LED Lighting Shines as an Energy-Saver

Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulbs certainly revolutionized the world back in the day. But even Edison would be in awe of how LED lighting technology has been proven to save energy while brightening up home and work spaces like never before.

With local incentives and a push from the federal government in the US, many stores, offices, and homes have already begun retrofitting their lighting with LED fixtures. This is not surprising given the fact that LED bulbs last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs while emitting a fraction of the heat.

But with a single LED bulb currently costing an average of $20-$50, will consumers readily accept this change? The good news is that prices have been coming down and are expected to decrease as time goes on. But no matter how expensive they may be, the real savings will be reflected on your electric bill. Additionally, since LED bulbs far outlast incandescent ones, you will also end up saving money on replacement bulbs in the long run.

For businesses, retrofitting lighting with LED fixtures results in massive savings. This is largely due to the fact that lighting costs account for approximately 30% of commercial energy consumption. A prime example of this was recently reported by convenience store retailer Enmark Stations with their Georgia and Carolina locations. The company recently built new stores and remodeled others using LED lighting inside and out. As a result, the company has already seen substantial maintenance and energy cost reductions.

A recent report by the Department of Energy states that common indoor and outdoor lighting applications will collectively save $675 million in annual energy costs. Additionally, the U.S. could see savings of $250 billion in energy costs. It is also projected that 75% of all lighting sales in 2030 will be on LED lighting.

Retrofit your home or business with LED fixtures to experience an improved lighting experience while saving energy costs. Contact us to learn more about our state-of-the-art lighting today.

LED Lighting Manufacturer Makes Forbes’s Top 25 In Fastest Growing Tech Company

Congratulations to Cree for ranking #22 on Forbes’s Top 25 for fastest growing tech companies! Though this is a great accomplishment, Cree light bulbs are only one example of how LEDs are coming to dominate the lighting space! We hope many other LED lighting companies will eventually join them. After all, you will find LEDs in Times Square, Central Park, Lakers’ Staples Center, and bridges and buildings around the world.

When looking for affordable LED lighting, Cree may be one of many companies to give you that savings for your business. Our world (and company) is on a mission to retrofit existing incandescent and fluorescent lights into LEDs.

So why wait, start saving now! Light up your business and join the rest of the world with LEDs. Our professionals will be happy to assist in your lighting needs. To find out more about retrofitting your existing lights, contact us today!

The Physics of Lighting

If you’re like us, you probably make your lighting decisions based on gut feel. You like the way certain lights look, and not others. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on why you like one light and not another.

Most lighting resources are either overly simplistic (think “soft white”) or overly technical (what would you imagine if you were told the light you were considering had the following specs: 1000L, 2700K CCT, 90 CRI, 40 Degrees?) Even if you know the terms, it can be hard to translate that into the look and feel of a light source.

This post aims to demystify the physics of lighting in order to help you better understand how to manage the lighting in your space. Let’s dive in.

Brightness

Brightness is generally the first thing you’ll notice about a bulb. It’s important! Just think about the last time your pub turned up the lights at last call. I bet you noticed the brightness then.

Light output

Light output is the total amount of light generated by the bulb in any direction.

The unit of this metric is the Lumen (lm). 1300 lm would be a very bright bulb – about a 100-watt equivalent, whereas 320 lm would be a very dim bulb, about a 20-watt equivalent.

Light output is not exactly brightness, as we would normally think of the word, because this measures all the light coming from the bulb, not just the light shining in a particular direction. So a more focused bulb may appear brighter even though it is producing less light.

Beam Angle

Some bulbs shine light in all directions – like this typical incandescent bulb:

Some focus their light in a particular direction with the use of mirrors, like this one:

How tight or narrow the focus determines the bulb’s beam angle (sometimes also called beam spread). Beam angle is measured in degrees from center as shown below. The classic “spot” beam is typically between 10 and 15 degrees from center, while a “flood” light generally casts light 40 degrees from center in either direction.

