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LED Lighting Hits Home – At Least My In Law’s Home
Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by Bill

Rosendin has been a fan of LED lighting for some time now.  For most of our work, our lighting systems are functional – your basic area lighting package.  What has been a very tough sell for LED-based systems is the initial cost of the fixtures and the replacement beds for the lamps themselves.  In fact, one local city refused to use LEDs on a large parking structure, primarily due to the initial cost of the fixtures.  The fixtures, at proposal time, we’re about a 30% premium to your standard high pressure sodium fixture package. 

Three years later, the city is replacing all of its street lights with LED systems, primarily due to avoided lamp replacement cost and the massive energy savings they would realize.  Life cycle costs clearly won out here.  We also see some resistance in the built environment versus the more utilitarian applications such as street lighting or exterior lighting.

We find it both rewarding and amusing that the city got religion on this issue.  The case in point is that LED offers a significant energy savings over fluorescent or HID lamp systems for continuously-lit systems.  LED is challenged in areas where the lighting is activated by occupancy or where it’s not in continuous service.  Our experience has shown that you may realize up to a 40% reduction in input watts for an LED system over your standard T8 fixture, at the identical lumen output.  For incandescent fixtures, this wattage reduction could be as large as 90%.

So what about price?  We attribute the current price point for LED OEM systems to be a cost-recovery exercise by the fixture manufacturers.  LEDs are widely used in a host of industries, where the LED themselves are a commodity item, even for the high-end diodes.  We have also see LED lighting systems be gamed by distributors, manufacturing reps and the manufacturers themselves in quotes and fixture orders with the purpose of packaging to a certain manufacturer.  The key here is to get the line item costs for your fixtures. 

What are the drawbacks for LEDs?  First, standard fluorescent and incandescent dimmers don’t work well or at all with LEDs.  Second, the color rendition is a bit on the cooler side and into the blue spectrum from pure white light.  That being said, LED color indexing is being rendered closer to daylight and now offers a few more color options, approaching the offerings we see for the fluorescent lamping in today’s market.

What’s the proof in the pudding?  About six months ago, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave me a call.  My sister-in-law operates a thriving college counseling practice out of their home in Silicon Valley.  As a result, the public area lighting in their house is on about 12-14 hours per day.  The lamping package was exclusively PAR- and MR- type lamps, 42 in total.  They have also experienced significant lamp mortality, especially on the MRs, due to both overall hours on the lamp as well as the per-day run time, which well exceeds 10 hours per day.

After a $1,050 lamp retrofit and a single new LED-appropriate dimmer, the utility bill was cut by one-third, or about $300/month, resulting in a three-month payback on the initial $1,000 lamp investment.  The CR on the MR and PAR retrofit LED lamps are identical, so now we have identical color throughout the spaces.  The only rub was a single dimmer that had to be replaced in the dining room.

Five months later, my brother-in-law has not replaced a single MR-type LED lamp yet.  We did splurge and choose the 25,000 hour life lamps, a four-fold improvement over the published MR-16 lifespan systems they replaced.   When looking at the MR lamp mortality, we never realized a great than 4,000 hour run time on those lamps, so the lifespan increase further reinforces the life cycle payback.

And my brother-in-law is thrilled to NOT be up on a ladder twice a month to change lamps.

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