2012 – summer Issue

Industrial LED Lighting? Not Yet.

An LED lamp is a solid-state lamp that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the light source. Recent growth and acceptance of LED stems from its many benefits. LED requires much less energy while achieving lumen output that can, in many cases, outperform incandescent, fluorescent and most HID (high-intensity discharge) lighting systems.

Additional benefits of LED lighting include:

  • LEDs offer very high color rendering, providing a good option for applications that require good color discernment.
  • LEDs perform as well or better than HID in high vibration applications.
  • LEDs have ability to be instant-on without a re-strike issue (in the event of power cycling).
  • Driven through electronics, LEDs have a wide window of input voltages that can be corrected through a driver (a new style and terminology for an LED ballast).
  • LED lamps have a life-span of 50,000- 60,000 hours, or higher. HID lamps typically last 10,000-15,000 hours.
  • In extremely cold environments, LEDs have no issues with striking or maintaining their light output, as compared to HID.

However, for industrial processing environments, there are still some significant drawbacks to LED technology:

  • Initial installation cost is currently much greater than traditional light sources such as HID or fluorescent.
  • LEDs show massive degradation in performance and life when exposed to heat above 140F. HID systems outperform LED in environments with high ambient temperatures.
  • HID can ride through surge from Transient Voltage Spikes with little or no immediate fixture damage where LEDs, being an electronic light source, are affected by surges.
  • Rapid LED technology growth has flooded the market with many new, unproven LED products.

While there are many benefits for using LED lighting and you will find much research about those benefits, there is little information shared on the payback of implemented LED lighting in industrial facilities. This is because the payback results are dim.

Interstates Engineering recently conducted an analysis of LED lighting vs. HID lighting in industrial facilities. Our study demonstrates in several cases that after 5 years, investment in LEDs still has not paid back.

The study analyzed yearly energy cost and overall 5-year energy and maintenance cost including the initial cost of the individual fixtures. (Note that the results of this study do not account for potential rebates that various utilities may offer for installing LED lighting.) After reviewing various LED light fixtures and comparing them to similar PSMH (pulse-start metal-halide) light fixtures, results showed savings in the yearly energy cost. However, the initial cost of the LED light fixture is much higher, making the overall return on investment low.

Table 1 shows a yearly energy cost comparison between LED and a similar PSMH fixture. LED lighting results in 50-60% yearly energy savings.

The 5 year comparison in Table 2 shows that LED lighting costs more than the PSMH fixtures due to the higher initial cost of LED light fixtures. Overall, use of LED lighting can save an industrial facility on yearly energy costs; but replacing PSMH light fixtures with new LED lights would produce a low return on investment.

Fortunately for facilities looking to implement LED lighting, the market is seeing increased competition as LED components become less expensive to manufacture and their efficiencies improve. Perhaps we'll soon see payback on LED investment moving closer to the 2-3 year range as the purchase price of the LED fixtures drops. In the meantime, we'll need to have patience as we wait for the completion to light up.

For more information on LED lighting or this study, contact Jaron Vande Hoef at