The Past, Present, And Future Of LED Lighting
- Published: Wednesday, 09 May 2018 10:17
Lighting retrofit projects are becoming more common as property owners seek more advanced lighting solutions that offer both cost efficiency and operational flexibility.
While upfront investment costs have long been a major barrier in undertaking such projects, the long-term energy savings that typically offset these costs are becoming more widely recognised.
What’s more, advancements in technology mean lighting is no longer just a practical necessity, but is increasingly being recognised as a key factor in health and wellbeing, productivity, and interior design.
Lighting: It’s not what it used to be
Lighting technology has come a long way in recent years, but few innovations have been as significant as the humble LED light bulb. The invention of the LED bulb dates back to the early 1900s, but it wasn't until the 1970s that LED bulbs became a commercially viable product, and only in recent years have LEDs become the go-to bulb for commercial and residential property owners alike.
Up until recently, LEDs have had a mixed reputation. On the one hand, LEDs present many benefits over their traditional counterparts, most notable energy efficiency: LED bulbs offer energy savings of up to 50% over fluorescent tubes, and approximately 80-90% over traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs. Additionally, the average lifespan of an LED bulb is roughly 50,000 hours, meaning modern LEDs last around 2-3 years longer than traditional bulbs, resulting in significant reductions in maintenance costs over time.
However, historically one major drawback of LEDs has been the light output, which up until a few years ago was harsh, blue, and generally very unforgiving. Thankfully those days are gone, with modern LEDs now able to produce light from either end of the colour spectrum, from warm whites to vibrant reds, and everything in between. Another major issue that has prevented people from investing in LED technology was the limited dimmable range the bulbs offered. Nowadays however, the light levels of most LEDs can be adjusted right down to as little as 5 or 10 percent, providing ultimate control over illumination.
Funding an LED retrofit project
A major barrier that puts many people in undertaking an LED refit is the initial investment. There’s no escaping the fact that LED bulbs are generally more expensive to purchase per bulb in comparison to traditional alternatives. The investment, however, is usually repaid very quickly through energy savings and the need for fewer bulb replacements.
In scenarios where the budget is tight, or the property is particularly large or complex, upfront investment can be even more of an issue. In these situations, a retrofit project can be approached in phases, focusing first on the areas which use lighting most frequently, and are therefore the most power hungry. Savings achieved through this first phase of LED implementation can be used to fund the next phase, and so on. Approached in this way, an LED refit project can become almost self-funding.
The future of lighting
Lighting isn't just about illumination anymore, and LED is paving the way for some potentially life-changing innovations.
Smart lighting, for example, has seen huge growth in recent years as homeowners recognise the benefits of being able to control their lighting remotely, using apps on their smartphones, or even their voice. This technology allows for fully customisable experiences which can be adjusted to reflect mood, the time of day, or simply as a fun way to impress guests. For homeowners who are looking to keep up with the latest trends and technology, smart lighting is the next step to take.
Another major technological innovation which is on the cusp of going mainstream is Li-Fi (Light Fidelity). In most simple terms, Li-Fi is a way of wirelessly transmitting data through light waves in visible light sources. Li-Fi offers a range of key benefits when compared to Wi-Fi, most notably, it’s reported to be 100 times faster than Wi-Fi and a lot more secure. However, the major downside of Li-Fi is that once the lights go off, so does the internet connection.
Li-Fi is very much still in the early stages of adoption and its potential may not have been fully realised yet, but as homeowners, landlords, and developers seek to stay up to date with the latest technology, Li-Fi will become an increasingly attractive proposition.
Make the switch to LEDs
Switching to LEDs does not need to cost a fortune nor does it require lots of disruption to a property, however it does need careful consideration. Anyone considering an LED retrofit project should first seek advice from an experienced lighting expert, who will be able to advise on the best approach based on the specific project objectives and available budgets.
Michael Eccles is Technical Service Manager at Lyco. Regularly advising on complex lighting projects - including LED conversions within international restaurant chains - he has developed an unrivalled methodology for delivering LED conversion projects with a transparent payback model. For more information visit https://www.lyco.co.uk/led-lighting.html