Unseen Benefits of LEDs|
With all the excitement over the potential savings in energy and maintenance costs associated with LED lighting, it’s very easy to overlook some of the less obvious cost saving benefits they bring. Most of the focus on LEDs centers on their ability to produce light much more efficiently than traditional incandescent bulbs. Because incandescent bulbs create light by heating a filament with electrical current, much of the energy they consume is radiated as heat rather than light. This is true of any light source that uses a filament in its construction despite any attempts to improve efficiency with better materials or advanced designs. It’s generally acknowledged that about 90% of an incandescent bulbs energy usage is wasted. This means that 10% of the energy is actually used in creating light, while 90% ends up wasted as radiated heat. As just about anyone who’s ever touched an incandescent bulb while it was switched on knows, this can be quite a bit of heat.
What is often overlooked however is the fact that this heat has to go somewhere. That somewhere is the environment surrounding the bulb. If you’ve ever stood near a powerful incandescent light in a store or warehouse for example, you probably noticed quite a bit of warmth coming directly from the lamp. What you don’t notice so easily however is the air surrounding the lamp being heated by this radiated energy. The atmosphere around us is rarely in a steady unmoving state, even when we are indoors. Air conditioning units, fans, movement of people, and ventilation from open doors and windows all result in a constantly moving and changing atmosphere. As this air moves around it picks up or loses radiated energy in the form of heat from every object it comes into contact with. It is this basic principle that is responsible for how air conditioning operates and is used to control indoor temperatures.
Businesses and commercial industry accrue considerable expenses from producing illumination. Up to half of a company’s electrical expenses can be traced to lighting, but what is often missed is that the cost of lighting is also intertwined with the costs of cooling. It has been said that incandescent light bulbs are more efficient as heaters than they are as sources of light. This is very true, and in enclosed spaces like offices or a warehouse, lighting is indeed not only working to illuminate the area, but is also introducing significant amounts of heat as well. In a building that has hundreds of high powered incandescent lights operating, the temperature of the building’s interior is higher due to the heat radiated from these lights. The result is that the cooling systems used to keep interior temperatures within a comfortable range must work harder to compensate for this additional heat. And these cooling systems operate on electricity. So, as you can probably guess by now, incandescent lights mean not only poor lighting efficiency, but a drain on cooling efficiency as well.
For an example, consider a furniture retailer based in Summerlin, Nevada which recently replaced all of the halogen lighting in its 50,000 square foot showroom with LEDs. Not only did employees of the retailer notice an immediate drop in the showrooms temperature, but the management was able to raise the air conditioning thermostat by four degrees. The end result was over $90,000 dollars saved in annual cooling costs alone. This is a clear demonstration of just how significant the heat produced from incandescent lights is, and how drastically it can affect energy costs.
LEDs exhibit this kind of performance because they convert a much greater portion of the electrical energy they consume to light, resulting in less energy wasted as heat. Even higher wattage LED fixtures produce less overall heat than a single incandescent of comparable power. Of course, no consideration of LEDs would be complete without mentioning their overall benefits. Since LEDs convert more energy to light, they produce light much more efficiently. This means that a 12 watt LED can be used to replace a 70 watt halogen with no loss in total light output, yet an obvious reduction in total watts consumed. Of still more benefit is the longevity of the LED light. While a 70 watt halogen burning 12 hours a day would typically need to be replaced every 4 to 6 months, a 12 watt LED will last anywhere from 8 to 12 years. This represents still more cost reduction and demonstrates how although it may be more expensive to initially purchase an LED instead of a traditional halogen, the LED will pay for itself quickly in reduced replacements costs and begin providing positive returns in a short period of time.
Switching from incandescent lighting to LEDs is also a very simple matter. In most cases installing LEDs is no more difficult than installing incandescent lighting, and many LED bulbs are direct replacements for traditional bulbs. The Larson Electronics 30 Watt LED PAR 38 Spot / Flood Light is a prime example of the ease with which LEDs can be incorporated into the commercial and industrial fields while providing significant benefits in their first year after installation. This direct Par 38 replacement LED produces 1800 lumens. Contrast this with a 70 watt halogen which only produces 700-900 lumens and it is clear how effective the LED really is in both efficiency and power. Using less than half the energy, the Larson Electronics Par 38 Spot/Flood produces over twice as much light, while at the same time producing a great deal less heat.
With the incandescent bulb set to begin being phased out of production in the United States by 2014, businesses and industry are understandably concerned with what this will mean to their operating costs. Although there is some trepidation with making the change to more efficient forms of lighting because of the perceived high costs that are associated with it, the truth is that these businesses stand to reap great rewards in the long term. It’s not just the cost of the energy used to produce light that is reduced, but the costs of operating the necessary temperature controls as well. Once the incandescent light is fully removed from the equation there is little doubt that not only will businesses and companies begin realizing an improvement in their bottom line, but will be eager to explore even further how advances in lighting technology can further reduce the costs of operation.