Light Intensity

This is where light output and beam angle intersect. If two lights have the same light output (lumens), the one with the tighter beam angle will appear brighter to the human eye. This is because the tighter beam angle focuses the same amount of light into a smaller space. Similarly, if two bulbs have the same beam angle, the one with the higher light output will appear brighter.

This is why a flashlight can appear so much brighter than a regular desk lamp, even though the total lumens from a desk lamp is actually much higher.

To measure light intensity, lighting designers use a metric called center-beam candle-power, which measures how much light is produced in the center of the beam.

Color and Light Quality

Ok, we can’t avoid getting technical now. Let’s talk about what color is for a moment. A color is a specific piece of the light spectrum – one little slice of the rainbow, if you will.

To understand color, let’s follow some light from your lamp to your eye. Imagine you’re looking at a red dress in a retail store. How is the color actually generated in your eye? First, the light is generated by the lamp and travels toward the dress. Let’s assume it’s “white” light, so it contains the full visible spectrum. The light travels toward the dress and eventually makes contact. When the white light gets there, all of the light except that red gets absorbed. The red is special. Instead of getting absorbed, it gets reflected. From there, that red light travels to your eye, where your brain registers it as the color red.

So why is the dress red? In a very technical sense, because it only reflects red light. Every other color just gets absorbed and doesn’t bounce back to the eye. But since the dress is reflecting the light, if the light coming out of the lamp didn’t have red, that dress wouldn’t look so wonderful.

Color Rendering

Color rendering is essentially a way of measuring how much of each color the bulb is producing. If it’s producing an even amount of each color, it will render any color well. If the light from your bulb only contains a few colors, then most colors won’t show up properly. Remember – that red dress is reflecting the red light from your lightbulb. If there’s no red light coming from the bulb, it won’t look red!

Fluorescent bulbs work by mixing just a few colors – so the colors in-between often get lost. That’s why things don’t look good under fluorescent light. Check out the mix of colors in a fluorescent bulb below – all those colors in between the spikes are getting lost!

When LEDs were first made available, many performed quite poorly when rendering colors, especially in the red part of the spectrum. But as LED technology has improved, color rendering has improved dramatically. High quality LEDs now produce a distribution of visible light that is much smoother than the graph you see above and much more closely approximates a traditional halogen. No particular colors are coming out more heavily than others, which means that the colors in products are much more truly reflected.

To see the difference in practice, go check out one of our customers to see just how amazing their products look.

Color Temperature

Color temperature refers to the relative amount of red and blue in the light produced by the bulb. Light with more red seems and is referred to as “warmer”, whereas light with more blue is “cooler” or “crisper”.

LEDs come in all sorts of color temperatures. Many people associate LEDs with “cool” light, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Good LEDs are available in a variety of color temperatures, and most of Building Hero’s clients use warm LEDs in their spaces.

Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (which is a system like Celsius or Fahrenheit, but it’s for scientists). Confusingly, a lamp gets “warmer” as its color temperature goes down. And vice versa, a lamp gets “cooler” as its color temperature goes up.

Geek note: The reason this is called color temperature is because it refers to the light output of a black-body radiator that has been heated to a certain temperature. So when we say that a lamp has a color temperature of 2700 degrees Kelvin (K), that means that it has the same light output of a black-body radiator that has been heated to 2700 K.

Conclusion

The main thing to take away from this article is that light quality is multifaceted. Many different qualities in a given bulb interact to give a space a type of feel. Many of our customers intuitively understand what they want in their space, what they like and don’t like, but lack the language of lighting design to choose that perfect bulb from the millions of LED products out there.

For instance, many of our customers tell us they dislike the blueish light associated with fluorescent bulbs – unaware that you can get “warm” fluorescent bulbs. But these “warm” bulbs will still give off subpar light because they are not covering the whole color spectrum. In other words, it’s not their color temperature, it’s their color rendering that’s the issue.

We hope this post will help you get exactly what you want out of your lighting. If you’re considering LED lighting for your space, and want to work with people that deeply understand how to achieve the look you desire in your space, get in touch today!

