As an energy efficiency company specializing in LED retrofit to drastically cut operating expenses, it is surprising how often business owners and facilities operators view of “conventional wisdom” does not meet the definition—the view and practice follows a path that is neither “conventional” nor “wise.” From predicting the winner of next year’s sports champions to predicting next week’s stock market, “conventional wisdom” can lead you astray. Let’s explore some of the history and myths related to the subject of LED Lighting in respect to cost saving retrofit opportunities. (The various sports teams’ destiny can be worked out in a separate effort).
It seems nearly everyone today has heard something about LED lighting. From flashlights to computer and TV screens, from light bulbs to headlights in cars, it’s as if the whole world is to be lit by LED in one form or another. This technology is everywhere because of a much longer lifespan, no mercury content, instant on and flicker-free capabilities, and delivering higher efficiency and operating cost savings than traditional light sources.
A LED is a light emitting diode, a semi-conductive, solid-state device. Did you know the phenomena of electroluminescence from a diode was first reported in 1907 by Henry Joseph Round in a publication titled Electrical World? Round was the personal assistant of G. Marconi, and while performing vacuum tube experiments to support long distance radio communication, came across the phenomena. He reported it and further research was accomplished in 1927 by Oleg Vladimirovich Losev in a work that was referenced by future scientists.
Also, did you know the first practical application for visible red LEDs was made in 1962 by General Electric, with the lighting application being calculator displays for Hewlett Packard? Or that blue LEDs did not arrive until 1993 when Nichia Corporation of Japan brought the technology to mass production; and this step also enabled white light LED?
At the end of 2015, there was an explosion in LED technology. But, even so, if LEDs and Solid State Lighting (SSL) products are so great, why doesn’t EVERYONE switch to SSL products immediately, which would mean doing away with traditional light sources of incandescent/halogen, fluorescent and CFLs, and all HID lamps (Metal Halide, High Pressure Sodium, etc.)? Our world would be lit by green technology, comparatively energy efficient, and we could go on with the bliss of the collective achievement to better everything in sight with the saved Operating Expense (OPEX). Right? Well, not so fast. There're is a word describing why we do not switch immediately.
One Word: myths. So, let’s take a look at four of these Myths.
Myth #1: All SSL Products are basically the same.
Debunked: LED diode/chips and SSL products vary drastically in light quality, lifetime, and light output.
A SSL product relies on many components. Just because it is an LED-based lighting product, that alone does not mean it is any good. LED chips, heat sinking (thermals), power/driver electronics, optics, and controls all have to be designed to work together. These things must be optimized to deliver the required light levels, meet the organizations efficiency and budgetary needs, and last as long as promised.
Best Advice: Look for testing reports on the LED components, such as LM80. Ensure mechanical construction (corrosion resistive components, etc.) and driver electronics of the fixture have a reputation for high quality, and can ensure your product will adhere to the same high standard. Look for performance data of the fixture/lamp, such as LM79. LM79 will expose the performance difference between SSL products in terms of efficiency. If these items are difficult to gain/understand, seek another supplier.
Myth #2: LEDs and SSL products do not work well in high temperature areas.
Debunked: Well-designed SSL products are made to operate across a broad environmental range.
During high temperature testing by independent labs, LEDs have shown to perform equally as well as fixtures lit with fluorescent and HID lamps. Product design quality matters, and a SSL product that manages its heat dissipation well is a prerequisite. A good indication of the SSL products’ thermal performance is to see the thermal data generated from the LM80 testing report. LM80 is a standard conducted by third party NAVLAP qualified testing facilities. SSL manufacturers and distributors should have access to this information.
It is also important to note LEDs work extremely well, without warm-up time, in cold environments, such as cold storage of warehousing environments.
Best Advice: Look for testing data to substantiate a broad operating temperature rage. Most quality suppliers have tested product reliability, and would be capable of sharing this information.
Myth #3: LED and SSL products will always drop in price, so it pays to wait.
Debunked: Waiting for prices to drop will cost you more money.
While it is certainly true SSL products have experienced significant price erosion during the past five years, most major price decreases have already occurred. Any further decreases will likely be incremental, and there are still commodity materials used in the products. Operational cost savings typically far exceed any modest price modification.
Here is an example: Using $0.10 / kWh, 18hrs/day Burn Time, compare a 6-Lamp T8 High Bay vs. LED Tubes:
| Annual Energy Cost
| 6-Lamp T8 Fixture
| LED T8 (12W, 140LPW)
| Annual Energy Cost Savings
Even if LED T8 Tube prices drop an unrealistic $5 per tube over the next year, it would save $6 x $5 = $30 in product cost, but you would still spend $62 per fixture ($92-$30) during that year.
Best Advice: It makes no sense to wait. Start an evaluation to retrofit your facility to LED today.
Myth #4: There needs to be a budget
Debunked: Budgeting Processes cost you money.
As companies weigh the options on how to best spend an allocated maintenance budget, the organization loses money every time in the form of operational expenses because of lighting. Energy Financing is a method to use the saved operational expense an LED Retrofit project creates as cash flows to pay for the project through time. A Capital Lease program can be administered to use the concept of energy financing.
At times, we do not think of a Capital Lease for an item such as Lighting. But why not? Businesses use leasing agreements all the time on computers, cell phone and IT services, furniture and other office equipment.
Things to consider are no upfront cash, no origination or closing costs, being cash flow positive from day 1, and flexible leasing terms. There are different terms available within a capital lease, so be sure to look for many options.
Best Advice: It really makes sense to investigate using Energy Financing and the Capital Lease to speed up savings.
Mark Kelly is executive director, national accounts/energy solutions for LEFF Electric.