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  • Christian Domingo

LED Lighting: An Eco-Friendly Alternative

Updated: May 8, 2023

Many properties – whether commercial, industrial, or multi-residential – currently use fluorescent lighting. If you’ve ever sat in an office and felt an overwhelming sadness at the dull, flickering lights above you, chances are you’re already familiar with fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs produce light by converting ultraviolet emissions with a fluorescent coating inside each tube, which contains mercury. One of the primary draws of fluorescent lighting is that compared to incandescent lights, fluorescent bulbs last longer and are more effective at lighting larger areas. In recent years, however, the harmful effects of these bulbs have come to light (sorry) and many are seeking better alternatives when considering lighting options for their property.

Enter LED (light emitting diode) lighting. LED bulbs use two electrodes – generally made from silicon or selenium – through which electricity flows. Not only are they longer lasting, more energy efficient, and more cost-effective, they are also simple to retrofit into older properties (especially with help from your friends at EAMA).

LED-ing the Charge

One of the main draws of LED lighting is their energy efficiency compared to incandescent and fluorescent lightbulbs. LED lights use approximately 50% less electricity than traditional bulbs, and as they are mounted on a flat surface, they also aim their light in a specific direction, unlike traditional bulbs, which illuminate in 360 degrees. Furthermore, while LED bulbs are more expensive up front (costing roughly twice as much as halogen or incandescent lights per bulb), they last significantly longer. While an incandescent or halogen bulb may only last one year, a high-efficiency LED bulb will last at least 10, cutting down replacement costs in the long-term. Fluorescent bulbs, in particular, are also prone to aging prematurely through overuse (for example, when the neighbourhood raccoon decides to run laps in front of your motion sensor light), while LED bulbs have no such handicap.

Which means you can continue your marathon training in peace, little guy.

Another factor in the eco-friendliness of LED lights is their durability. In addition to having much longer lifespans than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LED lights also thrive in the cold – at lower temperatures, traditional bulbs require higher voltage to start, and the light they emit is often less intense. LED lights, in contrast, have been proven to be at least 5% more effective at -5°C compared to 25°C, and are an excellent choice for lighting outdoor spaces such as parking lots and signage, as well as within refrigerated display cases, freezers, and other cold spaces. They are also largely resistant to breaking since they are mounted onto a circuit board rather than put in a glass or filament enclosure, like traditional bulbs.

Choosing the Right LED Bulb

Now, while LED bulbs can save you up to 90% on energy usage compared to other lamps, there are a few things to look out for when considering the shift. The industry standard for LED bulb failure sits at 3%, but many property managers have experienced failure rates of up to 20% and higher. If you own a building that requires a lot of lighting, the cost of replacing these faulty bulbs can add up very quickly.

One of the main reasons for this higher failure rate for some property managers is that not all LED bulbs are made equal. Quality matters when it comes to the materials used in these bulbs, and it's important to ensure that you're choosing the most high-quality bulbs to mitigate any potential failures to your property's lighting. The most obvious thing to look out for is counterfeit bulbs, which look nearly identical to reputable brands, but lack their attention to patents, trademarks, or safety. There are other factors to consider, however, such as:

  • The weight and cost of the bulb, which are indicative of how well it can dissipate heat. Heavier and more costly bulbs are often more effective than the cheaper, lighter options.

  • The size of the bulb's chip. Larger chips provide more light and good stability against variations in electric current, while smaller ones are more unstable and produce less light.

  • The lamp's paint or powder coating. Take a close look - is the paint or coating poorly applied? If so, this probably means that other components in the bulb have been roughly installed as well, which will significantly impact the bulb's effectiveness.

It's also a good idea to ask the manufacturer about how they test their LED lamps and bulbs. While some LED manufacturers have very thorough testing procedures, often lasting for up to 10 days at a time, there are others who take a more lax approach, which is evident by the quality of their products. Finally, keep an eye on the temperatures you'll be installing your LED lights in. Bulbs shouldn't be placed in tightly enclosed fixtures unless they've been approved, since lamps can fail when the heat can't be properly dissipated. Additionally, the hotter a room is, the earlier your LED bulb might degrade since they emit light that decreases considerably due to time and temperature.

So what should you look for when you need high-quality LED lights?

First, verify the bulb's UL mark. UL, which stands for Underwriters Laboratories, verify that the LED has been tested, inspected, and validated for safety. Do note, however, that these marks are easily fabricated by counterfeiters, so you should always be sure to double-check the free UL Online Certifications Directory to be sure. Another factor to look at is confirming that the bulb has Design Lights Consortium (DLC) qualification. DLC is a non-profit organization that helps prevent LED lighting failure through their specialized performance testing.

By checking for these two key certifications, you can be sure that your LED bulbs will live up to their promise, decreasing cooling loads, reducing replacement time and costs, lowering the risk of electric shock during replacement, and of course - saving you up to 90% in energy costs.

Case Study: Square One Parking Garage

In September 2018, EAMA helped facilitate a major retrofit at the Square One Shopping Centre, refitting the P5 parking garage with 1200 T5 25w LED lamps to replace the 54w fluorescent lamps. Robin Stafford, the property manager at Square One, reached out with concerns about flickering, humming, and low visibility within the parking area, and with the help of EAMA's team of electricians, the building was able to be completely overhauled with flicker/hum-free 4000k white lights, as well as an increased visibility of 3200 initial lumens. In addition, the new LED lamps have a lifespan of 50,000 hours (5.7 years), a massive jump compared to the 20,000 hour (2.3 year) lifespan of the prior fluorescent lamps.

Overall, this retrofit helped Robin save 58.6% on monthly energy costs, totaling over $40 thousand in annual savings and a lifetime energy savings of over $230 thousand.

The future looks bright!

The Takeaway

If you're looking to significantly improve the quality of your property, you should definitely consider retrofitting the building with LED lighting. While the high upfront costs of LED bulbs (alongside having to figure out how to retrofit all the tube-shaped fixtures left behind by your fluorescent lighting) will likely dissuade some, LED lights are undoubtedly the more effective option in the long run.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix

Of course, we don’t expect everyone to have the tools and knowledge to start tearing down their ceilings and fiddling with the wiring behind the walls. That’s why EAMA hires the best and brightest (sorry, again) electricians to help usher our clients into the future of energy-efficient lighting. If you’re interested in retrofitting your commercial, industrial, institutional, or multi-residential property, give us a call today and see why property managers all over Ontario are putting their trust in the EAMA standard of excellence.


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