LED Lighting Technology: Looking to 2011

During the past six months, I have toured many facilities that are testing various applications of LED lighting technology. Although LED lighting technology is improving (and this article will probably be obsolete within one year), we can draw some basic conclusions based on the technology available today. Hopefully, this can guide facility managers to either embrace or avoid LED technology for applications in 2011.

These conclusions are based on data from research divisions of utilities who actively test LED lighting fixtures and many other energy-related technologies to determine their economic feasibility.

Many utilities across the country have “technology application centers” or mini-labs that test and demonstrate energy technologies. If your utility has such a center, you may want to ask for a tour to see the applications of LED with your own eyes. Some utilities also are testing technologies such as food processing and industrial refrigeration equipment, plug-in hybrids, renewable technologies, and industrial applications.

I have toured utility research centers on the coasts, such as Southern California Edison and New York Power Authority, as well as centers in the Midwest (Oklahoma Gas and Electric) and the South (Southern Company). All of these utilities had active programs to demonstrate new lighting fixtures in a variety of applications. Special thanks to Mr. Doug Avery, project manager at SCE, who allowed me to take some pictures of the utility’s testing activities.

LED Technology and Lighting Considerations
As we all know, energy efficiency recommendations that involve lighting must be sensitive to the quality of light that a retrofit will provide. Specifically, the color or “warmth” of the lamp sets an immediate mood for a space, so if you change lights and change the color, you may impact the productivity of the occupants.

The other major consideration is the Color Rendering Index (CRI), which indicates the occupant’s ability to distinguish colors under a certain lamp. Beyond these two criteria, most lighting manufacturers have been trying to develop lamps that give more lumens per watt, have longer lamp lives, and are cost-effective.

LEDs are available in a variety of color temperatures providing “warm” or “cool” effects. Inside offices, homes, and other locations, many people prefer a warm atmosphere with lights that have a color temperature rating of 3500k. 

However, most people prefer a white light for High Intensity Discharge (HID) applications, such as a factory, warehouse, or parking lot. In recent years, the price for an LED lamp that would replace a metal halide lamp has dropped by more than 66%.

Read more about the possibilities of LED in part 2 of LED Lighting Technology: Looking to 2011 >>>