Time was when there was widespread suspicion over the variety of energy-saving claims for LED lighting, to which the shift away from other lighting forms has been massive over the last five years, accounting for the majority of new light fittings today. That concern is no longer justified, according to LED suppliers, Glamox Luxo Lighting and Wila Lighting, but that does not mean abandon caveat emptor. “There are many companies who have their fingers burned by using unrecognised brands, accepting their claims without doing a little homework” says Wila.

To protect themselves against choosing the wrong supplier, a key consideration, buyers could make a start by choosing a supplier listed by the Carbon Trust in their ‘green’ business directory that features energy efficiency and low carbon equipment suppliers who have been independently assessed and accredited via the Carbon Trust accredited supplier scheme. Once the choice of supplier has been made one should look for a professional engineer or lighting designer on their team because that is a good indicator of how likely they are to perform, advises Wila. Then trial a fitting. It is easier to get a sample from a serious supplier, wired up to monitor what it does. If you are serious about reducing energy bills then get serious advice and test it out before committing to spend money. So check the numbers, seek a professional opinion and read the service and warranty fine print.

On really big new projects reputable suppliers will offer a range of help to reach the right decision, like a comprehensive appraisal of existing lighting and how a range of different lighting schemes will deliver ROI scenarios. This is essential because the investment in LEDs, for example, would be much higher than for other lighting forms like TL5s. But this has to be a two-way street. “There are many customers,” says Wila, “looking for free advice and then seeking the cheapest quote via open tender. When you do that you often get inflated claims from the energy survey and the wrong solutions put forward simply to save energy and keep costs down. Rarely does this give a great longlonger solution and a workable environment for your employees.”

While some suppliers would say that buyers’ biggest concern is the initial capital expenditure, Wila believes it is the quality of the final solution. To lessen the pain of capex concerns there is the rental option from firms like Aura Light. This option is likely to appeal to businesses as the scheme aids cash flow, keeping costs off the balance sheet and so takes advantage of tax benefits. For SMEs there are also government tax breaks like the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme and interest-free loans of up to £100,000. The rental option could also be useful if the property lease is due to expire in the next few years and there is uncertainty as to whether to stay or move. Nobody relishes the idea of spending large sums on improvement to someone else’s property and this issue, it seems, has prevented many energysaving projects from being given the green light. The answer is to choose equipment which is a fixed asset and can therefore be leased or rented, and can be easily relocated should the need arise, at which point it is disconnected from the existing lighting system that is left in place for the landlords.

So what are the payback periods one can expect on even big projects? That, of course, depends on many factors but it is not unusual for them to be as low as 12-24 months, a payback exercise that should take in far more than just energy savings like improved safety, less absenteeism from poor lighting schemes, and lower maintenances costs. If having the luxury of starting from a green field site, there are other aspects to lighting rather than just the lights themselves that should be considered. These include construction of the warehouse to make best use of natural light by installing windows and sky lights, which when fitted with thermal glass can help maintain climate control. Even painting walls white can help. Moving up the technical ladder, there is the option of installing voltage optimisation units that can deliver significant energy savings.