A technology that’s been around nearly four decades, LED lighting, is not just getting older. It’s getting better and smarter, too, and that’s leading to its growing deployment as a way to light up businesses while also helping them more efficiently manage a range of energy costs.
Introduced in the late 1980s, LED, or Light Emitting Diode, is a function of electronic components that convert energy to light. As a “directional” light source emitting light in specific directions, LED offers notable light and heat efficiencies, particularly compared to incandescent and fluorescent lighting that cast light and heat in all directions.
Most people think of LED in conjunction with LCD screens – mobile handsets, televisions and electronic devices – but its appeal has grown to lighting in general. “That’s become especially true with the evolution of ‘smart’ LED,” says John Gaby of Active Business Services, an Ontario firm that consults with area businesses on their energy use and ways to lower costs and boost efficiencies.
John Gaby of Active Business Services points to a 2008 study for the U.S. Department of Energy that showed using LED in areas where it is “currently feasible” would save enough electricity to equal the output of 27 coal power plants.
What’s becoming a smart strategy among many companies is the installation of LED lighting fixtures equipped with motion detectors or the heart of sensor-based digital networks, collecting data about buildings and their use to make them more “intelligent.”
General Motors, for example, has installed 45,000 LED lighting fixtures with motion sensors at 32 sites around the world. The sensors can control lights based on occupancy or by the level of daylight. Even more impressive is LED’s importance in the overall digital infrastructure, allowing companies to gain data and insights into their operations that help them optimize energy use while enhancing productivity. In fact, GM’s LED system has reduced its lighting-related energy consumption by 60 percent or $2.3 million in annual savings – or by seven megawatts.
It isn’t just the big global manufacturing firms like GM that are moving in this direction. Pets at Home, the United Kingdom’s 427-store animal goods retail outlet, made its biggest capital expenditure project ever in a smart LED system. The chain is expecting a payback of less than two-and-a-half years as a result of energy savings of 32 percent across all its stores.
And the public sector is realizing the benefits as well. White Bear Lake, Minn., for example, has used sensor-equipped, smart LED street lighting to respond to daylight and darkness and to adjust their hue when triggered by incoming data on weather conditions.
In fact, many business and public thought leaders are expecting smart LED and “connected” lighting as a key to energy savings and efficiencies with the added benefit of a longer lifespan for financially stretched cities. Just as importantly, though, they see connected LED as playing an important role in driving smart city connectivity – and Internet of Things technologies.
The possibilities are exciting as LED lighting — and technology — continue to evolve. As its deployment grows and LED systems grow ever smarter, the ultimate benefits will be more than just the inherent savings and efficiencies that come with their basic functionality. They also will pose an important component of future sustainability efforts.