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Bright Lights Ahead: Outdoor LED Lighting

December 5, 2023

In 2015, the Boston Consulting Group examined the LED lighting market and trends in its article, “How to Win in a Transforming Lighting Industry.” It stated, “The upheaval stems from two powerful shifts: the move toward light-emitting-diode (LED) lighting and the growing adoption of connected lighting systems. These trends, which reinforce one another, are fundamentally altering the underlying economics and dynamics of the market. The result: companies across the complex lighting ecosystem must evaluate where they can compete effectively amid the changes and adopt new strategies to win in the future.” They were upbeat then, and their prophecy seems to hold.

Persistent energy efficiency

The article outlined the salient benefits of LEDs: LED lighting is currently four to five times more energy-efficient than conventional technologies and is expected to become even more efficient—a critical edge, considering more than 50 percent of the total lighting cost stems from energy consumption; it is more versatile than other technologies, and it is available in a wider variety of colors. LED lamps also last about 15 years—nearly 10 times that of incandescents.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), outdoor area lighting is a major contributor to nationwide energy use, and the segment has been an important player in the transition to solid-state lighting.

Outdoor benefits

LED outdoor area luminaires have emerged as a popular choice that makes economic sense with many advantages. At the forefront of benefits, LED lighting provides the same lumen output for one-third of the power consumed by an high-pressure-sodium luminaires. In addition, LED outdoor area lighting provides better color rendering and visibility.

With improved energy-efficiency, LED outdoor area lighting products with warmer color temperatures have become more popular because they reduce glare, light pollution, and the adverse health effects of nighttime lighting.

As of late 2017, according to the DOE, roadway products alone made up 21 percent of their known LED lighting inventory database. But LED lighting is finding its way into parking lots, stadiums and other outdoor venues. The cost of LED products is declining, and its purchase cost is overcome with energy efficiency, handsome payback and other benefits such as brighter lights.

“Many fixtures are being upgraded from traditional lighting to LED for the energy savings and, in some cases, credits from the electric company or government,” said Michael C. Clery III, chief technology officer, Inspired Technology and Communications. “When combined with automation technology, we can take this savings to another level by dimming or turning off these LEDs when they are not in use or required to be on.”

Tariffs and compliance

Russ Sharer, vice president of global marketing for Fulham, a global leader in cost-efficient lighting solutions, said the future of LED lighting has several roadblocks, namely tariffs and compliance with UL and DesignLights Consortium (DLC) standards.

“Tariffs on products out of China will impact nearly all LED products,” Sharer said. “A lot of the supply chain is manufactured or assembled in China, which will increase costs throughout the supply chain.”

In the long term, Sharer is concerned about compliance.

“Contractors should become familiar with authentic markings for UL—which includes a hologram stamp—and DLC to ensure that the products they are installing meet all required safety standards,” he said. “The other fear is that, if a problem occurs, the manufacturer will not be available to support the product.”

A brighter lighting future

There are many options in LED lighting technology—particularly for the outdoor market. The overall market, however, is not yet mature for this category. As the market fills out, contractors and designers will have even more choices.

“Good, better and best options for lighting technology are available for contractors, making it easy for them to provide the right product for the right application at the right cost,” said Rich Rattray, technical sales manager, LEDvance, the maker of Sylvania general lighting in the United States and Canada. “For example, there are varying levels of light outputs, color rendering and rated life. LED fixtures can be DLC Standard or DLC Premium, which helps to easily communicate efficacy levels. Know your choices. If the application requires a lift for changing out the lighting, turn to the best option with the longest life to minimize maintenance costs for the customer.”

Prudence and care in design of LED lighting systems, as well as the same attention for selection and installation, should guide the EC into a well-lit world.

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