Why LEDs are Poised to Light the Future

Why LEDs are Poised to Light the Future

The LED lighting revolution is well underway, yet in many ways it is really just getting started. It’s been more than half a century since LED lights were invented, but even the geniuses behind the engineering could not have guessed that the future belonged to LED technology.

Today, LEDs are rapidly replacing all other bulbs in every application imaginable, but replacing older lights is only the beginning. LED fixtures are poised to rework how we think about lighting, from an efficiency, appearance, and even health standpoint.

How LEDs Helped Phase Out Incandescent and Fluorescent Lighting

For more than a century, Edison’s most impactful invention – the incandescent bulb – has provided the world with warm illumination, and fluorescents have provided larger commercial spaces with reliable (albeit unattractive) illumination.

But time is up for these outdated lighting options, which pale in comparison to LEDs in several ways. Here is some insight on how LED technology made its way to becoming a frontline lighting option:

  • LEDs have an unbeatable efficiency advantage – The topline benefit for LED lighting has always been its energy efficiency. Early on, it was clear that LED lamps could improve facility efficiency, but this advantage has become more pronounced with time. Today’s LED lighting products can achieve luminous effectiveness ratings of 170 lumens per watt, and manufacturers believe LEDs with 200 watt-to-lumen ratios will be available soon.In fact, some experts believe that LED lights could eventually achieve luminous effectiveness ratings in excess of 400 lumens per watt, but it’s not clear just yet on whether there will be a market for those.

    The point is, LED bulbs are so efficient because of their underlying engineering, which uses semiconductor technology to transform electricity to illumination at the atomic level. While other lighting technologies rely on metal filaments or pressurized gasses to emit light, LED fixtures represent the power of modern engineering.

    For property owners, this overwhelming efficiency advantage promises a rapid return on investment and compliance with toughening efficiency regulations.

  • LEDs minimize operating costs for facility owners – LED’s other primary cost-saving mechanism is its minimal maintenance design. The typical LED light lasts for 50,000 hours before it’s time to consider replacement. With improving energy efficiency metrics, LED fixtures are improving in lifespan as well. It’s not difficult to see a future where LED lights regularly provide 100,000 hours or more of reliable illumination. And during their lifespan, LED bulbs need almost no attention from maintenance crews, providing the ultimate install-and-forget lighting option.With fewer replacements and less maintenance to budget for, facility owners can recoup their investment faster.
  • LEDs can be adapted for a much larger range of applications – An impressive, but often overlooked advantage of diode engineering is its scalability. LEDs can be manufactured in a huge array of form factors, including microscopic diodes that can be integrated into clothing.LEDs are unlocking designer and installer creativity in ways that would have been unexpected just five years ago. They can already be integrated into a range of surfaces and materials, with no visible bulb, fixture, or wiring interfering with the final look.

    For businesses, LED’s versatility means an expanded range of applications that can reduce costs and boost visual impact.

  • LEDs offer precision controllability – LEDs are far more compatible with modern lighting controls than older technologies. The implications here are vast, but for facility managers, the immediate result is better energy efficiency, security, and productivity.Dimmers, timers, photocells, and occupancy controls can all be easily attached to LED fixtures, and this is only the start, as we’ll address in a bit.

Why LED Lighting is Taking Over Commercial Spaces

No matter the application, LEDs provide better efficiency, versatility, and controllability. Commercial properties obviously benefit from these factors, but there are additional reasons why LED lighting is taking over commercial spaces.

Survey data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) drives this point home. In 2012, only 9 percent of commercial buildings were fitted with LED lighting equipment. In 2018, that number had jumped to 44 percent, with only fluorescent lighting still ahead of LEDs (though fluorescent lighting did drop in popularity during the same timespan from 84 percent to 68 percent).

When the EIA’s newest survey data is available within a couple of years, it will likely show what lighting experts already know – that LED lighting is now the undisputed lighting leader.

In addition to LED’s impressive efficiency, reliability, and performance, there are a few reasons why LED lighting technology is dominating commercial settings. They include:

  • Government incentives and regulations – Energy efficiency means businesses pay less for their lighting. It wasn’t too long ago that companies were dedicating up to 40 percent of their utility costs to lighting. This number is quickly trending down and it’s likely that lighting costs will represent less than 10 percent of a commercial building’s utility expenditures year-over-year.That energy efficiency is also relevant for regulatory reasons. Incandescent bulbs are already becoming difficult to find among lighting suppliers, and most T12 fluorescent tubes are following suit. The reasoning behind these regulatory waves is to improve overall lighting efficiency among commercial facilities, and it’s a pattern that companies should anticipate going forward.
  • Access to less expensive LED retrofit products – The upfront cost of a new LED lighting solution has been a hurdle in the past, but numerous retrofit options are now available to commercial facilities. These retrofit LEDs are available in a comprehensive range of fixture designs (tubes, panels, etc.) and can be used with existing lighting infrastructure. With retrofit fixture options available, companies can enter the LED lighting market without committing as much upfront.
  • A boost to worker productivity and safety – LED lighting emits in a full spectral range, akin to natural sunlight. Our bodies seem to adjust best to this type of light, as LED lighting solutions are often accompanied by a worker productivity boost. That is what recent research shows, and though the boost was minor, it was cumulative among workers, so companies with larger facilities can reap significant productivity bonuses from LEDs.Along that line, workers tend to be more alert and comfortable in the presence of LED light. This can improve worker attention and focus while on the job, which correlates with increased safety.

Three Ways LED Technology Will Transform Urban Lighting Solutions

LED lighting’s victory isn’t limited to buildings. It’s also poised to transform how cities and municipalities deploy their lighting resources. We’re still in the early stages, but there are exciting LED lighting concepts on the near horizon – concepts that we may see deployed in the next several years. Three of them include:

  • Smart LED lighting controls and sensor networks – LED’s extensive controllability is yet to be fully leveraged, but cities are getting closer. Smart controls, for example, can be integrated into street lighting and used to dim an attached LED streetlight, power it on or off, change its color, tell it to strobe, amongst other interesting things.With these controls in place, streetlights can respond to people or vehicles in the vicinity and only output at full intensity as needed – further improving efficiency. These features can also be used to point out alternative traffic routes and direct first responders to emergencies.
  • Networked monitoring and remote configuration – LED street lighting systems can also be remotely monitored and managed from a central location, giving utilities granular control over their resources.For instance, a networked lighting solution can send an alert back to home base when a fixture’s output dips below a certain level. Maintenance crews can respond before failure and ensure no interruption in lighting.

    LED lighting systems can remain modern with regular updates to fixture firmware. These updates will be remotely pushed over from a central location, ensuring the entire system remains up to date.

  • Minimal (or zero) glare fixtures – Light pollution is an emerging concern, for humans and the environment. Our ever-expanding cities are pumping out so much illumination that it’s interfering with wake/sleep patterns, migration patterns, and blotting out the night skies.Older lighting technologies had to answer for these issues, but modern LED fixtures are directional to the point where they can be precision-aimed and shielded to minimize uplighting. This same approach can be used to minimize glare and ensure lighting solutions only illuminate what should be illuminated.

From Novelty to Gold Standard, LED Technology is Lighting the Way to a Better Future

LED lighting has captured headlines for decades, so the ongoing lighting revolution may not be getting the attention it deserves. What is clear, though, is that LED technology is changing the way lighting professionals design, manufacture and implement lighting solutions.

That means LED lights are not just poised to light the future – They’re bringing the future of lighting to people, businesses, and cities everywhere.

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