Emerging Technology: LED's

An Olivieri Brothers White Paper, Summer 2016

 

By:  Glenn Laaspere, NCARB, LEED GA

 

 

 “21 percent of the total energy used in commercial buildings and 38 percent of all electricity used in commercial buildings is used for artificial lighting”

 

This number is trending down and that’s due in part to energy conscious changes in code requirements and the increased affordability of high-efficiency lighting solutions.

 

The most efficient option widely available to consumers today are LED

light fixtures.

 

LED’s (or Light Emitting Diodes) function by passing DC voltage and current through a semiconductor material.  When the “turn-on” threshold is eclipsed, light is emitted at a frequency and color based on the type of semiconductor used.

 

Incandescent lights are by comparison an ancient technology with almost 90% of their energy lost in the form of heat, and only a small fraction actually going into light production.

 

To understand how advancements in lighting technology can impact your home or business let’s look at a real-world return on investment and payoff time for a typical small office:

 

Our office in Frankfort has 65 recessed fluorescent light fixtures (each with four bulbs).  The replacement cost for LED fixtures with comparable light output (measured in lumens) is roughly $250 per fixture for an initial investment of $16,000.

 

The operating cost for 65 florescent fixtures is $2,600 per year compared to only $1,300 for the similar LED fixtures.  This is a net energy

savings of 50%!

 

In addition to a measurable savings in per-hour electricity consumption; LED’s have virtually no maintenance costs.  When incandescent or fluorescent fixtures fail they flicker or turn off completely and this tends to happen at random (requiring constant facility awareness and maintenance).  But when LED fixtures reach the end of their life they simply dim.  Depending on the quantity and mounting height of the lights in your building, this could equate to significant annual savings in material and labor).  In our office, these savings total up to a few hundred dollars per year.

 

The combined savings from electricity consumption, materials and maintenance costs equal $1,600 annually.  That means the payoff time to replace our entire office with LED’s is only 10 years.  With the cost of LED fixtures dropping year-over-year, this return on investment is now something every building owner should start to consider.

 

Besides the economic advantages, LED fixtures have improved aesthetics with more predictable and controllable color temperatures (this is how “blue” or “orange” a light glows).  Depending on your eye’s individual sensitivity to light, this could have incredible benefits -- especially if your work requires you to see colors consistently and accurately.

 

The savings are even more significant in a residential setting:

 

A traditional incandescent light (just like most typical light bulbs found around your house) illuminated at 100 W produces around 1,600 lumens at approximately 219 kWh energy units consumed.  An LED of equal lumen output only consumes required 20 watts and consumes 44 kWh energy units annually.

 

Assuming a regional average of $0.12 per kWh, each incandescent light costs $26.28 to operate annually versus only $5.28 for the LED (a savings of $21 per fixture per year)!

 

Another way to measure savings is through product longevity.  An incandescent bulb is typically rated for about one year of use (1,000 to 2,500 hours) whereas an LED could last 20 to 50 times as long.  Eliminating the cost and time to change all the incandescent bulbs in your house as they fail throughout a year adds up to additional savings in money and convenience.

 

All told, the payoff period to replace the incandescent bulbs in your home with LEDs could be as little as three to five years.

 

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