While rising demand is beginning to lower the cost of LEDs and fittings the fact remains that relative to other lighting forms like high intensity discharge lamps (HID) they are initially much more costly if looking to make sweeping upgrades.

A more economic alternative, however, could be LED HID retrofit lamps which retain the existing light fittings and fixtures. The initial payback from this approach is normally 12-15 months owing to energy savings but they can be easily replaced with a more efficient version of the same lamp.

Whichever route is taken to switch over to LEDs, now accounting for most of the new light fittings today, it is always important to ensure test performance data is based on external testing by accredited laboratories, carried out in accordance with LM79 and LM80 standards. Many cheap, untested LED luminaires from Far Eastern countries, in particular, can be expected to fail EU standards and leave buyers out of pocket.

No less important than performance data standards is the need to choose a reputable supplier. The best of breed will propose a full business case setting out the full, true return on investment (ROI), a complicated exercise because every building is individual. They should be able to advise on the correct funding channels and maximising tax advantages in funding depreciating assets. Even so, it is advisable that potential adopters should look first at the returns enjoyed by organisations that have already made the switch to LED technology. The suppliers can be found in the Carbon Trust ‘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.

A current prod in the direction of more energy-saving lighting came into force on April 1st this year with the enactment of the Energy Act, 2011. This applies a legal standard for minimum energy efficiency for rented commercial buildings fixed at E. It is not known how many eligible buildings fall below that rating but for the period 2008-2015 35% of non-domestic buildings which had an energy performance certificate survey carried out were achieving an E, F and G rating. This suggests that many buildings must be upgraded to achieve an E rating or better before they can be rented out legally. There are some exceptions, like listed or officially protected buildings, a temporary building only going to be used for two years or less, buildings used as a place of religious worship, and unheated storage areas. Given that lighting consumes about 20% of the world’s electricity and 30% in commercial spaces like warehouses, choosing LEDs could give that boost to achieve the minimum E rating required.

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