How LEDs Can Reduce Light Bulb Replacement and Maintenance Costs

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The cost and hassle of regular upkeep and maintenance can be among the biggest challenges of owning or managing a business. And commercial lighting is one of the areas where upkeep and maintenance require the most effort.

Constantly dealing with lighting replacement costs like changing light bulbs, replacing old fixtures and dealing with unnecessarily high utility bills are just a few of the challenges inherent in commercial lighting for indoor and outdoor spaces. Every type of business must deal with these issues. Fortunately, there are many ways to mitigate light bulb replacement and maintenance issues while lowering utility bills at the same time.

Light bulb replacement and maintenance issue #1: Bulb burnout
One of the most common commercial lighting issues is light bulb burnout, which is primarily due to the continued reliance on older, inefficient incandescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs. Constantly replacing light bulbs can be costly, and for many businesses the issue seems to arise at the most inopportune times.

Restaurants offer a perfect example of this phenomenon. Nearly 80 percent of restaurant floor space in the United States is illuminated by incandescents.1 Bulbs and fixtures in restaurants also seem to follow "Murphy's Law," often burning out in the middle of a dinner rush or during other peak hours.

The simplest way to deal with this issue in restaurants and other businesses is to begin installing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs as older incandescent bulbs burn out. LED light bulbs, particularly those certified by ENERGY STAR,2 can last up to 50 times longer than the average incandescent. LEDs also draw much less electricity than incandescents, leading to lower monthly utility bills.

Light bulb replacement and maintenance issue #2: Poor light quality
As light bulbs age, they begin to emit lower quality light. This is a very serious issue for businesses that use outdoor signage to attract new customers, especially since replacing those types of bulbs can be an onerous task.

One way to battle exterior light quality degradation and make bulbs last longer is to install photosensors on exterior lights. Photosensors detect ambient light and turn bulbs and fixtures on and off accordingly. Although HID bulbs are commonly used for outdoor lighting, they are not suitable for photosensors since they are best used when remaining on for hours as a time.3 By limiting when exterior light bulbs and fixtures are on to the times when they are actually needed, the need to replace them is reduced and the financial cost of running them is lessened.

Light bulb replacement and maintenance issue #3: Hard-to-reach fixtures
In places like warehouses, grocery stores and other larger facilities, replacing light bulbs sometimes requires heavy equipment, danger to employees and a significant time commitment.

LED high-bay and low-bay fixtures are optimal replacements in these spaces. Business owners and managers assure themselves of less time spent on light bulb replacement by switching from HID or incandescent fixtures to LED fixtures because of their longer lifespans. LED high- and low-bay fixtures are also more useful on a practical level, since they turn on and off instantly, and they can be equipped with dimmers and motions sensors.

Adding motion sensors to LED fixtures in businesses that are housed in large spaces can further limit the need for light bulb replacement. Motion sensors keep unused or rarely used spaces from drawing electricity when work isn't taking place in them, thus improving light bulb lifespans.4

Light bulb replacement and maintenance issue #4: Customer and employee safety
Lighting is an important factor in providing and improving upon customer and employee safety. When outdoor security lights or indoor fixtures which were designed to make back areas easier to navigate, burn out, customers and employees are put at risk.

Switching to fixtures that provide better white-light quality and directionality can be a relatively simple way to improve safety for both outdoor and indoor spaces, while also reducing the need for light bulb replacement. Incandescents and HIDs give off light in all directions, while LED replacement lamps are brighter alternatives and offer directional lighting.

Pole- and arm-mounted LED luminaires can be implemented to focus illumination on places that need it most, including parking lots and structures, dimly lit areas behind buildings and stairwells or storage spaces where employees might be moving heavy objects.5 And since mounted LED luminaires can be placed where they are easier to get to, any eventual light bulb replacement or maintenance work will be much more straightforward.

Light bulb replacement and maintenance issue #5: Product visibility
Lighting goes a long way toward improving sales. When bulbs go out in product displays or in refrigerated display cases, the goods they are meant to highlight can be easily overlooked.

Directional LED replacement lamps work very well in environments like retail stores, convenience stores and gas stations. They can be installed in places where their light will focus on specific products, without having any of that illumination wasted on places where it isn't needed.

LED light bulbs for refrigerated display cases are another worthwhile addition. They are more effective in cold temperatures due to their reduced heat profile, they improve product visibility, and ENERGY STAR-certified LEDs come with a five-year warranty.6

Light bulb replacement and maintenance issue #6: Overreliance on light bulbs and fixtures
There are ways to enhance product presentation and ambience without relying on light bulbs and fixtures, or through reduced reliance on light bulbs and fixtures. Daylighting is one of the most effective of those methods.

Retailers, for instance, can leave bulbs and fixtures off or dimmed for much of the day by positioning their products to take advantage of natural light, windows, and skylights.7 Daylighting, especially when coupled with dimmer switches, gives store owners and managers more control over their indoor commercial lighting design and overall interior environment.

For more information on finding and working with a lighting contractor, please reference the "The Complete Guide to Working with a Lighting or HVAC Contractor" eBook from PG&E.

Referenced in article:

  1. E Source
  3. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
  5. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  6. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  7. E Source