There’s more to LED conversions than just cost savings

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New lighting will increase sustainability efforts and highlight the ambiance at your hotels.

by LARRY MOGELONSKY, P.ENG., MBA

If you’re still using traditional lighting, it is estimated that it’s costing you, on average, 20 percent of your total energy consumption. As the cost of energy increases, this is a good area for generating cost savings.

Converting your property’s lighting to LED (light emitting diodes) is standard practice these days, with numerous benefits beginning with energy savings and reduced maintenance costs. And unlike the curlicue CFCs brought on with great fanfare in the 1990s and the traditional filament bulb predecessors, LEDs are not that simple. There are a myriad of variations, and some technical knowledge is necessary to ensure that your property is outfitted appropriately.

Unlike conventional light bulbs, LEDs don’t really burn out, rather, their output slowly reduces over time. We consider an LED worn out when their light diminishes to 70 percent (the specification will use the term L70) of their original output. Depending upon the temperature and the utilization, this could be 10 or 20 years, which is a very long time compared to traditional incandescent or even fluorescent lighting. For most applications, this means that once installed, you will never have to worry about replacement.

The advantages of LEDs are significant. They turn on instantly and radiate little heat. They are highly directional, giving no upward light, and with proper optics, there is no sideways glare. They have no UV, mercury or toxic gases and are highly resistant to physical shock and vibration. Lastly, they have a long life and this reduces carbon footprint and landfill.

I myself am a guinea pig, having decided to make my new condominium green by full converting to LEDs. The education I received was a real eye opener. Any hotelier who thinks that you can merely unscrew a traditional bulb and insert an LED into the socket is mistaken. There is a lot to learn and it’s best that I acquaint you with what you’ll need to know to make your conversion a success.

In my own case, my education was a combination of theory coupled with trial and error. Suffice it to say that every installation is different and your own situation may dictate changes to your approach.

Let’s set aside manufacturer and costs for a moment and get into the basics of LED specification. It all starts with how an LED saves electricity through generating more light with less electrical current. But, that’s only a start, as with LED’s you also need to address color temperature and color accuracy.

Light Intensity

Lumens is the measurement of light intensity. The highly-focused beams of an LED mean that it is far more efficient at producing light, as all the light output is sent in one direction, versus the omni-directional light emitted by traditional sources. Thus, an LED light bulb of just a few watts can match the output of a 25, 40 or 60-watt traditional incandescent bulb. Ultimately, this lower consumption of electricity (i.e., wattage) is what provides the ongoing energy cost savings.

Typically, your lighting consultant or contractor will match the existing amount of light from your incandescent or fluorescent lighting. Accordingly, I will spare you the details of how lumens are measured.

So just how much are the savings? Look at this simple comparison of just one bulb both generating an equal amount of light intensity:

Bulb Type Incandescent LED
Wattage 60 14
Power consumption/year 6,300 Kwh 1,470 Kwh (77 percent savings)
Typical Lamp Life 1,000 – 2,000 hours 50,000 hours (L70)

 

Color Temperature

Color temperature is described as a method of describing the hue characteristics of light, usually either warm (yellowish) or cool (bluish), and measured in degrees of Kelvin (°K) as a low burning fire would give way to oranges, yellows and all the way up to white hot.

First, a basic reference chart to show you how the Kelvin scale works. Whereas the Kelvin scale is measured from 1,000 to 10,000 (see below), LEDs are available in the center of this range, from 2,700 to 7,000.

Here is what a room looks like with lighting delivered at different degrees of Kelvin:

My personal experience is that selection in the 3,000K range for interior lighting will be the most pleasing. At less than 3,000K, lighting tends to look very soft and whites tend to look muddy. Parking lots typically utilize 7,000K for their intensity. If you recall the office fluorescent light tubes of the past, these two color temperatures correspond with what was commonly referred to as daylight and cool light.

Color Accuracy

Despite these differences in color temperature, not all artificial light sources are equal in their accuracy either. The Color Rendering Index (CRI) measures the ability of a light source to accurately render all frequencies of its color spectrum, when compared to a perfect reference light of a similar type, i.e. color temperature.

This is rated on a scale from 1-100. The lower the CRI rating, the less accurately colors will be reproduced. For reference, an incandescent bulb is a perfect 100.

Not to confuse you with details, the CRI comprises 14 unique scales: the first eight (R1-R8) are for medium saturated colors and the last six (R9-R14) pertain to highly saturated colors (red, yellow, green and blue) as well as complexion and leaf green. Below is an image that shows how CRI results affect the way we see objects, specifically food, where appealing to one’s appetite is particularly important.

When planning your LED conversion, as demonstrated above, there is more to consider than just long-term savings. First, select the color temperature, and then carefully analyze the CRI data on your product selection. Ask your supplier for the complete details of every type of light being selected.

Other Factors

Many local municipalities and several states offer incentives for conversion that may cover a significant portion of your initial costs. The application of this grant money should be reflected into your ROI calculations. In situations of continual operation, it is not unusual to see a capital payout of less than two years.

It should also be noted that many vendors will offer savings-sharing programs, whereby they will fully fund your upfront conversion costs, sharing the cost savings with you over a period of years, typically after a start-up year or two. For those who lack the available capital to make the conversion, this approach offers immediate green status benefits, but is offset by reduced savings returns in subsequent years.

Taking That Next Step: Conversion

If you have not completed your conversion to LEDs, now is as good a time as any to take that step. Production of LEDs have reached their maturity phase, so you can be assured of quality and reliability. There are numerous bulb manufacturers, and most every bulb type that is available as an incandescent has an LED equivalent. A conversion project of this nature will typically require hiring specialists. Your in-house engineering team will want to evaluate vendors and plan conversion timing. Naturally, your finance team will need to evaluate the various approaches in terms of funding and possible energy saving grants.

Remember to make sure that you have chosen the right bulb to meet your guest needs, as both color temperature and color accuracy can play a profound role in ambient room mood and the impression your hotel makes on visitors. And now that you are appropriately armed with more information on color temperature and color accuracy, know that both measurements are only two of the many criteria involved in your move to LED lighting.          ■

Larry Mogelonsky is the owner of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. He can be reached at larry@lma.ca.

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