LED Lighting - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

LED Lighting - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

All the hype today is about how LED lighting will save you heaps of money and you'd be crazy not to upgrade IMMEDIATELY.

Whilst we agree LED lights will save on energy costs there are a few serious points you need to consider:

LED Quality - Are all LED Lights the same

Regrettably LED lights are not all created equal and they vary immensely in construction quality, actual usable lifetime, light output both initially and over time and very importantly failure rate. LED lights are semiconductor devices just like you TV or PC with heat being a major factor in lifetime and reliability.

Unfortunately there are no current Australian standards to measure LED 'quality' which makes it very difficult for a consumer to know if they are buying a good quality product.

Expert Energy only recommends LED lights that have passed Australian Safety Standards (SAA), have published verifiable technical specifications and where possible are accredited under either the NSW Energy Saver Scheme (ESS) or the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) which requires LED lights to meet prerequisite standards for accreditation.

The payback period increases with initial cost of the LED Lights and the higher the cost the longer the payback period BUT this is normally offset by the longer lifetime experienced through the more expensive but higher quality LED lights.

How much will I save?

This depends on a few factors:

1. Operating Hours

a. Only using lights during normal business hours (8 - 9 hours per day 5 days a week) typically takes 3 years or more to recoup your investment through the energy costs saved but this is dependent on the kWh rate you are being charged.

b. As the hours increase the payback period reduces until those businesses running 24 hours a day 7 days a week can take as little as 12 - 14 months to achieve a full return on the investment - and thereafter get to keep the energy savings which with LED lights is between 50 - 70% of conventional lighting (Fluorescent tubes, Highbay  / Lowbay lights, Floodlights and Downlights)

2. Energy Costs 

a. The price you pay for energy also significantly affects the payback period, the higher the effective kWh rate the shorter the payback period. But a word of caution - don't simply look at the 'headline' rate for electricity as this can be very misleading as to the true cost.

Expert Energy runs a complex calculator to work out the true cost of energy that takes into account the many additional charges (Distribution & Networks charges, Renewable energy scheme charges, etc) and then we apply this which in many cases means the true energy cost can be 2 and 3 times the 'headline' rate.

b. Not accurately calculating the true energy cost can severely distort the 'true' energy savings and payback period leading to wrong assumptions which unfortunately you won't find out about until several months after the installation when you don't see the expected energy savings meant to offset the total supply and installations costs which you still have to pay.

3. Energy Cost Increases

We have seen quotations that include very large projected cost increases for energy over the estimated payback period ranging from 10 - 30% p.a. Whilst we agree there have been some significant price increases over the last few years declining energy use, uptake of solar photovoltaic panels and curbs on expensive so called 'gold plating of the 'poles and wires' has meant these large percentage increases may not happen in the years to come.

We use the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) estimates for all our calculations.

4. Ballasts

Many quotes for replacing standard fluorescent tubes with LED linear tubes we have seen use the highest energy loss due to the ballast and especially magnetic ballasts which can make the savings seem greater and therefore the payback period shorter. Expert Energy uses a B1 ballast ratings as per Australian Minimum Energy Performance (MEPS) when calculating first pass energy savings.

How long will LED lights last?

1. LED Lamp Life
LED Lights are typically rated from 30,000 - 100,000 lamp life but this 'rating' doesn't always note the fact that light output may only be 60 - 70% of a new light or if they will still be working.

Once again choosing a quality light will help ensure the LED light continues to produce the required light level for 10+ years.

The lifetime ratings are 'estimated' or 'projected' based on shorter term testing as most newer LED lights haven't been available for the 5+ years needed to fully test them as 50,000 hours equates to 5.7 years running continuously 24 hours a day. Most are rated using either accelerated testing conditions or projections based on Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) LM-80, LM-79 and TM-21 test procedures.

Added to this fact is that the actual LED chips and electronics (drivers) making up the LED light are undergoing extremely fast and continuous development to increase their light output with the same input energy (Lumens per Watt) which makes actual time usage testing difficult.

2. Warranty

LED Lamp Life is important but so is the manufacturers/distributors warranty which vary greatly from 12 months to 7 years. The longer the warranty the better BUT ONLY if you believe the company offering the warranty will actually be in business for the length of the warranty.

Extended warranties are sometimes available at extra cost.

N.B. The warranty normally only covers the replacement of the faulty LED lighting device but NOT the costs associated with initially removing the faulty LED lamp, shipping to the manufacturer/distributor and the refitting of the replacement or the cost of any specialised access equipment required which can be significant

Does it matter who installs them?

We strongly recommend that consumers DO NOT install LED lights themselves but use licenced electrical contractors WITH EXPERIENCE installing LED lights as there are several issues that need to be addressed:

1. Correct Wiring

Many times when installing LED lights, especially where the original fittings were installed over 15 years ago, there is a need to::

a. Conform to newer wiring standards which can include replacing a 'wired in' luminaire with a plug base for the new luminarie's already provided plug top;

b. Replace defective internal fittings such as tombstones in fluorescent casings;

c. Wiring past defective or badly damaged ballasts.

In all cases having a licenced electrical contractor means these can be dealt with quickly and at a pre-determined cost.

2. Heat Dissipation

Both decreasing LED Light output over time (Lumen Maintenance / Lumen Depreciation) and the actual lifetime before failure can be severely affected by heat build up in the device and adequate ventilation must be provided to ensure longevity and efficacy over time.

3. Power Factor Degradation

Replacing fluorescent tubes with LED Linear tube lights adds another layer of complexity and that is the need to ensure the Power Factor (PF) is not adversely affected. Power Factor is somewhat difficult to understand but the bottom line is it can affect your bottom line depending on how your energy retailer charges.

Fluorescent lights (luminaires) are designed and manufactured to bring their Power Factor as close to 1.00 as can be achieved, at reasonable cost, with typically ratings of 0.8 - 0.85.

A recent report has demonstrated the significant degradation of the Power Factor to between 0.3 - 0.4 when replacing a fluorescent tube with an LED linear tube WITHOUT removing the Power Factor correction capacitor.

Expert Energy ensures this is standard practice on any LED lighting upgrade we project manage.

4. Certificate of Electrical Safety

Using licenced electrical contractors means you can obtain a Certificate of Electrical Safety (the name varies by state) that will help satisfy your insurer and/or landlord that the lighting upgrade meets applicable safety standards.

How do I know the upgrade will match or better my current lighting?

Lux Level Measurements
 We highly recommend you ensure the contractor's quotation includes documenting Lux Level readings both before and after the lighting upgrade to ensure the upgrade meets or exceeds current light levels and also have this as part of any agreement you sign. This should be carried out at night so ambient daylight does not affect the measurements.

We also recommend you request details of the Lux meter they will use to ensure it is of reasonable quality to give accurate readings. We have heard of installers using very low cost Lux Meters (<$50.00) or even smartphone apps which can give very unreliable readings.

Is there anything else to consider?

When choosing LED lights there several other factors related to how the light they produce 'looks'. These are Colour Temperature / Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) and Colour Rendering Index (CRI). As these are fairly technical issues we suggest you either follow the links provided or discuss them with potential installers.

We highly recommend that prior to committing to any LED lighting device you first have a small area fitted with them to make sure you are happy with their performance and that it meets your individual requirements as one size doesn't fit all.

Example of varying Colour Temperature.and globes with different Colour Temperatures

    

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