How LED Technology Has Affected The Commercial Lighting Industry In A Positive Way

It’s not often that something comes along and transforms the lighting industry, but that’s exactly what LED technology is doing. LEDs have been around for more than a half century, but not many foresaw the impact they would eventually have on lighting. The first person to recognize that LEDs had a future in the industry was Nick Holonyak, the engineer that invented the red LED in 1962. His prediction was considered maverick at the time, but 50 years later, the technology can be found just about everywhere.

Lighting is a primary source of energy drain in the business world, so any step forward in efficiency and reliability is an important one. In this way, LED technology is poised to be the most revolutionary development in the field since the production of fluorescent lighting.

How has LED technology affected the commercial lighting industry in a positive way?

There are almost too many answers to count. The truth is, most lighting technology is unsophisticated. Incandescent produces light by running an electrical current through a filament, which causes it to glow as it heats up. Fluorescent technology works by sending an electrical current through a gas mixture, exciting it and causing it to produce fluorescence, with the help of a phosphor coating. Most other fixtures are variations on these themes, like halogen and sodium vapor lamps.

LEDs are entirely different. Exciting gas or heating a filament wastes a great deal of energy, as neither are efficient processes. LEDs, though, operate using modern semiconductor technology. Semiconductors function at the atomic level, exchanging electrons and harvesting the energy that is released as a result. It’s easy to see how this process offers superior controllability and efficiency. And most of the issues that once held LEDs back have either been solved or are well on their way.

But how has an emerging focus on LEDs helped out business owners? This is how the technology has made a difference:

  1. Efficiency – As already noted, LED lighting is designed for maximum efficiency, and there is no other fixture on the market that can match it in this regard. For years, the dominant form of interior commercial lighting has been T8 fluorescent tubes. T8 tubes are prized for their improvement over previous forms of fluorescent fixtures, mostly in terms of energy savings and size reduction.
    So if LEDs are to truly ride the next wave of commercial lighting, they have to beat T8 fluorescent tubes. And they do just that. Replacement T8 LEDs require about 30 percent less wattage to emit the same level of illumination, resulting in immediate cost savings. The upfront cost of an LED bulb may be higher, but the gulf in efficiency more than makes up for it.
  2. Directional lighting – It’s not just about how much wattage needs to be input into the fixture. It’s also about how much light actually reaches its intended target.
    This is a noted problem for fluorescent technology, as it emits in a 360 degree pattern. Great for lighting up the ceiling – not so great for lighting up the stuff that matters. In fact, a T8 fluorescent tube only sends about 30 percent of its emitted light toward ground level.
    LED fixtures do not suffer from this issue, as they are built to be directional in nature. This means that they can be aimed without the need for reflectors, which add to installation cost and fixture weight. Where a T8 fluorescent emits in a 360 degree pattern, an LED replacement tube confines its emitted light to a 110 degree angle, greatly reducing waste as a result.
  3. Controllability – It’s standard operating procedure for property owner to tie controls to their lighting systems. Occupancy controls and dimmers are two primary examples, and it’s rare to see a large commercial property install a lighting system without them. The case for occupancy controls and dimmers is obvious, as it reduces waste and keeps the light at a comfortable, effective level.
    But T8 fluorescent tubes are not easy to control. They can be dimmed, but it is expensive to add on the necessary controls and they only function reasonably well. Occupancy controls are even tougher to tie to T8 tubes because they force the light to switch on and off frequently. This rapid on/off switching is something that wears fluorescent fixtures out, cutting their lifespan short.
    LEDs are built on solid-state circuitry, so they are much easier to control and meter, which makes them an ideal partner to dimmers. And LEDs are unaffected by on/off switching, so property owners can opt for some aggressive occupancy controls without fear.
  4. Longevity – If cost reduction is the goal, then the fixture’s longevity also has to be baked into the equation. And no surprise, LED is the optimal fixture in this category as well. T8 fluorescents have long been considered the gold standard for longevity’s sake, providing 30,000 hours of light on average. For the sake of comparison, incandescent bulbs average about 1,200 hours, halogens close to 2,500 hours, metal halides around 20,000 hours and high-pressure sodium lamps about 24,000 hours.
    LEDs, though, blow these numbers out of the water, averaging 50,000 hours minimum. It’s not unusual for an LED light to function for 100,000 hours before requiring replacement. This added lifespan is clearly a bonus when considering maintenance costs, as an LED system may go years without needing attention.
    Another advantage of LEDs is that, unlike every other lighting technology, they decline in lighting quality very slowly. Among commercial lighting experts, it’s well known that most fixtures won’t get close to their listed lifespan because they begin failing well before they are supposed to burn out. This difference might accelerate replacement schedules by up to six months or more. However, LEDs are designed to buffer against this frustrating phenomenon and reliably produce the amount of light that they are supposed to.
  5. Safety – Until now, the focus has been on economy, but LEDs are the safest lighting option available. T8 fluorescents are made with mercury, which is a major environmental hazard. LED fixtures are not.
    Other lighting technologies emit heat as a part of the process, and this represents a burn and fire hazard. LED fixtures, because they are so efficient, emit close to zero radiant heat.
    Other lighting technologies cannot tolerate impact forces, typically shattering when exposed to them and creating a laceration hazard. LEDs can be outfitted with shatterproof glass without affecting lighting quality, so accidental drops don’t produce any health risks.
    With LEDs, property owners can feel good about saving money, preserving the environment and protecting their employees.

There is no doubt that LEDs are the future of commercial lighting. Every day, more and more business owners make the switch to LED technology. With its impressive resumé, there is no better alternative.

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