Q: I have heard that there are tremendous savings available in operating costs by switching to LED lighting, and that the payback period is short. What are your recommendations for commercial LEDlighting?
A: While LED lighting has been with us over a decade, it’s widespread use in commercial applications is a relatively recent development. But there have been vast improvements in LED fixtures and retro-fit applications. Today’s LED fixtures have a high light output (lumens), use less power (wattage), have a higher efficiency (lumens/watt) as well as a much-expanded color range (Kelvin temperature) than yesterday’s fixtures. Many are also dimmable. Because of this, LED bulbs are now one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy and money because they use as much as 80% less power. And depending on the application, the payback period can be amazingly short.
Since you are trading immediately lowered operating costs for the retro-fit cost, the more often you operate your lighting, the faster the payback. The “low hanging fruit” for a retro-fit is any lighting that is operated continuously, such as lighting in a hospital, or for long periods of time, such as in a lobby or an airport parking lot. I have seen energy audits that demonstrate a payback in less than two years for applications with this type of use.
Another advantage to LED lighting is maintenance. Because an LED light source is nowhere near as bright as an incandescent source, LED lights must be clustered to increase the lumens. On a practical level, this means that even if several of the LED elements fail, it will barely reduce the output of the individual fixture.
If you are considering an LED lighting retro-fit, I recommend that you start with an energy audit, which will show what you are spending and what you will save. Secondly, I highly recommend an in-place testing of the fixtures that you are considering. All LED fixtures are not created equal, and especially for critical operations, you want to make sure that the lumens and color are what you expect them to be. And finally, investigate and compare the costs of the installation. There are third-party leasing and financing arrangements that will allow you to retro-fit with a zero up-front cost, paid monthly through your savings in energy consumption.
Lighting is a very large percentage of commercial energy consumption, typically 25% for many companies, and this can be substantially higher for office or hospital use. So energy savings are significant. In addition, there are the added benefits of light control and color, reduction of maintenance, reduction of air-conditioning costs (lower heat load), possible tax benefits, and of course, contributing our part to saving the environment. I believe that LED lighting will increasingly be specified for new construction, and that incandescent and fluorescent lighting will eventually become an outmoded technology of the past. With the proper audit, recommendations, and testing, the well-demonstrated savings are absolutely available to your company today.
David G. Hunt, MCR, CCIM, SIOR is president of Hunt Corporate Services, Inc. and Hunt Construction Services, Inc., Plainview, N.Y.