5 Things to consider before buying LED Light Panels
Several decades ago, fluorescent lighting was hailed as an energy-saving innovation, able to provide brighter illumination while using considerably less energy that the incandescent bulb that was dominant at the time. In the time since fluorescent lighting was introduced and become a mainstream installation in offices around the world, technology has marched on. Over the last five years, LED lighting has emerged as the sensible replacement for both fluorescent and incandescent lighting in offices as well as homes. Able to produce much bright light with a fraction of the energy required by other bulbs, LEDs are considered an important part of "going green" and greatly reducing energy use.
In offices, the most common fluorescent lighting is the panel light, which often uses a 600x600, 600x1200, or 300x1200 panel design across a large, open ceiling. These lights and their distinctive glow are quite wasteful, however, and can even cause chronic headaches for office workers who are sensitive to the nearly imperceptible flickering of fluorescent bulbs. With superior technology available, many building managers are getting ready to make the switch to LED illumination. Before embarking on this journey, however, there are a few things to keep in mind about LED lighting and how it differs from previous generations of energy efficient technology.
1. Get Ready for Brighter Light, Even at Identical Lumen Levels
While most people are familiar with measuring a lightbulb in watts, the proper measurement is lumens. While watts can measure energy usage, lumens actually measure how much light is produced. When it comes to fluorescent and LED panels, however, even lumens don't offer a direct comparison. The reason for this is quite simple: Fluorescent bulbs are round, and throw off a great deal of light toward the top of the panel, where it cannot be seen or used. Even mirrors don't reflect back the full amount of light produced by a fluorescent bulb. LEDs, on the other hand, are flat and mounted to the top of the light panel. All of the light they produce is therefore directed downward.
This means that an LED panel will produce significantly more useful light when compared to a fluorescent panel rated identically in terms of lumens. Installers absolutely need to consider this disparity before they decide which LED panel to buy. Without careful planning beforehand, they could "over-light" a space, causing it to be far too bright for long-term, daily use. This could also result in significant installation and reinstallation costs when different panels are installed instead.
2. Choose the Right Panel Size Ahead of Time
LED panels are intended to replace their fluorescent predecessors, so replacements are typically built to industry standard sizes. Panels are often built to 600x600, 600x1200, and 300x1200 sizes that can just "drop in" to an existing ceiling design. For maximum cost savings, installers will want to choose the right panel size for the space transitioning away from fluorescent. Otherwise, a time-consuming retrofitting process could be in order. That could represent a significant and avoidable cost that might undo most of the initial savings that LEDs have to offer.
3. All LEDs Are Not Created the Same
It's tempting to think that a lightbulb is simply a lightbulb, and that any LED panel will produce roughly the same amount of light while using the same amount of energy. Though this might have been true in the past, especially with incandescent bulbs, it doesn't really apply to LED panels. LEDs are both a high-efficiency and a high-tech form of lighting. As a result, they function much like other high-tech developments: Over time, they get better and better. That means each generation of LED lights is a bit more efficient than the last, producing more light while using even less power.
It's important to consider this type of technological evolution when choosing an LED panel for open office and retail spaces. The goal of transitioning to LED panels is to both save energy and to reduce long-term costs. To best achieve these goals, installers will want to pick the best panel on the market in terms of overall energy efficiency. Integral-LED panels, a major brand in the marketplace, offers some of the most efficient lighting on the market using current technologies. Many competing brands also offer unique takes on LED lighting that could result in a beneficial boost to energy consumption and long-term maintenance costs.
4. LED Lighting Will Be Sticking Around for Quite a While
While fluorescent lasted several years, LED lighting can last several decades. In fact, the best manufacturers of today's LED drop panels estimate that their solutions will last between 20 and 27 years after installation, based on using the panel 12 hours per day, five days per week. That's a particularly impressive lifespan, but it has a big implication when choosing a specific panel: Choose the wrong panel, and it's a mistake that could stick around for nearly three whole decades. That represents a significant lost opportunity. In fact, it could even represent a significant reduction in energy savings for installers who choose a less efficient panel.
Because these panels last so much longer than any lighting technology that came before them, it's important to look at the lumens-per-watt rating of each panel being considered. Make sure that any LED panel chosen produces the right hue, maximizes the amount of light used for each watt of energy consumed, and fits perfectly within the existing ceiling layout. If not, this once exciting installation of new lighting technology could represent a three-decade mistake that could haunt even the next generation of lighting installers.
5. Colour Temperature Can Be Changed
One of the biggest downsides of fluorescent panels, which has been the case since they were first put on the market, is their "cool" colour temperature. Cool white, as the colour is known, has become a hallmark of the modern office. Even so, it wreaks havoc on the brain. In fact, cool white lighting can cause changes in the brain that affect moods, result in sleeplessness, and even lead to more frequent headaches, especially when cool white lighting is combined with the glow of a computer screen. LEDs can help solve this problem.
When choosing an LED lighting replacement panel, keep in mind that there are two colour options available. Those who prefer a traditional office lighting hue can choose a cool white LED panel, which typically has a color temperature of 6000K. This will result in a barely noticeable transition for office workers and will be a relatively seamless transition.
A natural white LED panel is also available, typically with a colour temperature of 4000K. The lower the number, the warmer the colour. Changing the colour temperature of panel lighting could result in slight changes to workspace design, especially where computer screens and other electronic devices are concerned. Visibility of these devices' screens may be slightly affected by the change to a warmer colour temperature.
A Smooth Transition to LED Lights Takes Careful Planning
LED lighting is often a no-brainer for offices where fluorescent lights are using too much energy and causing a bit too much stress for office workers. Though the benefits of switching to LEDs are many, it's important to consider the size, brightness, and installation concerns that may affect the transition process. Furthermore, it's important to carefully consider how LEDs differ from fluorescent panels in terms of their hue, brightness, longevity, and maintenance. With careful planning, switching to LED panels can be a rewarding experience for all parties involved.