How LED Lighting Compares with Older Lighting Types

Every building has a unique energy consumption profile, and this is why energy efficiency requires an individual approach for each project. In other words, the same efficiency measures may achieve high savings in one building and minimal results in another. However, LED lighting is almost always a good decision, assuming the lamps and fixtures are properly selected.

Energy efficiency is a well-known feature of LED lighting, but the technology offers more benefits. The long service life of LEDs saves many lamp replacements, and their reliable lighting output improves safety. LED products are also safer for installers to handle, being lighter than the luminaires they replace. Also, LED fixtures can be designed to use only shatter-free materials, removing the risk of spreading glass shards.

There is a wide range of LED products available, but lighting upgrades can normally be classified into three main types:

  • A relamp consists on simply switching the existing lamps with LED equivalents. The fixture bodies are reused, as well as their internal connections and lamp sockets.
  • A retrofit uses the existing fixtures, with modifications to their internal connections.
  • A complete fixture replacement is also an option. This approach is the most expensive, while offering the highest potential savings.

How Much Energy Does LED Lighting Save?

Since there are many types of lighting, the savings achieved with an LED upgrade depend on the efficiency difference with the existing installation. For instance, replacing halogen lamps with LED bulbs yields higher savings than replacing compact fluorescent lights (CFL). However, the financial return is attractive in both cases.

The exact savings achieved with LED lighting vary by project, but the following are some broad estimates:

  • 80-90% savings when upgrading incandescent or halogen lighting.
  • 25-50% savings when upgrading fluorescent lighting.
  • 50-70% savings when upgrading HID lighting.

The savings of LED lighting go beyond electricity consumption. LED products also have a much longer service life than conventional lamps, leading to less replacements over time. For instance, an incandescent bulb rated for 1,000 hours can be replaced with an LED equivalent rated for 25,000 hours. In addition to consuming 80% less energy, the new lamp prevents 24 bulb replacements.

LED lighting is often regarded as expensive, or even a luxury product, but this only applies for the upfront cost. When the total ownership cost is considered, LED is actually the cheapest lighting option available. One incandescent bulb has a lower price than one LED bulb, but 25 of them are much more expensive.

The savings from LED lighting are even higher when used in air-conditioned spaces or cold storage facilities. Since LEDs emit less heat than older lamp types, they achieve a slight reduction of the cooling load.

How LED Lighting Improves Safety in Buildings

Most discussions of LED lighting focus on energy efficiency and maintenance savings, but there is also a safety improvement for buildings. There is a common misconception that LED lamps are fragile, but actually they are sturdier than most lighting products. Unless the manufacturer uses glass for decorative purposes, an LED lamp can be designed completely with impact-resistant materials. With LED technology, electrical engineers can specify only shatterproof lighting when a heavy-duty application demands it.

LED fixtures also offer vibration resistance, since they are solid-state devices. Older lamp types have delicate electrodes and filaments that can be easily damaged by a nearby source of vibration. This feature makes LED lighting excellent for industrial applications, where fixtures are often installed close to processing equipment.

LED lighting also eliminates a safety issue associated with HID lamps, which are typically used in outdoor and industrial applications. When HID bulbs are disconnected from the power supply, they have a restrike period of several minutes. The area is left in the dark briefly, and this can be very dangerous in an industrial site with heavy equipment. However, this is not an issue with LED lamps, which can reactivate instantly after an accidental disconnection.

In the case of extended blackouts, LED lighting can also operate longer on backup power, thanks to its reduced energy consumption. This leaves more time for evacuation during emergencies where the power supply is interrupted.

Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of Chicago Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of 30+ mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City; and has led over 1,000 projects in Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.