The market for light-emitting diode (LED) products and technology is more attractive than ever because of energy-conservation concerns and lower maintenance costs. Until now the cost wasn’t attractive enough for broad appeal.
LED lamp prices are on the decline, and these lower prices have strained manufacturers who struggle to find cost-cutting to supply LED technology at a competitive price. However, the overall market demand appears lucrative.
“For commercial buildings, the shift to LEDs has been the most dramatic in retrofit projects where older bulbs are being replaced specifically to improve efficiency,” said Jesse Foote, senior research analyst, Navigant Research. “This change is happening at such a fast rate that LEDs are expected to knock inefficient technologies like incandescent and halogen bulbs out of the market by 2024.”
Facilities managers see significant savings in the total cost to own LEDs, which includes the lamp price, the change-out frequency and the reduced maintenance to replace lamps—particularly in hard-to-reach areas that may require cranes, lifts or scaffolding.
High-bay and industrial lighting—specifically, lighting that hangs high in warehouses, on structures and in hard-to-reach areas—is a lucrative niche within the LED market. According to Navigant Research, global sales of high-bay luminaires and lamps are expected to peak at almost $23.5 billion in 2017.
“They can save up to 45 percent in energy when compared to traditional 32-watt tubes, have a 50,000-hour life-span and, in many cases, are eligible for commercial utility rebates that can cover a significant portion of the cost of the lamp,” said Danyelle Kukuk, vice president of product and category management at Batteries Plus Bulbs. “Options exist that allow the contractor to choose whether they want to bypass the ballast to eliminate a failure point in the future or choose an LED tube that is compatible with the ballast.”
LEDs are generally brighter, so an area may require fewer luminaires to achieve desirable illumination levels. In addition, they run cooler and may reduce an overall air conditioning load for some facilities. Also, lighting controls are becoming more sophisticated, and smart technology allows for more precise applications.
“Electrical contractors replacing legacy lighting systems that may be using fluorescent, sodium vapor or metal halide are missing a major business opportunity if they only install a basic LED system,” said Chris Buck, product manager at Digital Lumens, Boston. “Contractors, especially those working in industrial and commercial facilities, should consider the many advantages of an intelligent LED lighting system, as it can not only save on energy-related costs but also offer comprehensive intelligence and business operational data—insight that will dramatically shift how the business is run. Specifying contractors need to stay abreast of these market opportunities to make sure they’re proposing competitive solutions to their customers.”
Intelligent LED lighting systems consist of a network of smart LED fixtures with fully integrated occupancy sensors, daylighting sensors and power metering. These capabilities enable customers to have granular control over each fixture and, thereby, reduce operational and energy costs. This level of control is making way for even smarter technology.
The system also collects facility and occupancy data, tracking movement patterns, how often machines are used, and other information, which helps improve day-to-day operations and insight into how the business is run.
Digital Lumens offers an intelligent LED lighting system with an automated life-safety testing and reporting solution that provides a battery backup with every light. Users can check lighting remotely, which can be useful, for example, in areas where lighting is critical to safety.
Smart installation and application of LED technology breaks the paradigm of traditional lighting. Buck said older lighting control systems were complex to specify and install. They entailed numerous components, miles of wiring and confusing push-button and indicator-light interfaces.
“Modern LED control systems feature just a few highly versatile devices, use reliable industry-standard wireless communication between devices and are programmed using simple and familiar applications, right from your phone,” Buck said. “Much like smartphones have supplanted the wired landlines of years ago, huge developments have dramatically expanded lighting’s capability while also simplifying installation and use.”
Anyone looking to conserve energy and improve lighting systems seek LEDs. As costs become more favorable, expect demand to increase and pricing to fall.
LED lighting’s potential will likely be found in a more comprehensive lighting system with control systems and accompanying smart technology. The savings in energy consumption, labor costs and overall cost of ownership are likely to drive this market for many years. An electrical contractor that embraces all facets of the market will be ready to face the growing demand.