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LED Lighting for Businesses – An Environmental Case Study

Everything You Need To Know About The Benefits Of LED Lighting Systems

LED light bulbs are great – they use very little energy and last a very long time. You may have been put off in the past by hearing rumours of higher prices and lower light output from LEDs. However, the technology has seen rapid development in recent years, and you can now get bright, efficient LED bulbs to replace your old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, and replicate the warm, flattering light they produce as well. Prices are getting lower, too. The brightest bulbs will cost around £20, but most are well under £10 – and they will pay for themselves through massive energy savings. If you’re considering swapping, altering, or upgrading over to LED bulbs, this guide will help to illuminate their many benefits.

LED lights offer num eros efficiency gains over other types of light bulb
A diagram explaining the different components that make up an LED bulb

What Is An LED?

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. 

The diode is made of semiconductor material and the electrons of this material give their energy in the form of the heat. Whereas the LED is made of the gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide whose electrons emit light while transferring the energy.

Regular diodes only allow the current to flow in one direction, converting alternating current into direct current and emitting energy in the form of heat. On the other hand, the gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide in LEDs emit energy in the form of visible light.[1] All ordinary circuit diodes emit special particles of electromagnetic energy called photons when an electrical current is passed through them. These photons are produced when the current-carrying particles (known as electrons and holes) combine with a piece of solid matter called a two-lead semiconductor. As the semiconductor is a piece of solid matter, LEDs are an example of solid-state lighting (SSL) technology.

Common colours of light produced by an LED include amber, red, green, and blue. A single LED cannot produce a white light, so a number of different-coloured LEDs are combined or covered with a yellowish phosphor material to blend or convert the colour to a familiar ‘white’ light.

There are three other main types of light bulbs, aside from LED bulbs, which we’ll briefly shine a light on so that you understand the competition, too.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are the most commonly used type of light bulb, and typically the cheapest to buy as well. They emit a familiar warm light by heating a tungsten filament until it is white-hot and begins to emit light.

Incandescent bulbs usually last for 6 months to a year – not as long as CFL or LED bulbs. They’re also the least energy-efficient lighting solution.

Incandescent bulbs are the traditional lightbulbs everybody is familiar with
A diagram of an incandescent ligtbulb
Halogen bulbs are not as efficient as LED bulbs
A diagram of a Halogen bulb

Halogens

Halogens emit a white light, similar to natural daylight. Like incandescent bulbs, halogens produce light through a heated tungsten filament. However, the combination of halogen gas in the bulb and tungsten filament produces a chemical reaction called the halogen cycle, which redeposits evaporated tungsten to the filament, increasing the bulb’s lifespan.

Halogens work especially well for recessed lighting, pendant lights, and under-cabinet lighting. However, they are inefficient and warm up very quickly, so should be kept away from any flammable materials. Halogens will typically cost 20-30% less to run than regular incandescent bulbs.

CFLs

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) typically have a spiralling bulb. They are energy efficient and can emit a wide range of colours. They emit light through gas discharge; by passing energy through mercury vapour, heat and invisible UV light are created. This UV light is then absorbed by a fluorescent phosphor coating inside the lamp, which causes it to glow and emit visible light.

CFLs are cheaper than LED lights and can last longer than incandescent lights. However, they take some time to warm up and properly light your space. They also contain mercury, which is highly poisonous, so they must be handled carefully and disposed of properly too. CFLs will typically cost 60-80% less to run than incandescent bulbs.

Compared to these other types of bulbs, there are many benefits to using LED lights, which we’ll outline below.

CFLs are energy efficient but they take longer to reach their true brightness
A diagram of a CFL bulb

LED Lights Offer A Longer Lifespan

Due to the components used to construct an LED, and the way in which they generate light, LED bulbs can have a significantly longer lifespan than other bulb types, with an average rated lifetime of a whopping 35,000-50,000 hours.[2]

For reference, incandescent bulbs can have an average lifetime of 750 to 2,000 hours, halogen bulbs can last between 2,000 and 4,000 hours, and CFLs typically range from 8,000 to 20,000 hours – all of which pale in comparison to LEDs.

LED lights last much longer than alternative light bulbs
A car showroom lit by LED lights

Rather than ‘burning out’, LEDs experience what is known as ‘Lumen depreciation’ over time. The brightness slowly dims over many years, and the ‘lifetime’ of the bulb is established on a prediction of when the light output has decreased by 30% – this time point is called the ‘Lumen maintenance lifetime’, or ‘L70’.[3] This actually means your bulbs can last even longer in spaces that don’t need to be extremely well lit. Better still, it provides you with a bit more time to think about replacing bulbs, which beats being left in the dark by a blown filament!

