“In your home, lighting may be 10 percent of your bill. But in an office building it’s probably 40 percent, and so if you reduce your lighting energy consumption by a large fraction, the savings will be huge,” said James Brodrick, who leads the DOE’s solid-state lighting program.
A fact sheet from Brodrick’s office says this about LEDs: “In the coming decade, they will become a key to affordable net-zero energy buildings, buildings that produce at least as much energy annually as they use from the grid.”
The technology is advancing quickly, and costs will continue to drop, Brodrick said. The DOE tests LEDs and sets performance and efficiency guidelines under its Energy Star program.
“There’s an enormous and exciting potential, but we have a long way to go before we see anything besides directional lighting,” said Jeffrey P. Harris, the vice president for programs at the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit group that promotes energy efficiency.
Even so, LEDs already are used to light offices, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
The DOE predicts that LEDs will have better performance capability than fluorescent lighting in the next few years, and that they’ll continue to improve after that. They’re now comparable with fluorescent fixtures in efficiency, and the DOE says its Energy Star LEDs last two to five times longer.
Chuck Swoboda, the chairman and chief executive officer of Cree Inc. of Durham, N.C., a leading company in LED lighting, said that commercial use of LEDs would drive down costs, and that a lower initial cost plus the value of energy savings would make them attractive. “It’s not that different from the argument of why you should put insulation in a home,” he said.
LEDs have other advantages:
They can be dimmed
don’t emit heat
don’t contain mercury — unlike compact fluorescents
and can produce warm-toned light.
Swoboda said that Cree was focusing on commercial sales now because that market was bigger than the residential market and commercial users got quicker paybacks from reduced energy and maintenance costs.
In April, Cree announced that it had a new LED PAR 38 bulb designed for stores and museums that uses 12 watts of power instead of 50 to 90 watts for a halogen bulb.
“What happens with LEDs is people think of them as things that go in your cell phone or things you put in the car dashboard, but they don’t think of it as truly a lighting product,” Swoboda said. “And so this was the latest innovation to kind of go out and show people you can pretty much do anything you can do in an incandescent bulb technology or in fluorescents with LEDs.”
Felicia Spagnoli, a spokeswoman for Philips Lighting Electronics North America, said commercial users could make up for the higher costs of LEDs in as little as a year or two.
“We can address environmental concerns at the same time we improve the quality and use of light,” she said. “Many people when they think of doing good for the environment think it means going without or having lesser quality, but that’s absolutely not the case with LEDs.”
Philips is working on many kinds of LEDs, including one to replace a 40-watt incandescent bulb that’s scheduled to be available next year, she said.
Derrick Hall of RE/Construct Inc. in Asheville, N.C., said that residential customers weren’t asking for LEDs because of the high upfront cost. Still, he’s hearing of some nonresidential customers who are looking into LEDs for the energy savings.
LEDs are much better than other lighting options, Hall said. The quality of the light is “far superior,” they offer big energy savings and there’s no cost to society for dealing with mercury, he said. Mercury, a neurotoxin, is found in small amounts in compact fluorescent bulbs.
Swoboda said that some of the biggest commercial users for LEDs now were fast-food restaurants, because LEDs’ light makes food look appealing.
A McDonald’s that opened in July in Cary, N.C., is lit almost entirely with daylight and LED lights. Ric Richards, the franchise owner, said the restaurant used 78 percent less electricity than a traditional one.
And the quality of the light?
“Awesome,” he said. “The restaurant has great ambience.”
Richards estimated that the upfront costs of the lighting would be paid back in two to four years with lower electricity bills.
In Washington, the Pentagon is installing LED lights in a large renovation.
Mark Buffler, an official in charge of technology in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said in a report that switching from conventional fluorescents to LEDs would conserve large amounts of energy — 240,000 kilowatt hours annually — and save money on maintenance and mercury disposal.
Look, we all know that light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs save energy. This story clearly shows examples of why LED bulbs are effective in saving companies and people energy costs.