting translucent surfaces than the actual lights. When backlighting surfaces, the first objective is to enhance the translucence of the material being illuminated. The SLABlite is designed to throw light 1 inch. We don’t care about the rest of the environment. That is why lumens are really beside the point.
Translucent material has to be backlit as if the sun were shining through it. There can be no hot spots or shadowing. The SLABlite’s foundation is based on a light guide. A light guide is the same technology that is used to light cellphones, computer monitors, TVs and signs. You would think that this would be easy enough to do. Unfortunately, you can’t just take the light guide technology and throw it under a slab and think it will work or last for any amount of time.
An average LED bulb is stated to last 50,000 hours. That is the equivalent to 5 to 7 years of continuous burn. This would be acceptable if you could easily replace the bulb, but having to replace a bulb that is under an installed heavy slab is definitely NOT easy. So, we engineered the SLABlite for an increased lifespan – a minimum lifespan of 20 years. Because we are only trying to light 1 inch away from our light (the translucent slab material), we drive our LEDs at a lesser rate, which gives us a longer life. It also reduces the heat output from the LEDs. Heat is the enemy when dealing with LEDs.
Another issue is potential failure of an LED. The SLABlite’s LEDs are wired in parallel and in series on the same panel. If an LED were to fail, the whole panel will not fail, and the other LEDs will fill the gap. The SLABlite also has a surge protector on board. You never know when there might be a surge on the electrical line. We design protection and backup so you don’t have to get a jackhammer to remove the light.
Ease of use is also an important factor. SLABlite can be custom cut on the jobsite to fit any configuration. That means you never have to send out your template to have a pre-made configuration made for a particular application. The SLABlite is modular. You can build as big or as small as you want. When you have covered the area, you simply cut the panels to fit. You can drill holes for faucets and cut around sinks as easily as cutting plastic.
Additionally, the SLABlite is waterproof. It has been installed in pools, fountains, baths, boats and cement. Rather than using a potting method to seal the LEDs in a panel, SLABlite includes patented waterproofing that allows for heat contraction and expansion. SLABlite waterproofing avoids problems that occur from natural heat expansion and contraction, which can cause LEDs to separate from the panel and expose them to the elements.
SLABlites have been in the field for more than seven years, passing the 1 million hours of burn rate in 2010. We are proud to say that we have never lost a panel. Not one.
So, when you are looking for a product, make sure you are looking at a product that was made to do what it is being used for and not a product made for another type of lighting that has been adapted for your surfaces. You may think you have a less expensive product you can adapt, but an adapted product is usually a poor substitute that will cost you aggravation and a lot of money in the end. The one made for a specific use has taken into consideration things that could happen during its lifetime and has built-in solutions for potential problems that could arise. Sometimes “cheap” isn’t.
Thanks to Tylerco for sharing their expertise on backlighting,