With an average lifetime which is 25 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs, this means that a single LED light bulb could last for 20 to 30 years! This saves you the time and money required for maintenance and replacements, and also creates less waste, benefiting the environment.

I’m very happy with our new LED lighting system as it is very much a set and forget system. Now that it has been installed, we don’t expect to have to play around with it much at all for years to come

Manager, Eastham Motors

Energy Efficiency

One huge benefit of using LEDs compared to traditional sources of lighting is that the photons used to generate light create very little heat meaning they are an effective energy saving product. In comparison to incandescent and halogen bulbs, which release about 95% of their energy as heat, and CFLs, which are closer to 75%, LEDs waste only 5-20% of their energy to create heat, converting a massive 80-95% to light.[4]

LEDs make use of miniature heat sinks to absorb the little amount of heat they do produce and dissipate it into the surrounding environment. This keeps them from overheating and burning out – and this is particularly important as thermal management is the most important factor in successful LED performance over extended periods of time. The higher the operating temperature for an LED, the quicker the light will degrade and therefore the shorter the usable life will be.

This low heat generation and effective heat management enable LEDs to produce more Lumens (light output) per Watt, making them a far more energy-efficient source of light.

To demonstrate this, let’s imagine a scenario where we have two 700 Lumen light bulbs operating for 8 hours a day: a 60 Watt incandescent bulb, and a 10 Watt LED bulb. The average cost of electricity per kWh in the UK is 14.37p, but let’s round up to 15p to make the maths easier![5]

For the incandescent bulb, 60W for 8 hours is equal to 0.48 kWh per day, or 175.2 kWh for a year. With the average cost of electricity per kWh at 15p, this results in a yearly expenditure of £26.28.

For the LED bulb, 10W for 8 hours is equal to 0.08 kWh per day, or 29.2 kWh for a year. This totals a cost of just £4.38 a year!

factoring in the potential costs of replacing incandescent bulbs as they burn out – better for the environment, and your wallet as well! And as the technology continues to improve, more Lumens will be able to be produced per Watt, making LED lights even cheaper to run.

It is ridiculous to think that the money we’ll save on our electricity bills will pay for the installation of the LED system in no time at all. I couldn’t be happier with the new system but in a way, I can’t help thinking about how the system would already have paid for itself if we’d pushed ahead with the project sooner.

Manager, Eastham Motors
LED lights offer business owners fantastic savings on their electricity bills
A well lit car showroom

High Brightness

LEDs produce directional light, which reduces the need for reflectors and diffusers that can trap light. Other types of lighting are omnidirectional, so up to 78% of the light produced by the bulb needs to be reflected to reach the desired direction.[6] In some cases, over half of the light produced by the bulb doesn’t even leave the fixture!

This makes LED lights more suitable for a wide range of industrial uses, such as: streetlights; parking garage lighting; outdoor and walkway lighting; modular lighting; task lighting; and recessed downlights, commonly used in a wide range of commercial and office settings, as well as in domestic spaces such as kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms. LED lighting is often used in home automation systems too to complement the energy efficiency the automated systems can offer.

LED lights offer the best efficiency savings to commercial premises
An LED lighting system built into the ceiling of a large space

LED light bulbs are capable of producing extremely high brightness, too. Some bulbs are rated above 5500 lumens, which is equal to a 350 watt incandescent bulb! Due to the efficiency of LEDs, you would only need around 40 watts to achieve this brightness.

Bulbs can reach a Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) of over 5000 kelvin – close to daylight. For reference, most incandescent bulbs are around 2700K, and of course, there are many LED bulbs in this CCT range too.

LED lights look fantastic in domestic spaces
A collage showcasing different domestic LED lighting uses

And the light doesn’t have to be white either: different combinations of coloured LEDs or phosphor coatings can be used to change the colour of the light emitted, resulting in a wide range of coloured and even colour-changing bulbs on the market. Compared to incandescent bulbs, which need gels or filters to alter the light colour and which can burn or fade over time, this is a huge advantage.