Common LED Retrofit Risks and How YOU Can Avoid Them

Ever since starting Building Hero, we have spent a huge amount of time with our customers understanding what holds decision makers back from making the upgrade to LEDs. The overwhelming answer? It really boils down to risk. Risk that the lights look bad; risk that the install does not work; risk that the economics don’t turn out as promised. But LED retrofits, when done correctly, are one of the lowest risk improvements you could possibly make to your space. This guide helps you identify many of the key risks you’ll need to proactively manage in order to ensure your LED lighting upgrade goes off without a hitch.

Light quality

The primary purpose of your lighting is to make your space and your products look beautiful. If you’re a retailer, you want the colors in your merchandise to pop; if you’re a yoga studio or a hotel, you want your clients to feel beautiful while they are in your space. Your lighting adds value in a very fundamental way, even if it’s not something that’s always at the top of your mind. It’s important that you get the very best.

At the same time, you also have a particular look that you like for your unique space. If you run a restaurant, perhaps you’ve chosen a warm, soft feel. If you run a jewelry store, you may have chosen a brighter, crisper light to make your jewels sparkle. If you’re considering LEDs, your first goal should be to get a look that suits your space and your unique design needs.

Light quality is multifaceted and can be hard to understand with all the technical jargon that surrounds it. Head over to our overview on the physics of lighting to understand more.

High quality LEDs today can achieve the aesthetic requirements of even the most demanding customers, regardless of the look you’re targeting. Check out our portfolio to see how some Building Hero customers – some of the best boutiques, galleries, and showrooms in New York and San Francisco – have used LEDs in their diverse spaces.

And of course, if you have any questions about the right look for your space, our staff is filled with experts who would be more than happy to help you find the right lighting for your space – just drop us a line at get.started@buildinghero.com.

Integration Issues

One of the most common questions we get about LEDs is “will the lights work with my existing tracks?” The answer generally is “yes”. LEDs, although they are a next-generation technology, are designed to work with existing lighting infrastructure.

But there are some things to worry about. A typical retail lighting setup includes the following:

  • Tracks

  • Fixtures / trackheads

  • Dimmer switches

  • Lamps (the actual piece of equipment you’re replacing)

Tracks

In general, you will not have to do anything with your tracks as part of an LED retrofit. And if you do need to deal with your tracks, you should absolutely call your trustworthy local electrician to work with you on this.

Fixtures

In the vast majority of cases, your existing fixtures are just fine to work with LEDs. If you have a fixture with a standard screw-in socket, you can use the appropriate screw-in LED as a replacement. The only potential problem is if the recommended LED replacement simply does not fit in the existing fixture. But LEDs are built to be the same shape as the bulbs they’re replacing, so this is uncommon, although not unheard of.

The most common issue we have with fixtures is with a particular type of bulb called the MR16 with a bi-pin base (you can see a picture here). The fixtures for this bulb have a built-in transformer that can be damaged by the high wattage of halogen lamps. The kicker is that this damage is invisible to you when you are using halogens*, until, of course, the fixture blows out. Many of our customers who have been using MR16 bulbs complain about how often they have to buy new fixtures, and they are not cheap at $50 or more per unit. When you put new LEDs into old fixtures that have been damaged, you can get a nasty flicker, and the fixtures must be replaced. But of course, because LEDs use so much less wattage and are so much kinder to the fixture, you’re most likely replacing them for the last time!

*Why is this? What is happening is that the fixture is providing intermittent power to the bulb, instead of a continuous flow. Because halogen bulbs give off light as a byproduct of getting hot (think of a glowing piece of hot metal), and they don’t fully cool down in the brief moments they are not receiving power, they hide the effect of intermittent power. An LED converts electricity to light directly (there is no wasteful intermediate step), so intermittent power translates directly to a flicker.

Installation

Installation of LEDs is usually fairly straightforward. As mentioned above, LEDs are built to work with your existing lighting infrastructure, so it’s often just like replacing a light bulb. The only difference is that your new light bulb is awesome :).

