Although the subject is still hotly debated and some retailers sincerely believe fluorescent lighting is preferable to LED lighting, they are generally misinformed. An LED lighting system has a measurably better performance over fluorescent, and its cost savings advantage is significant.
How LED Lighting Outperforms Fluorescent Lighting
Purely as a lighting system, LED outperforms fluorescent in more ways than just one:
- LED provides a directional light source. This means that LED lamps emit light in a 110-degree pattern (beam) rather than in the 360-degree pattern of T8 fluorescent lamps (replacement for the old, four-foot traditional fluorescent lamps). Only 30% of the fluorescent light hits its target; 70% is lighting the fixture. LED lights, therefore, provide 70% more light than fluorescent.
- LED fixtures are easily dimmed compared to fluorescents. Fluorescents dim poorly at greater cost.
- Fluorescent lamps are glass and contain small amounts of mercury; LED lamps are mercury-free and glass-free and so there are no disposal or safety issues with them.
- LED lamps do not emit light in the non-visible light spectrum (UV). This is significant because UV light causes color to fade (e.g., fabric, signs) and also causes eye fatigue and eye strain. Fluorescent T8 lamps, however, do emit UV light.
The Cost Savings Begin Immediately after LED Installations
The lifespan of LED lamps are unbeatable. Although T8 fluorescent lamps are much cheaper initially, the cost of replacing them soon makes them more expensive than LED lamps that carry a five-year warranty on which you can depend.
The frequency with which LED lamps are turned off and on do not affect their lifespan, but fluorescents burn out more quickly in relation to the number of times they are turned off and on. In about 14,500 hours, the output of a fluorescent lamp is at the end of its life with a light output of 60%; it takes an LED lamp 50,000 hours to reach its end of life with a light output of 70%.
Fluorescent lights use heat to generate light—like incandescent lamps—but LED fixtures use energy to produce light only, and the lamps remain cool and do not add heat to a room. Not adding heat means air conditioning units and cooling systems do not have to work as hard or use as much energy.
With an average of $0.11 per kilowatt hour charged for electricity in the U.S.—and much higher than that in many areas—the cost of lighting represents the lion’s share of a retailer’s electricity budget. LED lighting lowers operating costs significantly over time, and the initial cost of switching is regained within two to five years, depending on the store.
Lighting Designers Can Help You with Economical LED Upgrades
Since it is the initial outlay of money that causes retailers to delay making the upgrade to an energy efficient LED lighting system, it is useful to find a lighting designer or electrical engineer to help you make economical decisions for the following reasons:
- They will be familiar with the grants and rebates available for electrical upgrades and how to qualify for and obtain them to lower the cost of switching
- They will assemble any electrical permits and inspections required, and will be familiar with the local electrical compliance codes
- They will help you create a budget and timetable for changes
- They will understand the quantity and types of lighting needed for your particular business
In early LED days, the big concern was the cost and the length of time it would take to recoup the initial outlay. However, there have been great strides in LED technology and it is now possible to purchase retrofit kits that allow easier and less expensive ways of switching to LED lighting. In comparing LED versus fluorescent lighting, there is really no contest – LED is superior in every way.
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