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A lighting revolution

3 July 2014  

LED lighting is creating a brighter future, just not for the washing powder companies.


There’s a revolution taking place in lighting, but spare a thought for the washing powder companies, whose ‘whiter than white’ slogans are about to become redundant. 

When laundry detergents promise to make our clothes whiter, they don’t change the colour of the fabric; just the way light reflects off of it. The chemical residue they leave on fabric when it is washed increases the amount of reflected blue light. As a result the yellow tinge that ages clothes is disguised. 

This clever trick has been used since fluorescent whitening agents were discovered in 1929, but now its effectiveness is under threat. They rely on ultraviolet light to work, and light-emitting diodes do not typically give out anything in that part of the spectrum. 

There’s no doubt we are in the middle of an LED revolution. Their high energy efficiency and long life have captured the attention of facilities professionals. As the technology has improved the price has decreased, making retrofits more financially viable. 

LED lights last up to 50,000 hours compared to a standard fluorescent which lasts 12,000 hours, and the return on investment from lower electricity costs and maintenance can be achieved within 3 years. 

At Mitie, we have seen an increase in the number of companies investing in retrofitting their sites. They have been drawn in by the various energy savings benefits, which lower their operational costs. 

According to manufacturer Philips’ recent results, LED-based sales at the company grew by 37 per cent from Q1 2013, and now represent 33 per cent of total lighting sales.

The retail sector in particular is seeing the dual benefits of improved visual quality and efficiency. In an industry where the quality of light and its impact on the customer experience is so important, the number of stores opting for LED or undergoing a retrofit can only be an endorsement of its effectiveness.

Part of the expansion in retail LED lighting is its use for exterior as well as interior lighting. Right now we have a big problem with light pollution; light is wasted shining upwards and the glare from one property can intrude on another. 

The efficacy and directionality of LEDs can reduce the number of fixtures required. Even Las Vegas has got in on the act, converting 40,000 of their street lights. 

So what do I see for the future of the commercial lighting market? Certainly a greater shift towards refit projects as more and more businesses look to enhance their lighting and achieve greater energy efficiency. The result of this will likely be fewer conventional lighting maintenance contracts, as a longer service life results in fewer failures. LEDs may not be the solution for every application, but their potential is only just beginning to be realised. 

Pete Mosley is managing director at Mitie Technical Facilities Management