Switching Your Business to LED Lighting

One ‘bright’ but often overlooked emissions factor for small businesses is lighting. Changing the light fixtures your business uses is a simple but impactful way to reduce costs and your carbon footprint. 

In commercial buildings in the US, lighting accounts for 17 percent of electricity use. The Climate Group estimates that a global switch to energy efficient LED technology could save over 1,400 million tons of CO2 (roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of Russia) and avoid the construction of 1,250 power stations. Clearly, this single improvement can go a long way in preventing pollution and climate change. 

3 Steps to Reduce Lighting Emissions 

Small businesses looking to lower emissions can switch to LED lighting retrofits in three easy steps: 

  1. Look for a state or utility rebate program that offers financial incentives for making the switch to LEDs. Many programs provide free consultations through partner installers. In addition to a cost analysis, be sure that your partners discuss factors such as color temperature, color-rendering index (CRI), and electronic ballast compatibility in the consultation phase. 
  2. Have the service provider develop a lighting inventory to document the location, quantity, type, model number, and wattage of each lamp. This will help quantify the baseline power demand and electricity consumption in your facilities and allow you to prioritize the lamps and fixtures to replace. This can be completed by your facilities maintenance team or a service provider. 
  3. Finalize your budget for a lighting retrofit project, considering the overall projected return on investment as well as your sustainability goals. The service provider can take care of the rest! 

Choosing the Right Light Bulbs 

In making the transition to LED lighting, your business will need to make new light bulbs part of your procurement list. Knowing which choice of light bulb is best for a green facility retrofit starts with understanding three important features of the different technology options: brightness, efficacy and lifespan. When choosing a light bulb, these are the terms you’ll need to know: 

  • Brightness is measured in lumens–the more lumens, the brighter the light bulb.
  • Efficacy describes the ratio of light output (in lumens) to energy input or power consumption (in watts). The ideal light bulb from an environmental perspective therefore has a high lumen, low wattage count. 
  • Lifespan is typically measured in hours. LEDs typically have a rated life of 50,000 hours, while incandescent bulbs only last 8,000 hours.  

Let’s compare these features for three common types of bulbs: incandescent light bulbs (ILB), compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), and light emitting diodes (LED).

ILBs and CFLs produce comparable lighting, but CFLs produce the same amount of lighting for one fifth of the energy. Because CFLs require less power, they not only reduce energy consumption costs (kWh) but also overall energy demand within a facility (kW). “Peak demand” charges can often be a significant portion of an electricity bill. Because CFLs save both energy and money as compared to ILBs, CFLs are the clear winner of this comparison. 

What about LED lights? LEDs may have a higher upfront cost than CFLs, but they also have up to ten times greater lifespan, making them cheaper in the long run. Additionally, LEDs are cool to the touch unlike CFLs, because little to no heat is wasted by LEDs. This can actually reduce cooling costs in larger facilities. LEDs edge out CFLs due to their longer lifespan, greater efficacy, and lower lifetime maintenance costs due to fewer burnouts and replacements. 

If you haven’t already considered an LED lighting retrofit, it should be high on your list of capital budget items for the year.