Commercial LED Lighting Upgrades: Why LEDs Dominate

As is the case in most industries, changes in technology impact the way that products deliver their benefits. This is especially the case in lighting, which has evolved since Edison produced the first light bulb. Over the years different technologies have "changed the game", from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent tubes and more. In recent years, commercial LED lighting technology has changed the game like no other, delivering not only the best level of energy efficiency to date, but levels of control over color temperature, brightness and more.

Historically, updating a light fixture, such as signage and commercial lighting for example, has required a substantial rework or replacement of all componentry. Today, however, the vast majority of lighting fixtures and signs can be retrofit, gaining all the benefits of this new technology without the accompanying capital expense.


The Rise and Fall of Fluorescent Lighting

Modern fluorescent lighting is less than a century old, yet it rapidly gained massive popularity. By 1951, more light was produced in the United States by fluorescent lamps than by incandescent lamps. The reason for this was simple economics. Compared to incandescent lights, fluorescents offered significantly less energy consumption and longer lifetime per lamp.

In the year 2012, 84% of U.S. commercial buildings used standard fluorescent bulbs to meet some or all of their lighting needs, and 41% used compact fluorescents. However, by 2018 those figures had dropped to 68% and 19% respectively.


Commercial LED Lighting Graph

*Image provided by U.S. Energy Information Administration


Problems with Fluorescent Lighting

Despite the benefits over incandescent bulbs, several key issues make fluorescent lights less than ideal for modern businesses.

Loss of Brightness: Over time, fluorescent lights lose their initial luminosity. This gradual decrease in brightness can lead to a dimmer, less inviting atmosphere in commercial spaces. For businesses, this fading brightness can significantly affect the visibility and attractiveness of both interior and exterior environments.

Inconsistent Lighting: As fluorescent tubes age, they physically degrade, often resulting in dim spots or flickering before the tubes totally burn out. Not only does this reflect poorly on brand image, but insufficient lighting can cause safety hazards at night.

Yellowing: As fluorescent lights age and their phosphor coating breaks down, the light shifts in color and becomes noticeably more yellow. This distorts the true colors of the illuminated area, and gives a dated and unappealing look to the space. This yellowing is particularly problematic for businesses where accurate color representation is crucial, such as in retail.

Shorter Lifespan: Despite being more efficient than older lighting technologies, fluorescent bulbs still require more frequent replacements compared to modern LED solutions. For businesses that want to replace their lamps as soon as flickering, dimming, or yellowing begin, this translates into more frequent maintenance calls and disruptions to business operations.

Environmental and Safety Concerns: The environmental impact and safety hazards of fluorescent lights are numerous. Broken bulbs can lead to shattered glass – a serious safety concern. Moreover, the mercury and rare earth elements contained in these bulbs pose health risks and environmental hazards, requiring special disposal procedures. The environmental footprint of frequent bulb replacements also adds up, making fluorescent lights a less sustainable option.


At the same time that commercial use of fluorescent lights has been shrinking, LED adoption has skyrocketed. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, from 2012 to 2018, commercial buildings have gone from 9% to 44% utilization of LED lighting. There are numerous reasons why businesses have been making the upgrade.

Longevity and Durability: LEDs are renowned for their long lifespan, significantly outperforming fluorescent lights. Some of the top commercial lighting providers offer a comprehensive 10-year warranty on all lights and power supplies, ensuring peace of mind for businesses. This durability translates to fewer maintenance and service calls, allowing companies to focus on their core operations without the hassle of frequent lighting issues.

Brightness Control: Commercial LED lighting systems can offer brightness adjustments, helping to blend naturally with the ambient light. This adaptability is crucial for businesses that require specific lighting conditions throughout the day.

Color Options: Modern LED technology can produce over 16 million distinct shades, allowing businesses to perfectly match their lighting with their brand’s unique color palette. The ability to accurately replicate specific colors in lighting enhances the overall aesthetic appeal and reinforces brand consistency.

Eco-Friendly and Safe: LEDs are an environmentally friendly lighting solution. They do not contain harmful chemicals like mercury, making them safer for both the environment and human health. Their energy efficiency not only reduces operational costs, but also contributes to a business's sustainability goals.

Versatility in Design: Commercial LED lighting offers unmatched versatility in design options. From sleek, modern fixtures to more traditional designs, LEDs can be tailored to fit any architectural style or interior décor. This flexibility allows businesses to create a unique atmosphere that aligns with their brand image and enhances the customer experience.

Read More: Brighten Your Business: How to Winterize Your Commercial LED Lighting


What is a Commercial Lighting Retrofit?

Historically, the biggest drawback to a lighting upgrade has been the total capital expense. Upgrading from incandescent to fluorescent lighting, for example, would require the replacement of nearly everything: bulbs, fixtures, ballasts, wiring, and lighting controls.

Many business owners were hesitant to make the change because of the time needed before reaching the break-even point, as well as the loss of operational efficiency throughout the process.

A retrofit, on the other hand, keeps most of the existing lighting infrastructure and essentially swaps out the bulbs. This process greatly reduces the total cost and the time needed to complete the project.

Read More: Key Concepts in Choosing Types of Commercial Lighting Fixtures


Retrofitting Lights for Business Signage

In the conversation about commercial lighting, people often think of the fixtures on ceilings or the lamp poles in a parking lot; “lighting” is about illuminating a space so people can see more easily. By the same principle, the lighting of business signage is an equally important consideration.

Commercial signs are illuminated to draw attention and be seen at any time of day or night. As such, all of the downsides of fluorescent lighting in general also apply to signage lighting specifically. Flickering, dim spots, or yellowing will negatively impact brand image, making people less interested in that business.

Fortunately, retrofitting for signage is just as easy as general lighting, and produces the same benefits of brighter, long-lasting, accurate colors. Whether a sign is internally or externally illuminated, replacing the existing light source with LEDs will bring fresh life to the face of a business.


How Does Commercial LED Lighting Save Money?

Both for general lighting and signage illumination, switching to LEDs definitely saves in the long run. Surprisingly, saving electricity is only a small part of the equation. Although LED lighting is the most energy efficient, it only equates to a 10% - 20% reduction in electricity costs compared to fluorescent lights. The real financial benefits lie in the operational efficiencies and reduced maintenance costs.

Commercial LED lighting boasts a significantly greater lifespan and reliability, which equate to long-term savings from fewer light replacements or service calls. The lack of lighting problems also means that businesses don’t suffer from any disruptions to their normal operations. These kinds of “invisible savings” are easy to overlook, but absolutely essential to improving a company’s bottom line.


Working with Commercial Lighting Experts

High quality lighting is a crucial component of business success, improving both brand image and on-site safety. This includes direct lighting for visibility and signage illumination. Businesses ready to upgrade their lighting to LEDs are best served by working with professional electricians that have experience with all forms of commercial lighting.

Banks, sports teams, and medical centers have all had positive experiences working with the team at Flexlume for their signage and lighting projects. With national reach and a 120-year track record of success, the professionals at Flexlume are ready to provide the perfect solution at every scale. Contact the team today to learn more.


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