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The Benefits of LEDs

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Jonathan Kinney
BKK Construction & Land Use Newsletter
February 2010

LED is not a misspelling of LEED, but rather an integral part of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes. Unlike your current light bulb, which is heated by electricity, with an LED light, electrical current is converted directly into protons of light. By 2020, LED lighting will be standard, with all new commercial and multi-family residential development expected to embrace this technology.

The reason for this is explained in part due to governmental requirements. The United States is phasing out the incandescent bulb in 2012. Local jurisdictions are currently experimenting with LED street lights. Arlington, for example, recently purchased 80 LED street lights on a trial basis. New site plans are likely to see this as a requirement or "proffer" – LED lighting is seen as a community benefit.

The other reason is probably more appealing to landlords and property owners. LEDs produced in 2010 are 8 to 10 times more energy efficient than the standard incandescent bulb and twice as efficient as compact florescent bulbs. LED bulbs have a lifespan of 10+ years. While LED bulbs may now cost 10 times more than an incandescent bulb, they also last over 10 times as long.

Then there is Haitz’s law. Named after the scientist, Roland Haitz, this law predicts that the performance of LEDs – i.e. the amount of light that can be produced per diode – increases 20 fold every ten years, while the cost of the LED light bulb decreases ten-fold. If this is the case, the argument for LED light bulbs and lighting becomes extremely attractive. The cost of a LED light bulb is on a downward trend. Even at its current $35.00 cost, the payback is three year’s in energy costs if your lights are on 12 hours a day.

Walmart is already in the process of converting all of its retail outlets to LED lighting. Their larger retail LED lights cost around $100 each but there are still substantial savings due to the hours the lights are on in a regular retail operation – not to mention the savings in maintenance costs of replacing light bulbs.

Property owners should consider getting ahead of the curve with LEDs. There are at least two good reasons for considering LED lighting now. One, the PR value of "going green." Tenants and employees respond positively to efforts by the landlord to make their building more green. Two, savings. The price of LED lighting is coming down. It is much more energy efficient than your existing lighting. Although the pay back savings differs in each situation, LED lighting is financially accretive to the bottom line. If Haitz’s law is correct, costs will continue to come down and efficiencies are going to continue to increase.