Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bright Ideas: Focus on LED Technology

LED Technology Is the Key to Future Smart Buildings
Cost and functionality have traditionally been two big hurdles for the widespread use of LED lighting technology in commercial buildings. With technical improvements and increasing awareness of LED energy efficiency benefits, there has been some limited adoption in parking and exterior applications.

Nevertheless, the convergence of building automation and information technology that is transforming the facilities management industry -- and helping define the smart buildings market -- presents a significant opportunity for deployments in LED (light emitting diode) applications.

Smart buildings are defined by integrated controls and automation that optimize how equipment operates to manage costs and improve efficiencies. Lighting is one of six key smart building technology segments, as outlined by IDC Energy Insights, that enable building systems to respond to internal policies, weather, or even utility price signals to balance the occupants' needs, in this case for lighting, and business objectives.

We've outlined three distinct benefits a business can reap with a smart building lighting system. Moreover, when the lighting technology is a LED, the benefits are amplified and illustrate an opportunity for investment that can trump the push back on upfront cost.

Energy Efficiency: LEDs have long been touted for their superior energy efficiency benefits in comparison to other lighting retrofit options. This benefit is counterbalanced by the challenge for consumers to incur a significant cost premium.

The industry continues to evolve with innovation improvements in chip and driver technology, the components engineered to deliver light, are helping drive down this pricing challenge.

Even more, when integrated into a smart building lighting solution, the automation and controls of the LED system amplify energy savings potential by optimizing lighting in response to daylight and occupancy.

Operational Efficiency: The energy savings generated by an LED system can be quantified in terms of a reduction in demand and illustrated in real dollar savings by comparing utility bills.

A smart building LED system also generates significant operational improvements, but these benefits are often referred to as reduction in soft costs because they are more difficult to quantify due to the link to behavioral changes.

The operational savings come by giving facilities managers greater visibility into how their equipment is operating and identifying key problems to help direct maintenance efforts through analytics that recognize when equipment is failing.

LEDs last far longer than traditional lighting and can lower the total cost of operation for a building. In addition, they offer superior technology for extending energy efficiency benefits through dimming.

Corporate Benefits: The enhanced energy savings generated by using LEDs help building owners meet strategic greenhouse gas emission reduction, corporate social responsibility and sustainability goals. The energy conservation that generates these benefits is inherent in LED technology and enhanced by building automation and control architecture for energy demand.

So what needs to happen to see widespread adoption of Smart Building LED solutions?

The challenge today is to promote a shift in the decision-making paradigm over investment opportunities for lighting retrofits. A total cost of ownership perspective on investment opportunities is an important shift in thinking for promoting the utilization of smart building solutions including LED retrofits. This framework will enable decision-makers to account for the overall system benefits including operational savings and corporate business goals generated by smart building technology.

Overall, smart building LED solutions represent a mature energy management strategy for building owners looking to drive down costs and streamline operations and maintenance. Increasing awareness of the value of sophisticated energy management systems and technology innovations emerging from the LED industry will make such solutions an increasingly viable investment for a growing audience.


LEDs Perform Brilliantly in Consumer Reports Tests, CFL's Stumble.

LEDs have a lot to offer... for a price. Unlike compact fluorescents, the light-emitting diodes in Consumer Reports' latest light bulb tests brightened instantly, even at frigid temperatures, and turning them on and off frequently didn't affect them. That test killed most CFLs. And there's no mercury in LEDs, making cleanup easier and safer if a bulb breaks. But you'll pay for those advantages. The tests found that not all LEDs shine.

After 3,000 hours of testing Consumer Reports found some LEDs earned near perfect scores, but also found dim bulbs, ghastly light color, and LEDs that don't cast light in all directions. So choose from the light bulbs recommended in the ratings - or buy Energy Star-qualified LEDs, which must meet stringent standards that are independently verified.

And if you're concerned about the bigger picture—the environmental impact of energy-saving bulbs—LEDs have a greater edge over CFLs, according to a recent report from the Department of Energy.

The study looked at the energy and environmental effects of manufacturing, assembly, transport, operation, and disposal of LEDs, CFLs, and incandescent bulbs. LEDs had a significantly lower environmental impact than incandescents did. The main reason cited was that incandescent bulbs consume so much electricity that to generate all that energy substantially affects the environment, making them the most harmful to the environment. Look at it this way. Watts indicate energy use and to get about the same amount of light output, you can choose a 60-watt incandescent, a 14-watt CFL, or a 12.5-watt LED. Now consider that there are an estimated six billion light bulbs installed in American homes.

LED prices are dropping, but most that were tested cost between $25 and $60 without rebates. Even so, a $25 LED can save you about $130 over its 23-year life, compared with an incandescent. Consumer Reports concludes that the advantages of LED's significantly outweigh the price.