Ready, Set, JUMP? Is it time to switch to LED?

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Ready, Set, JUMP? Is it time to switch to LED?

 “When do I make the jump to LED?”
As a lighting and controls designer, I’ve been asked that question by countless facility managers. It doesn’t matter whether they are asking about big-box retail, convenience stores, healthcare facilities, distribution centers or commercial operations – they all want to know when LED lighting will be right for them. 
While the question is always the same, the answer depends on a number of factors. To help sift through these variables and determine the best time for your organization to upgrade its lighting to LED, consider these five questions: 
1. What type of facility is it? It’s important to first think about how your facility is being used and how that may have changed over time. 
Examples where LED makes sense for certain markets include:
• Retail facilities. Lighting plays a crucial role in showcasing product displays and representing the brand, so frequent outages are not
an option. 
• Industrial/manufacturing facilities. Dangerous working conditions are safety concerns, and servicing lamps puts technicians in danger. Also, a facility that used to be for manufacturing but is now being used for storage has much different lighting needs than it originally
did, and a complete redesign might be your best energy decision.
• Commercial operations.  State agencies and local municipalities across the country are setting stringent energy emissions requirements for large commercial buildings.
• Healthcare facilities. Patient care and lab areas require high levels of visual acuity.
• Exterior applications. Literally left to the elements, incumbent technologies struggle because of form factor or temperature considerations.
Bottom line: Be able to identify the types of activities that take place in your facility and the importance of lighting in doing those activities.
2. Do you care about “payback” or “total cost of ownership?” The answer is probably “yes,” as in you would say that you care about both metrics. In my experience, unless the total cost of ownership (TCO) is telling a vastly different story, most customers focus almost exclusively on payback. 
LED broke through the TCO barrier fairly recently on many types of projects, but for the foreseeable future – say, the next two to three years – LED solutions may have a bit longer payback than non-LED ones. There will be certain instances where that is not the case, but generally speaking, fluorescent will pay back more quickly than LED.
3. Where is the building? Facility location determines the electric utility. This helps identify energy rates and incentive opportunities. Operating a facility where energy rates are low is a great thing, but it’s easier to justify an energy-saving lighting upgrade in an area with high energy rates. The project simply delivers more financial benefits.
Say you have one facility in Connecticut and another in Louisiana. While all other things about these facilities are equal, energy rates in Connecticut are probably at least double that of Louisiana. So looking at energy rates alone, you can expect to see an identical project in Connecticut pay back in half the time as that project would in Louisiana. 
You also need to consider incentive opportunities. Utility incentive programs tend to be the strongest in the Northeast and West. This could mean even better news for that facility in Connecticut. However, somewhere like Washington state, which typically has both low energy rates and strong rebates, could be a hidden gem of a project.
That’s why project prioritization by building location can make a massive difference. Not only can LED incentives significantly improve payback, but as utility companies start to shift away from fluorescents and
move to LED incentives, the payback period for fluorescent solutions are lengthening, making them less attractive for a quick return on investment.
4. What’s your existing lighting? HID lamps, especially in areas with high energy rates, began filling recycling bins in the 2000s. While there are still a lot of HIDs out there ready to be upgraded to more efficient and effective LED lighting, enough time has gone by for even those who did convert from HID to fluorescents to benefit from another conversion.
5. Does your company have sustainability initiatives? For many years, only a small segment of organizations chose LED for reasons outside of corporate sustainability initiatives. Today, we’re nearing a tipping point between LED price and efficiency. As costs decline and efficiency rates – which soar beyond fluorescents – standardize, we finally see LED as a mainstream solution.
What better way to meet sustainability initiatives than to use the most energy efficient lighting technology available today? Cutting your kilowatt-hours in half by going from fluorescents to LED makes an instant, significant impact that definitely delivers on your organization’s sustainability goals.
So, are you ready to jump? LED manufacturers hope you are. 
But before you make that jump alone, consider involving a lighting expert that offers a turnkey service approach to help you successfully execute your lighting retrofit and ensure it delivers the maximum value. 
New LED technology is hitting the market daily, and incentives come and go. Having a trusted partner helps you navigate the process, know when to best make the jump to LED, and ensures that you are well-positioned to leap at future opportunities. 
Tony Johnson is Energy Management Collaborative’s Technology Manager. Check out his Twitter feed @EMCTechTweets.

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Tony Johnson
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