Fact or Fiction? LED Lights are a Smart Choice for Multifamily

LED lights

Light-emitting diode or LED lights have been evolving at a rapid pace since becoming mainstream about a decade ago. The market was expected to reach $30.5 billion in 2016, up from $25.7 billion the previous year.

Today, lighting pros say that LED efficiencies are improving, lasting longer and will continue to replace other lights in the 50 billion or so available sockets at a swift pace as costs come down. According to the latest report from LEDinside, there will be 6-7 billion LED lights being used per year before 2020.

LEDs save 75 percent more on energy consumption than incandescent or compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and they are coming in more shapes, sizes, colors and brightness.

That’s good news for apartment communities that want to retrofit existing lighting or outfit new developments.

Maintenance cost greatly reduced compared to other lights

Over the last few years, lighting manufacturers have learned a lot about how heat, capacitor makeup, power surges and environmental factors and other conditions affect lifespan of LEDs. Quality of the light and how it’s used contribute to the overall lifespan.

Along the way, LEDs have been scrutinized.

Three years ago, Which?, an independent consumer group in the United Kingdom, reported that tests showed one in four high-end LED light bulbs rated at just 6,000 hours failed. More than a quarter did not meet an advertised 15,000-hour lifespan.

Dennis Cather, Director of Sales for Optec LED Lighting, says high-quality consumer and commercial grade LEDs should and do live up to their manufacturer ratings. Failures are typically from drivers (which compare to ballasts in incandescent lights), not the LED lights.

Drivers typically have to be replaced about three times in the lifecycle of commercial lights, which are usually rated at 100,000 hours. Consumer-grade lights have built-in drivers and are rated at 50,000 hours.

With either, LED lights are a bargain compared to incandescent bulbs.

“The overall maintenance cost is greatly reduced over traditional lighting methods,” Cather said. “The LEDs don’t burn out.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released a report saying LED bulbs are getting brighter and color quality – a chief complaint of many – is getting better. Bulbs neared 100 lumens per watt compared to that of traditional incandescent bulbs that provided 13 to 18 lumens per watt.

That trajectory continues to rise as technology improves. At their current pace, LEDs are projected to get brighter and reach 200 lumens per watt, according to EIA.

Also, costs are coming down. Earlier this year, CNET reported on the best LED lightbulbs, with some costing as low as $6.75 each.

Apartments have a lot to gain by making LEDs lighting of choice

Jeff Watson, regional pro at Home Depot, says apartments have a lot to gain by making LEDs their lighting choice.

As they improve in color and style and new types enter the market, LEDs can set the mood and literally sing out to residents. And don’t be convinced that fewer bulbs will be purchased just because their lifespans are longer.

“Lighting becoming a fashion item versus a functional item,” he said. “As upgrades continue and technology improves, people will make lighting changes.”

Light bulbs with speakers in them are trending now, especially in recessed lighting.

The Blue Sky Wireless LED Bluetooth light bulb has a high-quality speaker that plays music wirelessly from all smart devices. In addition to playing music from a device, the color and flash modes of the light can be controlled by a free app. No hardware or remote control is needed, just a Wi-Fi or cellular signal is all that’s needed.

Equipping a kitchen, living room, bathroom or bedroom with music is now easier than ever. And the 3000K warm white light has 650 lumens of brightness.

“These have really been getting popular the last three or four years,” Watson said. “You can use these in common areas, or in the office or in living rooms. The bigger takeaway is the energy efficiency, and there’s no wiring. Just screw in the light bulb.”

LED lights can save on the electric bill

Converting to LED lighting, whether for mood or just to capitalize on energy savings, is getting more appealing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says LEDs use 70-90 percent less energy than standard bulbs. They also provide the same brightness (lumens) with less energy (watts) and last 15 times longer than standard bulbs.

EPA offers tips on replacing existing lighting with LEDs when renovating living spaces. Replacing the home’s five most frequently used bulbs or light fixtures with ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR can save about $45 each year, the agency says. Also, ENERGY STAR certified ceiling fans with lights are 60 percent more efficient than standard models and can save $185 in energy costs over the fan’s lifetime.

Lowering energy costs can be big selling point for properties

Watson says lowering energy costs for residents is a big win for apartments. The lifespan of LEDs, which, despite some criticism, has been proven to be longer than incandescent bulbs, is a plus for the maintenance team. Fewer burned out bulbs potentially mean fewer service requests.

Another reason to go LED, Watson says, is that many utilities offer rebates on certified bulbs or fixtures.

“LED lighting is one of the simplest things you can do in an apartment,” Watson said. “The energy efficiency is ultimately passed along the resident. A lower utility bill can be a big selling point for any property.”


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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