Friday, May 1, 2009
Businesses Warm to LED Lighting
AMBIENCE The Chicago Center for Green Technology, which uses solar power, installed LED lighting in its resource center
THE architect Cass Gilbert’s vision for the United States Custom House in Lower Manhattan resulted in one of the city’s grand classical buildings. But until recently it has been difficult to appreciate the subtlety and majesty of the 102-year-old structure when viewing it at night.
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Go to Blog » At its base, huge fixtures produced scattered light that cast strong shadows on the windows, giving the facade the tired look of an insomniac. Aging light bulbs had shifted in color, throwing off an unwanted rainbow of green and pink.
“The lighting was atrocious,” said Patricia DiMaggio, who noticed the poor illumination when walking by the building. “It wasn’t doing the job.”
Unlike most passers-by, Ms. DiMaggio was prepared to take action. A lighting engineer for Osram Sylvania, she was introduced to the right people at the federal General Services Administration. Donating time and material, Ms. DiMaggio promised to relight the building both to restore its grandeur and save energy.
Combining warm-hued LED and metal-halide fixtures, Ms. DiMaggio lighted previously dark areas of the building and removed unsightly shadows cast by aging traditional lamps.
“One person said, ‘I feel like I’m in Paris when I walk by the building,’ ” Ms. DiMaggio recalled.
Using LED-based fixtures, Ms. DiMaggio said, she cut energy consumption for lighting by 43 percent, saving $6,654 a year. With an expected life of 50,000 hours, compared with the 2,000 hours typical of incandescent bulbs, the lights have also lowered maintenance costs.
Although they have yet to substantially influence the residential lighting market, light-emitting diode lamps are increasingly being introduced in commercial buildings. Manufacturers are creating lamps that are reliable, color-accurate and at least as efficient as incandescent or compact fluorescent lights.
LED fixtures still cost more than conventional ones, but the energy savings can help commercial projects to pay for themselves in as little as two years.
That said, the quickly evolving technology is still in its early stages. “In 2006, I had a really hard time to light well with just LEDs,” said Brad Koerner, a designer at Lam Partners, a Cambridge, Mass., lighting firm. “By 2008, there was no longer any problem.”
Mr. Koerner oversaw the relighting of Boston’s Custom House Tower, which is now a Marriott hotel. The building’s lighting had fallen into disrepair over the last 20 years, with much of the upper half remaining in darkness.
Mr. Koerner installed LED-based fixtures from Philips’s Color Kinetics division that resemble warm incandescent bulbs. He replaced the 90-watt halogen bulbs with 50-watt LED fixtures, cutting energy use in half.
“Every month LEDs get so much better it’s amazing,” Mr. Koerner said. “It’s changing that quickly.”
While Derry Berrigan, owner of Derry Berrigan Lighting Design in Rogers, Ark., is using LEDs, she said much of what was currently sold was “pure junk. It’s like the Wild West.”
Seeking out high-quality products, Ms. Berrigan used fixtures from Cree and Insight Lighting to relight a prototype KFC and Taco Bell restaurant in Northampton, Mass.
She placed LEDs in the interior, reducing energy consumption by 81 percent, while LEDs outside saved 77 percent. Installing LED parking lot fixtures, which spread wider beams than conventional lighting, allowed Ms. Berrigan to remove two poles.
Costs can even be cut when a building is receiving its energy off the grid. At the Chicago Center for Green Technology, which uses solar energy, Ms. Berrigan used LED track lighting from Journée Lighting in Westlake Village, Calif., to illuminate the walls in its resource center, along with fixtures from Color Kinetics, Cree, Insight and other companies to provide general illumination.
With a resulting 64 percent drop in energy use for lighting, 47 of the center’s 200 solar panels could provide electricity for purposes other than illumination.
LEDs can also create a look that would otherwise be unachievable. Focus Lighting, based in New York, illuminated Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen, a restaurant prototype in Los Angeles owned by the Cheesecake Factory chain.
Faced with lighting rooms with 25- to 30-foot ceilings and intimate bar and dining areas, Christine Hope, Focus’s designer, said, “LEDs were the perfect solution.”
Fixtures included LED strips behind the bar and, in cubbyholes, dozens of candlelike LEDs using just one to three watts per unit. That “would have been impossible to do with incandescents,” Ms. Hope said.
Color-changing LEDs programmed to cycle through the hues of dawn to dusk were placed behind large Buddhas. LED lights drawing three or six watts were installed in 25 globes in the courtyard.
Needing omnidirectional light in the dining room, Ms. Hope used compact fluorescent bulbs in three fixtures, their yellow shades providing the proper color for the room.
The LEDs reduced energy consumption by at least half compared with traditional incandescent and halogen bulbs, Ms. Hope said. “This restaurant is such a great example of what you can achieve with LEDs,” she said.