Understanding the Advantages and Disadvantages of LED Retrofits

Energy and lighting efficiency questions are plentiful on whether or not to make a transition from traditional incandescent lighting systems to LED alternatives.

According to a post at Buzzle, “Energy efficient lighting not only contributes to a better environment but also saves huge energy costs.”

There are few arguments to this thinking except one, the cost. Just switching over traditional incandescent lights to LED lights comes with a significantly price tag, even if the life of the bulbs and the large energy savings they bring are scaled into the picture.

Some large retailers are making the transition. Environmental Leader recently reported that retailer Macy’s (see LED photo to the left) was retrofitting 117,000 halogen-based accent bulbs in its 86 stores with LED bulbs. Macy’s expects the retrofit will reduce the company’s energy consumption by 73 percent. The total cost of the Macy’s (see Environmental Leader photo to left) retrofit was not mentioned, however.

Buzzle provides these considerations for retrofitting, “LED fixtures cost more to purchase than the traditional light sources. There are many factors that contribute to the effective and economic performance of LEDs, so a range of payback scenarios exist. But a lower wattage luminaire significantly reduces the payback period.”

There are three disadvantages to consider about LED systems, “First is its initial cost,”  says Anne Linden. Many people are used to the relatively inexpensive traditional light bulb, and the new LED lamps seem expensive in comparison. However, when you recognize that each lamp has an estimated lifespan of over twenty years, and only uses 5% of the electricity of the so-called “cheap” glass bulb, you can recognize the inherent value of the newer type. And much of that price differential was due to the fact that the technology is so new that companies were recovering their investment in research and development. Prices are already falling considerably as they become more common in the marketplace. And with the ever-tightening drive to economize on energy usage, they will become even more common in newer fixtures available in stores.

“The second disadvantage is the fact that they cannot be used in “regular” screw-in sockets. They require a GU10 socket, or a screw-in GU10 adapter,” says Linden. However, this “disadvantage” may actually have a benefit as a safety feature. Traditional lamps can become cross-threaded and stick in the socket. When you try to use force to remove them, they often break. There is no danger of cross-threading with the GU10 style socket, you just push it in and give a slight twist; thus these bulbs are safer to use.

“Finally, the light from a led lamp is “different” from other lamps. These new LED’s emit a more tightly focused beam, and you may need to do some research to determine what level of brightness you need, as wattage is not an accurate measure for this type. Look to see if the package gives equivalent output ratings compared to the wattage output levels we have all become used to,” Linden concludes.

Led Retrofit technology is becoming more and more popular as a relatively straightforward and simple solution for energy savings.” Toolbase provides this information for better understanding how LEDs work, “A Light Emitting Diode (LED) is a semiconductor device which converts electricity into light. LED lighting has been around since the 1960s… Each diode is about 1/4 inch in diameter and uses about ten milliamps to operate at about a tenth of a watt. LEDs are small in size, but can be grouped together for higher intensity applications. LED fixtures require a driver which is analogous to the ballast in fluorescent fixtures. The drivers are typically built into the fixture (like fluorescent ballasts) or they are a plug transformer for portable (plug-in) fixtures…The efficacy of a typical residential application LED is approximately 20 lumens per watt (LPW), though efficacies of up to 100 LPW have been created in laboratory settings. Incandescent bulbs have an efficacy of about 15 LPW and ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescents are about 60 LPW, depending on the wattage and lamp type.”

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