Do LEDs Offer Non-Energy Benefits?
Shepherdstown, WV – The non-energy benefits of lighting have long been the focus of the National Lighting Bureau. Established in 1976, the not-for-profit lighting-information service was created to advocate for “High-Benefit Lighting®”; i.e., energy-efficient lighting that is designed to increase worker productivity, reduce visual errors, increase safety, improve security, and attain a variety of related benefits with significant bottom-line values, as documented in an array of case histories available free on the Bureau’s website. But what about light-emitting diode (LED) lighting? Can it provide benefits that legacy-lighting technology – incandescent, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting – cannot? “Yes, but…” seems to be the answer given at the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum by the three experts who comprised the “Non-Energy Benefits of LED Lighting” panel:
- Mark S. Lien, LC, CLEP, CLMC, HBDP, LEED BD&C, industry relations manager, Illuminating Engineering Society;
- Craig Casey, senior building science engineer, Lutron Electronics, Inc.; and
- John P. Bachner, executive director, National Lighting Bureau.
EdisonReport Editor and Publisher Randy Reid moderated the discussion, begun by Mr. Casey, who observed that the non-energy benefits of LED lighting range considerably, from “‘human-centric’ lighting to the data that provide actionable information via the lighting-control system.” As for “human-centric” lighting, Mr. Casey commented that lighting has been human-centric from its beginning, but LED lighting creates even more options to enhance human welfare.
Mr. Lien agreed with Mr. Casey’s outlook on lighting’s human centricity, noting that LED light sources can do things that legacy-lighting systems cannot. This is especially the case when it comes to lighting and health, he said, an issue that European nations seem more focused on than the United States. This situation has occurred, in part, because U.S. research-and-development activity is limited by restraint-of-trade statutes and regulations that European nations do not have to deal with. However, as Mr. Lien went on to note, the extraordinary energy-efficiency of LED lighting has encouraged various U.S. lighting organizations to widen their near-solitary focus on energy-efficiency and devote more time and funding to non-energy benefits, such as those related to lighting and the quality of life, lighting and health, and lighting and the Internet of things (IOT). Energy codes, too, are beginning to change, Mr. Lien commented, because the high efficiency of LEDs leaves little room for additional savings, making a continued, sole focus on energy-efficiency unwise.
Mr. Casey agreed that codes are changing, but he added that lighting designers are advocating for even more change. As an example, he pointed out that, in most cases, codes deal with lighting issues principally in terms of horizontal foot-candles, a metric that applies mostly to legacy lighting. Given today’s tools, he said, the metric is so restrictive it could prevent lighting designers from achieving new benefits.
Mr. Bachner noted that the value of even a one- or two-percent better-lighting-induced productivity increase can be worth 100 or more times the value of a 50-percent lighting-energy-use reduction. He also commented that productivity is but one of many bottom-line benefits of better lighting, including the “ripple-effect” benefits illustrated by a shopping-mall case history in the Bureau’s archives.
According to the case history, the mall needed new parking-lot lighting to reduce auto break-ins and accidents. The new lighting achieved those goals, while also lowering insurance costs and reducing the number of expensive, automobile-based security patrols required. More importantly, the new parking-lot lighting made the mall far more noticeable to motorists at night, and established a new sense of safety that made the mall far more of an attraction than it used to be, converting many more passers-by to parkers, browsers, shoppers, and buyers. Overall sales increased considerably and, because the mall’s rental rates were based on retailers’ sales income, the mall owner’s income increased. In turn, increased sales and rental income boosted the mall’s resale value.
Mr. Bachner continued, commenting that lighting-system owners and users can now achieve lighting’s many benefits even more readily, because of the falling cost of LED-lighting equipment and the ability to do more with it. He expressed frustration that business has not sought to achieve more of High-Benefit Lighting’s benefits, acknowledging that a principal reason for this is the difficulty of accurately predicting how much better lighting can improve factors like productivity, safety, and sales. By contrast, he said, lighting designers can predict the value of prospective energy savings almost to the penny, making it easy to establish the cost:benefit ratios most businesses require to justify an investment in better lighting. Mr. Lien agreed, stating that the U.S. needs to work toward a metric or metrics that permit development of reasonable estimates of the dollar benefits to be achieved by taking various actions. Mr. Lien said that progress in the U.S. will continue, especially if more organizations can cooperate and achieve a unified front, particularly in terms of raising money for research.
Watch and listen to the panel discussion free of charge at https://nlb.org/non-energy-benefits/.
The National Lighting Bureau is an independent, IRS-recognized, not-for-profit, educational foundation that has served as a trusted lighting-information source since 1976. The Bureau provides its services to the public free of charge, thanks to the generous funding of the organization’s sponsors: professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, manufacturers, and agencies of the U.S. government, including:
- Current, Powered by GE;
- Forest Lighting;
- Illuminating Engineering Society (IES);
- Imperial Lighting Maintenance Company;
- interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO);
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW);
- Lighting Controls Association (LCA);
- Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.;
- National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA);
- National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA);
- S. General Services Administration; and
- ZLED Lighting.