We’ll only add two things here:

The first is that to make sure your lights are off while you’re replacing the bulbs. This is not necessarily for your protection, although it’s good to be safe, especially given how hot lights can be when they’re turned on. But more importantly you can cause nasty electrical problems – like blowing out your track – if you are replacing your lights while the track is on.

The second is that installation can be time-consuming. Most of the time, you probably replace your lights one-at-a-time. It’s annoying, but probably doesn’t take that much time when all is said and done. But when you’re replacing all your lights, budget your time accordingly. We generally budget 2-3 minutes per lightbulb including setup and cleanup. This number can go up significantly if you have tall ceilings or if you have fixtures that are hard to work with.

Cost

Ok, so you’re convinced that LEDs will look great in your space, and you’ve heard that they are also a good investment. So you’re considering the upgrade. Let us help get you over the line: LEDs are the best investment available today. LEDs use so much less electricity (80-90% less than halogens) that they will slash significant dollars off your utility bill. And since LEDs last so much longer, you won’t be wasting your time buying and replacing bulbs. Check out our LED Savings Calculator to find out how much you’ll save by upgrading to LED lights in your space.

That being said, LEDs are high-value, long-lasting pieces of equipment. They are more like the chips in the computer or tablet you’re using right now than your old halogen bulbs. The specialty materials and the sophisticated manufacturing mean that they sell at a much higher price than typical bulbs. So even a small retrofit will require an upfront cost in equipment of a few thousand dollars.

But we can help you with that.

First, your utility or local government may offer significant incentives for a LED retrofit. These incentives can often be very generous; in fact, we’ve helped customers get LEDs in their space for $0 out of pocket by accessing utility rebates. If you’re wondering where to start, get in touch with us – we can help you find the right program for you.

Second, Building Hero also offers a no-upfront-cost solution to select commercial clients. Get in touch with our team to find out more and see if this is right for you.

Conclusion

Your lighting is perhaps the most important aesthetic element in your space. Without lights, no one would be able to see your beautiful space. The prospect of changing every bulb in your space for a new technology can feel daunting. We understand that concerns around light quality, integration, installation and cost can feel overwhelming – prompting many of our customers to put off thinking about it and taking the first steps. We hope this overview is helpful in understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.

The good news is that there are great answers to these concerns. The even-better news is that Building Hero can work with you to implement a complete LED solution in your space.

I’d love to do a retrofit, but I just bought new lights!

A lot of retail operations managers that we talk with about LED lighting retrofits note that they’d love to do an LED retrofit, but that they’re not ready because they just bought new lights. As rugged environmentalists as well as lean startup practitioners, this is a sentiment we can certainly understand. But the economics of lighting say that throwing these lights out and starting over is the only rational thing to do.

The truth is, when you buy a halogen or incandescent light, you haven’t even started spending money yet. How can that be?

Let’s take an average 75-watt halogen bulb. Assuming that the light is run 60 hours per week at the average electricity price for our New York City customers, that works out to $4.29 per month. And since most of these lights last nearly a year, this means an average electricity cost of $51.48 per year! Compare that to the $5 initial purchase of the lightbulb and the math is clear: even though you just bought the bulb, it’s not fully paid-for.

The chart below illustrates the very different economic model of halogen lighting vs. LED lighting. As made clear in the chart, the economic model of LED lighting is completely upside-down relative to the status-quo. Whereas the same 75-watt-equivalent LED costs something like $40 upfront, it only costs $0.79 per month in electricity. That means an investment in a single LEDs returns $3.52 every single month. The longer it takes to make the investment in LEDs, the worse the economics get. This is why we always tell our customers that the biggest cost of upgrading to LEDs is the cost of delay.

Want to find out how much you’ll save by upgrading to LEDs? Contact a Building Hero lighting specialist to get started.

