Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What comercial property owners need to know about LED Lighting

Some facts about LED lighting that can save your investment.

LED’s are the latest and greatest they are seen by some as the solution to many of world’s energy problems. Everyone wants one, and if you don’t have one already …. Well then there must be something wrong with you.  Jump in the wrong direction just to be on the bandwagon and you may be disappointed with your results.

This article outlines the facts you may not know about LEDs and hopefully will help introduce you to this new world of lighting.  Follow up articles will expand and explain in detail the things you should now.

First, before we begin, it’s important to know what an LED is and is not.  The LED is not another ‘light bulb’.  It is a ‘Light Emitting Diode’ developed primarily by the semiconductor industry, not the lighting industry.  From a ‘lighting industry’ standpoint, the LED has been called the most disruptive advance since the fluorescent ‘bulb’ was introduced in the mid-thirties !  In fact, when speaking about the technology, it is more appropriate to refer to Solid State Lighting (‘SSL’) because, in fact, the ‘LED is only one component of any fixture or system.

Although there has been much attention and too many LED products for the residential market, neither the technology or most providers in that market are able to produce a cost effective high performance product that really uses the technology to its fullest.  It will come, but in the meantime, there have been too many poor performing LED products which have caused the market to be ‘wary and weary’. 

LED bulbs, the kind that use your existing fixture and “just drop in” are generally not a good idea. The primary reason is simple: virtually all the ‘bulbs’ in your home or office have a socket and base used since the days of Edison (thus it’s called the ‘Edison based socket).  LED / SSL technology does not require an Edison socket and in fact, trying to utilize the LED in the ‘older’ products is fraught with problems.  Additionally, they do not have the exceptional life of a true LED fixture and their costs are prohibitive.  Existing fluorescent technology often out preforms this option.  By example where you have an “LED T8 lamp replacement’, the ballast of the existing fixture must be removed, disabled or bypassed before you can use a “drop in LED”.  The cost of doing so can equal the cost of installing a new LED fixture.

With a “drop in” replacement you get all the cost in an SSL/LED but without the exceptional life and energy savings.

Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to focus on the commercial market, and ignore the interim solution that is the “drop in” replacement.

So, first, as we started above, LED for commercial lighting is really part of an SSL system - more than one part is involved.  They need a power supply to operate and they work on direct current not alternating current like a screw in bulb.  So SSL/LEDs need a “driver” to make the LED work by converting the power form AC to DC.  A single driver can power multiple emitters.  The emitter is the part that glows puts out the light.

The power comes in to an LED fixture and the “driver” converts the power to a form that the emitter can use then the emitter glows puts out light.  Since the Driver can have 30+ parts, and can be the most expensive part of an SSL/LED fixture it is extremely important that the company manufacturing / supplying the ‘driver’ pay special attention to the quality and performance of the many components included, because the ‘weakest link’ could cause  the LED to stop working. In fact, it is imperative that any warranty on the LED / SSL fixture automatically include all components – especially the driver.  This is a major change because ‘older / legacy’ lighting products usually separated the ballast / power supply warranty from the fixture.

Who makes the driver, and the warranty on the driver matters as much as the warranty and life of the LED emitter itself.

SSL / LED lighting systems (when properly designed) have exceptionally long lives.  Properly designed and manufactured, SSL systems can reduce energy 50% or more and achieve significant reduction in maintenance coasts and replacement ‘bulbs’.

We have included a case example with some of the details after the article.

Before selecting an LED solution take the time to learn about the company you are buying from and the product that they are supplying.  Our next article will include a guideline for vetting LED components.  There are three thousand+ LED lighting manufactures and presently only about two dozen or so quality firms. Be careful who you choose. There is a lot of junk on the market.

SSL / LEDs don’t burn-out (called “catastrophic failure”) like the traditional lamp or screw in bulb you are used to. Over time, LEDs will fade (called lumen depreciation).  SSL/LEDs are judged by a standard which DOE and quality manufacturers have set.  This standard can range from “70% at 50,000 hours to 86%+ at 50,000 hours giving the systems an effective life of 5 – 10 years.

This is called the L70 rating for an LED fixture, and it is provided in hours.  The ratings for each LED lighting system vary and need to have been determined by a qualified laboratory.  You will often see the “life” of the LED fixture provided on the box, this is not the L70 rating and is a meaningless number. While a quality LED will not change color over time, a poor quality one will. 

The L70 is NOT the life of the LED it is the point in hours of use that the emitter is still providing 70% of its original output.  While LEDs are considered to ‘fail’ when their output drops below 70% of original lumen output, this is a much longer life and higher standard than any ‘legacy’ lamp / bulb. All legacy lamp life, as measured in hours, only represents the half-life of the number of units purchased.  A later article will explain “life” vs. L70 rating.

In Summary:

·         SSL/LED fixtures out preform the “drop in” LED bulbs”

·         An SSL/LED is a system, it has many part and so the warranty should address both the Driver and the Emitter.

·         Know who’s making all the parts to you SSL/LED, with so many parts it matters.   

·         Much of the savings from an SSL/LED retrofit comes from the saving in maintenance that can equal the energy savings.

·         SSL/LEDs don’t burn out like a screw-in bulb that your use to.  Know how to judge the benefits you will get.

Please feel free to provide your comments and question to DonM@SSCSLLC.com

SSCS provides EPAct and other consulting services, to help you in achieving credible and affordable option by accessing all the tax advantages available and combining them with the best financial model.

One of the best ways to introduce our services is by a case example, using specialty financing and EPAct tax benefits SSCS took the ROI on a 1.5 million square foot parking structure’s relighting project from three years to cash flow positive $150,000 in the first year.    A happy property owner, and VERY happy lighting design/instillation