Before energy-efficient lights, light bulbs used to be easy – all you needed to do was pick a wattage and screw them in.
These days, though, it’s a bright new world out there when you’re trying to decide what type of energy-efficient lights will work best for you.
At Equity, we’ve already converted many of our properties over to energy-efficient lighting, saving over $1 million each year in energy costs along the way. Part of this is due to the installation of LED lights, which use significantly less energy and last a whole lot longer than conventional bulbs – in fact, their lifespan is often estimated since it would take 6 years of continuous testing to get an accurate number. The catch is that this lighting costs, comparatively speaking, a lot more money upfront, so it’s important that you know what to look for before you shell out your hard-earned cash. And as with any new technology, it’s a good idea to stick with brand names or stores that you know will accept returns.
Brightness = Lumens
First off, the unit of measure has moved from wattage – which measures energy – to lumens, which measures the amount of light the bulb will produce. With the old incandescent bulbs, the higher the energy use, the brighter the light. The bulbs today are so much more energy-efficient that’s no longer the case.
Color in Kelvin
You’ll also want to note the Kelvin number, which measures the relative “warmth” of the light. Many of the issues with the first generation of energy-efficient lights were related to the color and feel of the light, which some people felt was too cold. To get that warmer, yellow glow, look for lights that are marked between 2,700 – 3,000 degrees Kelvin.
Living Large with LEDs
There’s also more than one type of energy-efficient lights. LED lighting is run off a programmable chip, so there are all kinds of possibilities, as the video below about the Phillips Hue system certainly shows. According to the New York Times, though, LEDs currently cost about 20 times more than incandescents, putting them out of reach for some. CFL bulbs are the curly ones that have been readily available for some time now, and while limited in some ways (there’s no dimming and the light can feel harsh to some), they’re still comparatively energy-efficient and long-lasting.
This handy chart on EasyEarth.com makes clear the difference between the three types of available lighting. The bottom line is LEDs, with a projected lifespan of 50,000 hours, and CFL lights, with a projected lifespan of 10,000 hours, present a huge total savings – in both energy usage and dollars – over incandescents.
Want to see how this works out in real life? Equity’s projects are done on a large-scale basis, but the same principles apply: longer bulb life + less energy use = big savings. Improving the lighting in areas like parking garages, where lights are on every day, all day, can make a huge difference.
Here’s what the interior of an Equity parking structure in Boston looked like before LED lighting was installed:
During this project, Equity reduced the wattage (remember, that’s the energy used by the bulbs) by 50% while roughly doubling the level of light at the same time.
If LED lights can make this big of a difference in a garage, imagine what they can do for your own space!