Five answers about screw-in LEDs

LED flood light

Thinking about shifting to LED (light-emitting diode) lights? It's worth considering.

Replacing halogen or incandescent lamps with screw-in LEDs is a relatively easy upgrade that cuts energy and maintenance costs. And the payback is typically less than a year.

To help sort out if this upgrade would work for your business, we took the most frequently asked questions about LED screw-in bulbs to Power Smart engineer Cristian Suvagau. Here are his answers.

1. Which businesses are the best candidates for upgrading to screw-in LEDs?

The first thing to consider is the type of application. There are directional and omni-directional LEDs.

Directional LEDs are spotlights. Because they can replace incandescent, halogen or CFL lamps in any spotlight application, such as in track light fixtures or recessed pots, they are commonly used in retail, as well as restaurants and hotels.

Omni-directional LEDs are meant to replace bulb-shaped lamps (i.e. the traditional incandescent). These tend to be used more for residential applications, but they are frequently used in desk lamps, for example in a hotel.

Another consideration is the extent of your lighting upgrade. Screw-in LEDs are a good option if you want to keep using your existing fixtures. But if you are going to change your fixtures as well, it's better to go with a hard-wired LED system, where the fixtures are specifically designed for LEDs. Hard-wired LEDs will last longer and look better.

2. Has the price of LEDs come down?

The prices are definitely dropping. Currently, there are good quality [omnidirectional, residential grade] lamp options on the market for as low as $15. However, stick with reputable manufacturers to avoid products of inferior quality. Look for ENERGY STAR® lamps with a minimum life of 30,000 hours to 70% lumen maintenance.

3. Do LEDs work with dimmers?

All LEDs can dim, but the quality of dimming depends on the quality of the dimmer. Some dimmers were designed to work solely with incandescents and might not work with LEDs. With a compatible dimmer, LEDs can dim continuously, but with inadequate dimmers, the light might not work or might flicker at lower settings.

The only way to find out if your dimmer will work with LEDs is to try it. If your existing dimmers are incompatible, ask your electrician to help you find dimmers that are LED compatible. They are generally available in any stores where you buy LEDs.

4. Do LEDs save money?

Yes. LEDs are four to six times more energy efficient than incandescents, two to three times more efficient than halogens, and LED technology is constantly growing more efficient.

LEDs save money in other ways as well. While incandescent, halogen, and even CFL bulbs seem cheaper initially, they burn out far more quickly, requiring time and money to replace. When treated right, an LED can last 25,000 to 30,000 hours. [That's about three years of non-stop use, or nine years if used 8 hours a day.]

The fact that LEDs are cool to the touch can be another advantage, particularly in a setting like a museum or art gallery, where heat could damage artifacts or paintings. Cooler lights also help reduce air conditioning costs.

5. Full disclosure — are there any drawbacks to screw-in LEDs?

Screw-in LEDs are a great lighting option. They are energy efficient, easy to use and last far longer than any other lamps. In a situation where you are staying with your existing light fixtures, screw-in LEDs are likely your best choice.

But, if your business is considering getting new fixtures, then going with hard-wired LEDs may be an even better choice, especially since there are Power Smart incentives that help reduce your up-front cost.

More than 80% of all lamps worldwide are incandescent and have screw-in bases. With so many sockets in the world, it is easiest to make new technology adapt to tradition. However, holding LEDs to this tradition is limiting.

In a hard-wired system, the fixtures are made specifically to work with LEDs, so the lamps will last longer, work better, and give off better light.

Right now, pot light hard-wired LED fixtures cost about 30 to 50% more than screw-in options, but because they last longer, the costs can equal out over time. There are more hard-wired options for both indoor and outdoor use, and selections are on the rise.

Learn what LED options are available for your business. Contact a member of the Power Smart Alliance — contractors who are registered with BC Hydro and knowledgeable about energy efficiency and Power Smart incentives.

Not sure what Power Smart incentive program applies to your business? Find out with the quick online Business Program Eligibility Tool.