Light up your life

Marcus Brodin, commercial director at Future Energy Solutions (FES), outlines the six key questions to ask when selecting LED lighting.

According to the Carbon Trust, lighting accounts for one sixth of the UK’s total electricity usage. If the government is going to meet its stated targets for carbon reduction – at least 34 per cent by 2020 and a minimum of 80 per cent by 2050 when compared to 1990 levels – the nation’s 1.8 million commercial buildings will need to drastically reduce their energy consumption.

To the rescue

With rising utility bills and growing legislative pressure for companies to reduce their carbon footprints, it is not surprising that a technology that can save money and lower carbon footprints is turning heads. Light emitting diode (LED) lighting has created a seismic change not seen since gas lamp manufacturers witnessed the introduction of the carbon filament lamp. So much so that the global LED lighting market will be worth $25.4bn in 2013, according to a Digitimes Research Special Report.

Understanding the changes being brought about by LED light sources means that the entire value chain now has to engage with a re-education on the basics of light generation and application. Not all LED lighting solutions are the same and in order to get the maximum possible benefit from this technology, it is important to be able to differentiate what’s on offer and make the right purchasing decisions.

The six most important questions to consider when choosing an LED solution are as follows:

• How much should I spend?

Perhaps the biggest barrier to widespread adoption of LED lighting has been its price. However, production costs have fallen in the last few years, leading to a situation where some solutions are now considerably cheaper than others.

When it comes to LED lighting the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ should be kept in mind and the pitfalls of selecting a poor quality product must be avoided at all costs. Premature product failure, poor lumen output, low lumens per watt (lm/W) and inefficient design are just some of the factors that can compromise a lighting scheme. In addition, the knock on effect of having to replace products can quickly have a negative effect on any return on investment (ROI).

There is no definitive answer as to how much should be spent but it's a fair assumption that if you buy cheap, the chances are that you will have to buy twice.

• Where is it from and how important is a warranty?

With the market experiencing an influx of LED lighting solutions from a wide range of manufacturers, it is important to remember that not all products are the same.

The vast majority of low cost and poor quality LED lighting products originate in China and although the country is beginning to address this issue, buyers should still beware. According to Lux Research, China’s LED lighting market will more than double to $7.4bn in 2017, meaning that a significant number of the estimated 5,000 manufacturers there are undercutting their rivals by using low quality components.

Unfortunately, if something goes wrong with a Chinese product, the cost of sending it back from the UK is likely to be prohibitive. Conversely, a product that is manufactured, sold and under warranty in the UK will mean a swifter resolution if there’s a problem.

• Will it do what it says it will do?

There are some bold claims being made for the longevity of some luminaires, so the general advice is to be cautious and don’t take them at face value. When specifying a product the chosen manufacturer should always be asked to provide full photometric and electrical data, as well as conformance certificates to ensure that the product will provide you with the full benefits of your investment.

Ask whether the product has LM79/80 reports to justify the life claims and if there is photometric data to prove that the glare ratings outlined in EN 12464 have been achieved. Although this information can be useful in terms of calculating ROI, be sure to establish whether the tests were carried out in-house or by a reputable third party testing organisation. Results from the latter are always preferable.

One mistake that is often made when assessing the performance of an LED product is to base the light output solely on its wattage. When it comes to LEDs, wattage does not equate to light output. Performance is based on a number of variables including the quality of components and these can vary significantly. It is always advisable to consult usable lumens or lux levels to have a more accurate means of comparison, while lm/W can provide a good idea of a product’s efficiency.

• Does it offer the correct levels of colour quality, temperature and consistency?

Colour rendering relates to the way objects appear under a given light source and is measured using a colour rendering index (CRI) – the maximum value being 100. LED luminaires offer much better colour rendering than other types of lighting technology.

In September 2013 a new European directive, DIM2, came into force and LEDs with a CRI below 80 are now banned from sale in Europe. This step was felt to be necessary because some manufacturers were offering low cost LED products that had very poor colour quality. DIM2 sets minimum performance requirements and has created a more level playing field by forcing low quality lamps from the market.

Equally, colour temperature requires particular attention, as this can lead to an unsightly patchwork of colours across the installation. A good indication of the consistency of colour temperature can be found in the information on the packaging of a luminaire.

• Which accreditations should it have?

A lack of recognised and enforced standards has resulted in a dramatic variation in the quality of products currently on the market.

However, LED luminaires sold on the European market should, by law, carry the CE mark, which is a statement by the manufacturer that the product complies with all the relevant EU legislation, including product safety standards and directives.  

• What level of energy savings and carbon reductions should I expect?

The answer to this question depends on two factors – the quality of the products and how they are configured and used.

One key piece of advice is to validate the output of a luminaire. A 20W bulb might use 25W, which means that any energy usage calculations could be incorrect by as much as 20 per cent. Also, a product that needs replacing after 50,000 hours will result in a higher total cost of ownership than one that last for 90,000, so always factor this in and be realistic.

The energy savings can be highly impressive. For example, FES recently finished Phase 1 of a project for National Car Parks (NCP), which, when completed, will have involved the installation of over 65,000 energy efficient LED luminaires in 149 multi-storey car parks. The use of LED lighting will generate energy savings of over 65 per cent and the effect on the environment will also be significant. NCP’s CO2 emissions will be reduced by 11,000 tonnes per annum and mono-nitrogen oxide (NOx) will be lowered by 248lbs over the same period – this is the equivalent of 16 acres of forest being saved and 11 cars being removed from the road.

For further information please contact Marcus Brodin on +44 (0) 207 908 3921 or email marcus.brodin@feslighting.co.uk

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About Us

Future Energy Solutions (“FES”) is an innovative global green technology company that designs & installs energy efficient lighting solutions for the commercial and industrial lighting market. Future Energy Solutions specialises in targeting customers who currently operate inefficient high intensity discharge (HID) and fluorescent lighting systems, in which lighting forms an essential part of the business’s operations and cost base and provides customers with savings of 65% of their energy consumption.

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The global LED lighting market will be worth $25.4bn in 2013, according to a Digitimes Research Special Report.
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