What’s the big difference?
Back in the day, the two main things you had to consider when buying lighting for your facility were choosing from incandescent, fluorescent, or metal halide and deciding on the wattage of the bulbs.
In 2008, the EPA’s and DOE’s Energy Star program added lighting to its list of products that help businesses and individuals save money and protect the environment through better energy efficiency. Their designation is awarded only to bulbs that meet strict efficiency, quality, and lifetime criteria. So, what’s the big difference among these lighting sources, and which one is best for your business?
An incandescent light is the electric light we’re all familiar with. It uses a wire filament heated to such a high temperature that it glows with visible light. Incandescent bulbs are much less efficient than most other types of electric lighting. They’re relatively inexpensive, but they convert less than 5% of the energy they use into visible light, with standard light bulbs averaging about only 2.2%. They also need frequent replacement, making them more costly and impractical for use in commercial facilities. Because of their enormous inefficiency, several countries, including the United States, are in the process of phasing out incandescent light bulbs, and others have already banned their use.
High-intensity discharge lamps (HID lamps)
HID lamps produce light through an electric arc between tungsten electrodes housed inside a translucent or transparent fused quartz or fused aluminum oxide arc tube. The tube is filled with noble gas (helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) and often also contains metal or metal salts. The noble gas enables the arc’s initial strike.
These lamps are typically used when a high level of lighting over a larger area is required. Typical applications include gyms and football stadiums, warehouses, movie theaters, outdoor activity areas, roadways, and parking lots.
A fluorescent light is a low-pressure mercury-vapor gas-discharge bulb that uses fluorescence, a type of luminescence, to produce visible light. An electric current in the gas energizes mercury vapor, which produces short-wave ultraviolet light that then causes a phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp to glow. Energy Star-qualified fluorescent lighting uses 75% less energy and lasts up to ten times longer than incandescent lights.
Fluorescent lamp fixtures are more costly than incandescent lamps because they require a ballast to regulate the current through the lamp, but the lower overall energy cost typically offsets the higher initial installation cost. New technologies have enabled outdated fluorescent fixtures to be retrofitted with even more energy efficient LED lighting.
Energy Star-qualified light-emitting diode (LED) lighting:
- Reduces energy costs by using at least 75% less energy than incandescent lighting, saving on operating expenses.
- Reduces maintenance costs because the bulbs lasts 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent lighting and about 2 to 5 times longer than fluorescent lighting. This means your facilities employees will be making fewer bulb-replacements.
- Reduces cooling costs because they produce very little heat.
To qualify for Energy Star certification, LED lighting products must pass a variety of tests to prove that the products will display the following characteristics:
- Brightness is equal to or greater than existing lighting technologies (incandescent or fluorescent) and light is well distributed over the area lighted by the fixture.
- Light output remains constant over time, only decreasing towards the end of the rated lifetime (at least 35,000 hours or 12 years based on use of 8 hours per day).
- Excellent color quality. The shade of white light appears clear and consistent over time.
- Efficiency is as good as or better than fluorescent lighting.
- Light comes on instantly when turned on.
- No flicker when dimmed.
- No off-state power draw, meaning the fixture does not use power when it is turned off, with the exception of external controls, whose power should not exceed 0.5 watts in the off state.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when thinking about your lighting needs. If you’re wondering exactly which of these types of lighting will work for your particular application, give us a call! Our experts can come out to your location and conduct a site audit and find the lighting that is perfect for your situation.