Making the Switch to LED Lighting
How Better Light Transforms Cities and Commercial Sites
By Greg Dixon
Lighting plays an essential role in a community’s image, setting the tone for residents’, consumers’ and visitors’ experiences. Cities, municipalities and commercial buildings have the opportunity to shape perceptions by offering safer and more attractive environments on roadways and walkways, in parking lots and structures, while increasing bottom-line benefits by switching to energy-efficient LED lighting technology.
LED lighting provides superior light quality and higher color-rendering index (CRI), compared with traditional light sources, resulting in a better visual environment.
Because safety and budgets are top priorities, cities and businesses can see results when switching to more high-performance, energy-efficient LED lighting and reallocating the financial savings to other needs.
With LED lighting often paying for itself in a few years, waiting to make the switch may be costly in the end.
Staying within budget can be challenging, especially when lighting makes up a large portion of expenses. A few years ago, street lighting accounted for up to 40% of a city’s electricity bill, and with a typical street light running 12 hours per day, or 4,380 hours per year, an energy reduction of that percentage is appealing.
LED lighting can help maximize bottom-line needs by lowering energy consumption and eliminating maintenance expenses. It can achieve 50% to 70% in energy savings, and help meet sustainability objectives by reducing energy consumption, light pollution and hazardous waste.
A worldwide shift to energy-efficient lighting in all sectors, such as cities, businesses and educational facilities, would lower electricity demand for lighting by more than 1,000 terawatt-hours, and reduce CO2 emissions by 530 million tons annually.
With the urban population on the rise – a UN-projected increase of 2.4 billion people during the next 35 years – there is growing demand and need for cleaner and more efficient energy resources.
Many large cities are undergoing or have completed full-city LED upgrades, and many others are in the final stages of planning and implementation to LED adoption.
The City of Los Angeles, for example, owns the second-largest street-lighting system in the nation behind New York City. An estimated total of 209,000 streetlights, or 5,000 miles of lighted streets, consume approximately 29% of the city’s total operating budget.
In 2013, LA installed 8,000 Cree LEDway luminaires and is expected to replace a total of 30,000 metal-halide cobra-head streetlights each year for the next four years.
Some streetlights also feature Cree’s Roam monitoring system to collect and report data such as energy usage and equipment performance. The system can help reduce equipment malfunction, increasing customer satisfaction.
Since LEDs are a more energy-efficient, cleaner light solution, LA expects a 63% energy reduction and $60,000 savings in maintenance, while lowering carbon emissions by an estimated 40,500 tons per year (or the equivalent of taking 6,700 cars off the road).
Benefits of better light
Keeping the city beautiful and inviting is exceptionally important, encouraging travel and visitation. Bright light on roadways and pedestrian paths offer a sense of safety and security. Well-lighted and uniform illumination on roadways and streets assists drivers with wayfinding and better visibility.
Replacing outdated lighting technology on streets and in parks, retail and parking structures and common areas with LED lighting will provide dramatically better visibility for all. LED fixtures generate a warm light where it is needed, unlike conventional light sources that often develop “hot spots” below the luminaire. LED luminaires can improve uniformity and eliminate shadows between fixtures.
Outdated lighting and poorly designed LED fixtures may produce glare, which is uncomfortable light that obstructs vision in parking lots and on roadways. Properly designed LED technology works to reduce such problems. It can also improve the performance of other safety systems, such as video cameras, by enabling clearer images, better contrast and color rendering.
A well-lighted space can also act as a deterrent to crime by eliminating dark areas, and increase pedestrian and driver visibility and awareness within the space. A properly illuminated parking lot or garage can attract customers and enhance the customer experience before entering the commercial or retail space.
With parking structures that run 24/7, and often do not get daylight throughout, it is extremely important to balance the need for vehicle and pedestrian safety, while focusing on bottom-line needs.
Don’t delay – waiting is costly
By delivering a low total cost of ownership with a typical energy savings of 50% to 70% over traditional lighting sources, near zero maintenance costs, and fast payback, upgrading to LED lighting just makes sense.
Leading manufacturers continue to improve LED technology and design, allowing cities and business owners to purchase LED lighting solutions with attractive economics and 10-year warranties, providing ease of mind when making the decision and having confidence in the products they are installing.
LED lighting has drastically advanced, with improved technology, cost comparative products and better light quality. Waiting for the “next big thing” can result in a savings loss.
LED lighting has proven to be the best choice for new and existing installations. The need to lower operating expenses is ever increasing and especially challenging with the unpredictable maintenance costs of incumbent technology.
By waiting to switch the LEDs, cities, municipalities and businesses are losing out on energy savings that can drastically impact operating expenses and energy bills, while improving the environment.
The economics of LED lighting solutions have reached the point where waiting for existing technology to fail reduces the potential lifetime savings. Why wait?
Greg Dixon is Product Portfolio Manager, Outdoor Area & Parking Decks, at Durham, NC-based Cree Inc., Contact him at reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org