LED lighting is an established force in the business industry, with hundreds of businesses including the Marriott hotel chain and Co-op food group, now choosing to use this eco-friendly lighting option. However it has yet to make its mark within the consumer retail market. Why is this? Interestingly, the reasons are varied but they encompass cost, lack of product information and confusing statistics. To combat this, active steps are now being taken to erase these misconceptions and encourage the growth of LED popularity in this area.
In with this, last year the EU issued a new directive. The Ecodesign DIM2 regulation was created to promote a better understanding of LEDs by making changes to product packaging in order to increase accessibility of information by consumers. There are now far more stringent performance requirements which are designed to increase consumer confidence. The new regulation demands that directional lamps, such as spots and reflectors, must meet a certain a lumen level to claim a percentage of wattage replacement. When put like this, it shows that the industry is taking its responsibility seriously – and therefore it is far more simple for those unfamiliar with LEDs to make an informed choice.
The other side of the coin
Whilst the retail market continues its slow, suspicious journey towards LED lighting, the government is managing to increase the uptake of LED lighting for businesses by offering tax incentives and warranties. The Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) energy scheme provides tax allowances for a variety of energy-saving products. For example, it offers a 100% First Year Allowance (FYA) for investments in certain energy-saving plant and machinery, including energy-efficient LED lighting systems. This means that 100% of the cost could be written off against that year’s taxable profits. This has ensured that many businesses are able to save money, as well as reduce energy use, their carbon footprint and climate change levy payments. However no such scheme exists for consumers in the UK. By contrast, in the US, State Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) have been given energy-saving goals by state and federal government to provide a workable alternative to the capital expense of expanding power plant capacity. Utilities in almost every state offer rebates for LED lighting. The majority of these are a predetermined monetary amount for each fixture replaced, most of which is reliant on the products being bought with a US Energy Star rating scheme.
One reason why consumers are rejecting LED lighting options is because of the perceived cost. LED bulbs are significantly more expensive than standard bulbs, so as such manufacturers are looking at ways of reducing this cost. Many LEDs are manufactured using expensive substrates such as sapphire on wafers, which are only 2in in diameter. There are cheaper options available so costs CAN be cut, using silicon. This does not compromise the quality and actually increases yields by pushing the diameter of the wafer to 6in. In addition, other components such as housings, connectors and the heat sink will follow with a drop in price as the efficiency of manufacturing improves.
LED Code of Practice
As the industry evolves, one consideration is having measures in place to protect consumers. Ben Pap, chair of the IET Technical Committee on LED lighting systems has said: “A Code of Practice will benefit the industry and also build confidence in this technology for contractors and customers.” The recognition of this is an important step forward. The new Code of Practice covers safety, performance and lifetime, as well as detailing key compatibility considerations as part of a systems approach to the installation and maintenance of this important technology.
The success of LED lighting options in the business market has set high expectations. Now the hope is that the consumer market will follow this successful trend; thus expanding the current potential of LED lighting enormously.