As the Industry changes due to new technologies, it is important to keep yourself up-to-date in order to make educated decisions. First and foremost, let’s review the various light sources we all have been accustomed to. Basically light sources have belonged to the following families: incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and HID (High Intensity Discharge). Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the acceptance of the LED family for very good reasons.
When comparing light sources, it is important to understand some basic terminology used in the Industry. With new labeling laws, packaging now tells us much about a particular product. But we need to know what all this means. So let’s get started……
The Industry refers to light bulbs as Lamps. Lamps are installed in fixtures or luminaires of many types, shapes, sizes, etc. The range is quite extensive from a simple bare socket or table lamp in the home to an industrial luminaire used in high bay lighting or street lighting or stadium lighting, etc. Fixtures are designed to meet the lighting requirements of the application. An example would be track lighting typically used in retail stores to illuminate products for sale, or linear fixtures with fluorescent tubes to illuminate office spaces. The list goes on and on. Product labeling gives us very useful information such as: wattage, lumens (light output), rated life, color temperature, etc. When trying to replace an otherwise in-efficient lamp with a more efficient type, you need to look at these characteristics. Look for a better Lamp that has basically the same size, shape, base, and most important light output (lumens). You may find that newer more efficient types deliver the light output and quality of light you have now, but consume much less wattage. That’s a winner!
When making good choices, one must consider the total Cost of Light (particularly for commercial users). That would include the cost of the Lamps, the labor to install and replace burned out lamps, and of course the electrical cost to operate the system. It has been calculated that (in general), the cost of Lamps is only about 4% of Total Cost of Light, Labor cost is about 8%, and operating costs (electrical costs) represents about 88% of Total Cost of Light!! If that surprises you, lets go back to the days of the 4-foot T12 fluorescent tube used for many years in typical office lighting. It was a 40-watt lamp, T12 (1 1/2″ diam), with typical rated life of about 20,000 hours. It probably cost only a few dollars to purchase and just a few more dollars to install and/or replace, BUT….at an average Utility rate of $.10/KWH), it will cost another $80.00 to operate over it’s average rated life of 20,000 hours. OK, what is the formula we used? Simple….watts consumed x hours burned / 1000 = KWH consumed. KWH x $.10 = total electrical cost. You can put your calculator away, here it is: 40 watts x 20,000 hours = 800,000 watt hours divided by 1,000 = 800 KWH. 800 KWH x $.10 = $80. Note that actual Utility rates vary, use your “average” utility rate. Starting to get the picture? Lamp manufacturers introduced years ago an energy saving 4-foot tube that only consumes 34 watts rather than 40 watts. So, what’s the big deal about saving only 6 watts? Well….6 watts saved over 20,000 hours is 120 KWH saved or $12.00 PER LAMP SAVED. Now we are seeing the light!….(just a pun). Today’s linear fluorescents are typically only about 32 wats (the new T8 or 1″ diam tubes). So, the savings continue to grow. The simple truth is: for a slightly higher cost of today’s energy saving lamp products, you save BIG TIME on energy costs. With LEDs as an example, you can easily reduce your electrical costs by more than 50%. Now that’s good news!
Regarding those families mentioned above, think about overall efficiency or LPW (Lumens per watt), similar to miles per gallon in your automobile. With today’s more efficient light sources, you can get the light you need while consuming less energy. Incandescent is rather in-efficient, halogen (although it is still an incandescent product) offers better efficiency than standard incandescent. Fluorescent offers even more efficiency in addition to most HID sources. It all depends on your application. LEDs are now taking over due to extreme long life, excellent color, low energy consumption and are available for most lighting applications. We trust this information helps you make good choices.
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