Are The Days of Changing Light Bulbs Coming to an End?
In February of 2011 our resident Lighting Expert, Kurt Beres, RA, LEED AP BD+BC, IES, wrote a blog posting titled "WHY MAINTENANCE IS NOT A FACTOR WHEN DISCUSSING ENERGY-SAVING LIGHTING ALTERNATIVES." However, given the changing world in which we live and the constantly evolving technology that it offers, Kurt felt it was high time to expand his insight on the subject. Read on as Kurt shares exciting lighting updates and industry facts.
I still agree with the kernel of what was written 2 1/2 years ago, but the beauty of a blog is that it is a snapshot of your thinking giving you the ability to reconsider, recant and update your thinking as times change. This is one of those moments as a fundamental shift has occurred in the specification of lighting.
It is with certainty that I make the following statement "LED's are upon us, and they change lighting as we think of it and specify it." Whoa! You might be shouting, LED's aren't new, and that is true (Fun Fact: The first fixture I specified with LEDs was at the turn of the century way back in the year 2000). But that's the dirty little secret about LED's, it wasn't until 2011 that an LED Can Light delivered as many lumens as a comparable Compact Fluorescent Can Light with the same or better power consumption. Anyone who purchased an LED Can Light before then had unknowingly purchased a fixture whose life expectancy was predicted to be shorter then the equivalent fluorescent can and used more power delivering the same amount of light. But LED development is moving at warp speed. To give you an idea how quickly the LED world has changed, 18 months ago we specified a parking garage LED fixtures using 118-watts that put out more light then a 150-watt metal halide source with a life expectancy of 10 years. One year later from the same manufacturer we specified a new parking garage LED fixture using 68-watts that put out more light then the 118-watt LED fixture and has a predicted life expectancy of 40 years.
Think about what it means for a light to last 40 years? How many jokes started with "how many "blanks" does it take to change a light bulb?" In the joke some insanely large number would be part of the punch line, but TODAY with an LED lamp source the answer is none, zero. Based on the technology available today it is possible our children might go half their lives without ever seeing a light bulb needing to be changed.
And while lamp life and lumen output for LED's has increased, costs have plummeted. The LED parking garage fixture mentioned above is only marginally more expensive then the metal halide fixture it replaced. When I wrote my original posting two years ago maintenance wasn't a factor because we were talking about lamps that cost $5 to $50 and were randomly replaced every 2 to 10 years. For most users, yes there was a need to replace a lamp, but since failure was random and the lamp life so short, to include a maintenance factor when projecting a cost savings was mythical and difficult to quantify. But LED fixtures with a projected lamp life of 40 years maintenance is a factor because when something lasts decades, there is no maintenance. instead of replacing bulbs an owner is replacing fixtures as the style changes.
Imagine a large warehouse where the lamps seem to never need to be changed. Currently we have fluorescent and metal halide fixtures where the lights will randomly reach their end of life sometime in the next 2 to 10 years. The LED fixtures that will replace it will obtain 25 years, easily. These fixtures will have more in common with an eternal flame, as it is possible -- and in the not-to-distant future we will have lamps with a projected life greater than the average person's lifetime. Food for thought.
Experiential Design Lead
Chelsea has a B.S. in landscape architecture from The Ohio State University. Since March 2018 she has been traveling the world with her husband, staying for a few weeks in each place, acquiring an appreciation for different cultures' food, traditions and design.