Recycling

Now the one caveat we’d add is that although its better for the environment and safe to throw out your old halogens, it feels kinda bad. That’s why we at Building Hero always recycle our bulbs after taking do a retrofit. And of course if you have hazardous CFLs, be sure to dispose of them properly (don’t just put them in the trash).

7 Reasons Smart Retailers Love LEDs

Orla Kiely LED Lights

Smart retailers like Orla Kiely know that the right LEDs can improve aesthetics and efficiency

1) LEDs save money.

Because LEDs are so much more energy-efficient than halogen lights, smart retailers know they can save money on their utility bill every month by upgrading to LEDs. The average Building Hero customer saves over $2,000 per year in electricity costs by upgrading to LEDs, and for our larger customers (such as 10,000 square foot furniture showrooms), this can be high as $15,000 per year.

2) LEDs run cool, and make retail spaces much more comfortable.

Most existing retail lights run between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Having all those little heaters in your ceiling will make your space hot! As a retailer, you either have to live with the extra heat – creating an uncomfortable space, annoying your staff and turning off your customers. Or you have to crank up the A/C to keep the space comfortable, running up your utility bill even further.

Since LEDs run much closer to room temperature, your space will be much more comfortable during the hot summer months after you upgrade.

3) LEDs don’t have to be changed frequently

Most retailers struggle to keep all of their lights on at any given time. It can be tough – halogen lights burn out often, and getting up on the ladder to replace them at any given time is a hassle.

LEDs are great because they’re so easy to maintain. LEDs generally have manufacturer’s warranties of at least 3 years. Of course the warranty doesn’t mean that LEDs are perfect and never fail, but it does mean that they fail significantly less often than halogen lights. That means you and your employees can spend less time changing light bulbs and more time focusing on your core business and making your customers happy.

4) LEDs don’t emit damaging UV light

If you’re like most of our retail customers, you love your product. So why use halogen lighting that puts off harmful UV rays and can damage precious merchandise? Be it sweaters, wine, art or whatever your special products are, subjecting them to heat and UV light will shorten their shelf life. LEDs don’t put off any UV light, and therefore will make your product last longer.

5) LEDs use much less electricity, and help you do the right thing for the environment

For most of our retail customers, lighting makes up about 40% of their electricity usage every month (before they upgrade to LEDs). By slashing electricity usage up to 90%, switching to LEDs is one of the most impactful things a retailer can do to lessen their impact on the environment and live up to corporate sustainability goals.

This can also lead to great publicity – check out one of our customers, Junior Lowe, who was recently recognized for being a green leader in Brooklyn.

6) The right LEDs look great

Retail managers often don’t know where to start with getting the right LEDs for high-end retail spaces. Their space is their baby, so the aesthetic trumps energy use or ease of maintenance. For many, that means sticking with the tried and true halogen bulbs, despite their inefficiencies.

Thankfully, the LED market has come a looong way over the past 18 months, and that means there are really great LEDs available to make your space look awesome. We know the best LEDs on the market and would be happy to help you get some in your space. Check out photos of our happy customers for more examples of how LEDs can make your space beautiful.

7) Upgrading to LEDs is easy to do

Many busy retail managers are turned off by the thought of an LED upgrade. After all, with so much already on your plate, who has time for another construction headache? Thankfully, LED upgrades are very easy to complete and generally require no construction for most retail environments.

Especially when you have an LED expert help you with the upgrade, it can be quite easy. Building Hero has helped nearly 100 customers in San Francisco and New York City upgrade their lights to LEDs, but we’re not the only ones who are great at getting LEDs into retail spaces.

 

Got questions? Email us at info@buildinghero.com or call us at (888) 951-6698.

Q. Don’t LEDs burn out a lot?

 

Beautiful, long lasting LEDs at Lost Weekend NYC

Beautiful, long lasting LEDs at Lost Weekend NYC

 

No! LEDs last 25,000 hours, which is 10 times longer than a typical halogen bulb. Most high-quality LEDs come with a warranty of 3-5 years. Try getting that from a halogen!

The bottom line: with LEDs, your lights will last longer and you’ll have to change them less.