MRO Q&A: LED Lights Pros and Cons

MRO Q&A is a Food Processing series addressing maintenance, repair and operational issues in food plants.

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Q: I have been hearing a lot about LED lights recently. What are their pluses and the minuses? Are they the next big thing?

A: Applications for industrial lighting vary considerably based upon the amount of lumens required, the bay height of the area needed to be illuminated and the cost of the technology to be used. The days of the old incandescent bulbs pretty much as in the past. The older T-12 florescent bulbs are fading quickly and have been replaced by the HID (high discharge intensity) bulbs. The newer guys on the block, the T-5 s and T-8 fluorescent are picking up speed, replacing the HID bulbs. Clearly, the newest guys on the block are the LED (light emitting diode) bulbs.

There are many positive performance factors that make LED lights very appealing. The life of an LED is approximately 50,000 hours, four to five times longer than HID lights. The power consumption of LEDs is generally less than 50% of an HID bulb. They have the ability to be “instant on,” which saves considerable energy over the HID bulbs. They are also minimally affected by vibration. LEDs work very well in cold environments by maintaining their light intensity, which is why many frozen warehouses are converting to LED lighting.

The downsides of LEDs are few but significant. Their light output severely deteriorates in temperatures above 140 degrees F. In high bay areas, especially non-refrigerated storage areas, temperatures can easily get to these temperatures directly under a roof surface. The most negative fact relating to LEDs is their cost. The cost of a 100-watt LED is approximately is $650. The costs of other bulbs are half of this or less in many cases. This is a direct result of LED being a relatively new technology. This cost clearly will come down as the manufacturers streamline their production methods, but for now, this is the major holdback.

Every application can be unique and I would encourage you to investigate each opportunity thoroughly. Depending upon your situation, you may want to contact your local utility to investigate any incentives they may offer on lighting. This could make the difference between a marginal investment and one you may want to postpone until the technology matures.

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