Drawbacks

There are, of course, a few drawbacks to LED lights as well. Firstly, LEDs are often the most expensive type of light on the market. Although we’ve outlined above the long-term cost benefits of LED lights, it is important to be aware of the greater initial spend to switch over to LEDs. One way of softening the blow could be to swap a few lights over initially, then swap out other bulbs over time as they stop working. This will end up costing more long-term, since you’re delaying the switch to higher-efficiency LED bulbs, but will enable you to spread the cost of the changeover. The ideal solution to this problem though, is to find an electrician offering interest free payment as the savings from your electricity bill will help cover the payments for the LED lighting system installation.

Quality LED lights will look fantastic in residential settings for many years
Domestic LED spotlights

Some people also claim that they just don’t like the quality of light produced by LED lights. Whilst it’s true that some LEDs produce a cool, bluish light, the best LEDs are practically indistinguishable from traditional incandescent bulbs. The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) measures how well a light source accurately reveals various colours. Although some LEDs can hit over 90, most score in the mid- to low-80s. This means that, at present, LEDs cannot match halogen or incandescent bulbs in this respect, as they typically reach the high-90s on the CRI.

Following on from this, the consistency of colour and light output can also be an issue – but normally only if you’re mixing different LED brands and types, as the CRI score of LED light bulbs can vary more with LEDs than with traditional bulbs.

Another drawback of LEDs is that the quality of bulbs can vary. As the market is currently self-regulated, a CE mark on a bulb doesn’t necessarily mean that the bulb has passed all of the required quality checks. For that reason, it’s always worth checking some independent reviews on whatever bulbs you’re considering just to make sure that its quality is up to standard, or sticking to brands you trust.

You can also use the Energy Star logo as a mark of quality. Bulbs that have earned the Energy Star have met specific requirements ‘designed to replicate the experience you are used to with a standard bulb’, including checks on colour quality, light output and distribution, and long-term testing to ensure products can back up their lifetime claims.[7]  Energy Star products have a 3-year minimum warranty requirement too, so if they’re not up to scratch, you can get your money back.

Finally, in some very rare cases, certain LED lights have been known to interfere with DAB radio signals. Once again however, it’s a case of just checking out some reviews for the bulbs you’re considering.

Example Use Case

Eastham Motors have recently upgraded to LED lights in their car showroom with Ecolux. By installing LED panels and flood lights throughout the showroom, as well as a light timer system for when the showroom is vacant in the evenings, Ecolux has helped Eastham Motors save over £2,500 a year on bills!

As business we couldn’t be happier since we’ve switched our lighting system over to LEDs. The bottom line is that the new lights showcase the great cars we have in our showroom perfectly and  we’re saving money on bills from a system that very soon will have paid for itself. On top of that, however, it is something we can be proud of. Our business is now much more environmentally friendly, which is becoming increasingly important these days.

Manager, Eastham Motors
Commercial spaces of all sizes that have to showcase products are perfect for LED lighting systems
A car showroom with LED lighting installed

Summary

Hopefully this case study has shed some light on any misconceptions you may have had about LED lights. As well as long-term cost-saving benefits for your home or business, LED lighting offers a range of other advantages compared to other types of lighting solutions, and have a far smaller impact on the environment, too. If you’re looking to upgrade to LED lights, why not get in touch with Ecolux!


References

[1] Circuit Globe (date unknown) ‘Difference Between LED and Diode’. Retrieved from https://circuitglobe.com/difference-between-led-and-diode.html.

[2] Sarah Levison (date unknown) ‘Light Bulb Average Rated Life Time Hours’. Retrieved from https://www.thelightbulb.co.uk/resources/light_bulb_average_rated_life_time_hours/.

[3] Julia Bosco, PA-C (5 December 2019) ‘Lumen Depreciation Simplified’. Retrieved from https://blog.lightup.com/lumen-depreciation-simplified/.

[4] Daniel Janzon (16 September 2020) ‘Comparing Light Bulbs By Heat Emission’. Retrieved from https://www.scientificlights.com/home/comparing-light-bulbs-by-heat-emission.

[5] UKPower (date unknown), ‘Compare energy prices per kWh’. Retrieved from https://www.ukpower.co.uk/home_energy/tariffs-per-unit-kwh.

[6] Premier (14 April 2016) ‘Total Lumens vs. Delivered Lumens’. Retrieved from https://www.premierltg.com/total-lumens-vs-delivered-lumens/.

[7] Energy Star (date unknown) Learn About LED Lighting’. Retrieved from https://www.energystar.gov/products/lighting_fans/light_bulbs/learn_about_led_bulbs.

Images

LED – From Wikimedia
Halogen – Halogen Light Bulb by abeldb from the Noun Project

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