A growing number of managers are taking a closer look at advances in LED technology in their efforts to capture some of that efficiency.
“LEDs are the difference, with the different retrofit kits as well as actual upgrades when people are redoing spaces,” Schonour says. “Going to an LED system becomes a much bigger energy saver and is much more appetizing as something that people are looking to jump on quickly.”
Managers would be wise to approach LED products and their many potential benefits carefully.
“The LED comes in with a superhero cape, like it’s going to solve all your problems,” Schonour says. “It lasts forever, the prices are coming down, and it’s low-energy. But the people who are providing that information aren’t letting you know that, by the way, you also need to know X, Y, and Z.”
The careful research also should include discussions with manufacturers about the performance life of any particular LED.
“One question that’s really a hot topic is understanding how to measure how long your LEDs are actually being used,” she says. “There is a useful life that is associated with these boards, but the smarts behind the boards aren’t usually counting down that life. It’s kind of up to the facilities people to monitor that use.”
Schonour also warns managers to be careful in specifying LEDs, given the rapid proliferation of the products in the last few years.
“Not all LEDs are equal,” she says. “In fact, very few are equal because the systems are a combination of different parts. Without the same kind of driver made by the same manufacturer and driving the same board. If you have (one manufacturer’s) board in both fixtures but they’re run by different drivers, there are going to be differences in those products. And if you have the same housing but with different guts inside, just because it’s LED doesn’t make it something you can cross equally.”
She also urges managers to gather as much information as possible about their facilities, lighting systems and components, and advances in lighting technology, primarily related to LEDs and their long-term performance.
“All of the other issues and nuances about specifying the right kind of LED products is where we need to do the education,” she says. “Often, managers don’t realize things like which components are going to fail first, how you handle when the components do eventually reach the end of life or useful output in the case of LED boards.
“A lot of managers are not asking us the questions we basically have to tell them to ask us, ‘How are you going to plan to relamp or re-module this LED fixture? What happens at the end of its L70 life?’ That’s a question that’s really going to affect them. Things don’t last forever. It’s eventually going to get too dim to use, and there needs to be a strategy in place. Those are the kinds of questions we end up presenting to them.”
One resource managers should strongly consider developing or obtaining is a detailed report on the existing and potential lighting systems, which can provide the financial basis on which to make the most appropriate decision for both facilities and organizations.
“The best tool that we can offer is a life-cycle cost analysis to show decision makers what their existing system is and does, what it consumes,” she says. “It provides a profile of the maintenance that’s required for those systems and what happens when those things need to be changed. Then we can compare it with a couple of different options for systems. A good life-cycle analysis can clearly show if there’s going to be a meaningful change going to that kind of technology.”
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