LED light

LED lighting retrofit

How to get the greatest value
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
By Scott Williams

As facilities across Canada seek to lower energy costs, solid-state lighting can help give every building a sustainable future. LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is arguably the most profound change the lighting industry has witnessed since the invention of electric light itself. It is a fundamentally new kind of lighting, using new principles, materials and means of control.

LED lighting supports sustainable design in several ways. It uses less energy than most other types of lamps, lasts longer (which means less frequent replacement and, resultantly, reduced waste), generates virtually no heat, is mercury-free and can be housed in special luminaires designed for easy disassembly and recycling. In life cycle assessments, LED bulbs have a smaller environmental footprint than either incandescent or compact fluorescent technology. This is largely attributed to their energy savings as the electrical consumption during the usage phase of a bulb represents nearly 95 per cent of its entire energy impact in a cradle-to-grave analysis.

LED efficiency
Conventional lighting products are quickly losing market share to LEDs simply because of their comparative inefficiency. Traditional incandescent lamps create light by heating a thin filament to a high temperature; more than 90 per cent of the energy produced this way is lost as heat. Incandescent bulbs also have a much shorter life span. Fluorescent light from CFL bulbs is created when an electrical current passes though mercury vapour, exciting the phosphor coating to produce ultraviolet light. Compact fluorescents (CFLs) have a longer life cycle than incandescent lamps but the life cycle is still, in some cases, one-tenth of an LED bulb.

Maximizing the value of an LED retrofit
The benefits of LEDs almost seem too good to be true and, in some cases, may be. Rapid growth in LED technology has led to corresponding growth in the number of manufacturers and suppliers, and buying “bargain” products now could cost a facility manager more later.

To get the greatest value out of a LED lighting retrofit, ask about a manufacturer’s product testing, quality control and sustainability practices. Then integrate these seven considerations into the purchasing process.

1. Look for manufacturers with a long-term commitment to LEDs. Specify products from companies that have a successful track record with new and retrofit LED applications, and that offer a broad portfolio of LED solutions in terms of shape, beam spread, colour temperature and lumen output.

2. Determine how the manufacturer rates the life of the LED lamp and ask what type of lifetime warranty is offered. Many manufacturers rate life based on the rating of the LED chip itself but the lifetime of the LED lamp is dependent on many factors, not just the LED chip. Once the chips are incorporated into the luminaire, system performance changes. Life ratings that follow the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) of North America’s guidelines are based on the entire integrated system of the lamp.

3. Ascertain the light output in delivered lumens of the LED lamp. As is the case with life ratings, some manufacturers publish lumens based on the LED chip. It’s important to ask for delivered lumens of the lamp, not lumens of the LED chips.

4. Determine whether specifications are based on direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). Some LED manufacturers rate their MR16 lamps, for example, based on AC current. This delivers an exaggerated spec on light output; in the real world, they run off DC current.

5. Check for dimmer compatibility. It’s important to be sure the LED, driver and dimmer are compatible – ask the manufacturer for a dimmer/controls compatibility list.

6. Get a written warranty. Also, ask for documentation to support spec claims on light output and colour temperature such as whether the manufacturer publishes a maximum range of colour variation. LEDs can have large fluctuations in colour temperature, resulting in visible colour differences from lamp to lamp.

7. Buy only quality lighting products. Choose products that have been independently tested and that comply with regulatory requirements such as C-UL and Energy Star. Ask for evidence of IES photometric files.

Scott Williams is a former editor of Lighting magazine. This article was adapted from a piece he wrote for Philips Lighting.

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