LED lighting has emerged as a versatile technology for accommodation and hospitality applications, able to showcase ambience in its true light while delivering significant energy savings.
Today’s LED technology offers far higher levels of brightness and energy efficiency than seemed possible just a few years ago, leading to a wealth of options to choose from.
While still more expensive than halogen initially, LED lighting can enable a hotel to make significant cuts in energy use and create a dynamic atmosphere to adapt to the different needs of guests. But using LED lighting in areas of a hotel or motel where lights are switched on most of the time, some estimates say energy savings of up to 85 per cent can be made.
Considerable savings can also be made in the cost of the lamps themselves.
LED lamps can last 30,000 hours or more, or between 20 to 35 years, depending on their length of usage. This can mean a return on the initial investment after only a few months.
There are also advantages in environmental sustainability. As the lifecycle of LED is far longer, there are far fewer lamps going into landfill. Overseas, at the end of its life, an LED lamp is recyclable, although the market for that in New Zealand is yet to develop.
Yet, in spite of these apparent advantages, some still say there are advantages with halogen.
What is LED lighting?
LED stands for a light-emitting diode – a two-lead semiconductor light source. It is a basic pn-junction diode, which emits light when activated. When a fitting voltage is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence, and the colour of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photon) is determined by the energy band gap of the semiconductor.
An LED is often small in area (less than 1 mm2) and integrated optical components may be used to shape its radiation pattern.
Appearing as practical electronic components in 1962, the earliest LEDs emitted low-intensity infrared light. Infrared LEDs are still frequently used as transmitting elements in remote-control circuits, such as those in remote controls for a wide variety of consumer electronics. The first visible-light LEDs were also of low intensity, and limited to red. Modern LEDs are available across the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared wavelengths, with very high brightness.
Early LEDs were often used as indicator lamps for electronic devices, replacing small incandescent bulbs. They were soon packaged into numeric readouts in the form of seven-segment displays, and were commonly seen in digital clocks.
Recent developments in LEDs permit them to be used in environmental and task lighting. LEDs have many advantages over incandescent light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved physical robustness, smaller size, and faster switching.
Light-emitting diodes are now used in applications as diverse as aviation lighting, automotive headlamps, advertising, general lighting, traffic signals, and camera flashes. However, LEDs powerful enough for room lighting are still relatively expensive, and it is generally considered that they require more precise current and heat management than compact fluorescent lamp sources of comparable output.
Why debate LED versus halogen?
The decision to invest in a new or different lighting technology is of huge importance to accommodation providers and designers.
Aesthetics, colour, intensity, beam angle and light distribution must all be considered. With the ever-wider variety of LED options becoming available, selecting the best source is not getting any easier.
Compared to conventional halogen lamps, there is no noticeable difference in light intensity and colour accuracy provided by LEDs. Indeed, the smart use of LED lamps, fixtures and dimming controls can mean they perform better.
While LED lighting has improved markedly in terms of brightness over the past few years, that is not necessarily what an accommodation environment is looking for, particularly when it comes to creating a mood or a theme. LED lamps allow designers to select a CCT level that best matches each mood.
Simple changes, like adapting CCT from 2700K to 3000K, made blue tones more vivid, if that is desired to create a mood or enhance a theme. Bringing out that ‘true colour’ depends upon both the chromaticity of the source and its colour rendering index.
A key benefit of good LED is that it delivers only visible light, cutting out the damaging ultraviolet and infrared elements. Another perceived advantage is that for a given beam angle, LED lighting tends to offer a greater intensity in the centre of the beam profile. And while the combination of a small filament and precise optics in halogen lamps means that they are good for very tight spotlight distribution, LEDs featuring a wider beam angle can also be advantageous.
LED lighting can enable a hotel or motel to make significant cuts in energy use and create a dynamic atmosphere to adapt to the different needs of guests, it pays to shop around for proven brands. They will usually deliver better performance and superior cost-effectiveness.
Expert New Zealand opinions
AMG sought the opinions of three lighting experts: Matthew Still, National Business Development manager at Ideal Electrical Suppliers; Gerard Woods, managing director of Switch Lighting; and the general manager of Hugo Lighting, Mark Ralston.
There was only one area where they thought halogen almost certainly retained some vestige of superiority – colour quality.
“I think halogen does have a better colour rendering index than LED at present,” said Mr Ralston. He says with LED, 86 CRI is “pretty common, but halogen’s at 100, so it does make you feel a lot warmer.”
Said Gerard Woods: “There are two colour issues to consider – colour rendering and CCT – the Correlated Colour Temperature.
“When it comes to colour rendering in a hotel, that’s how well colours are represented and reflected and it is still where halogen cannot be beaten at present. Halogen has 100 per cent colour rendering, i.e. all the colours of the spectrum.”
This means objects may appear slightly warmer in colour hue – the colours will be represented accurately. “That would be the one and only advantage that halogen has over other lighting technologies at the moment,” Mr Woods said.
But Ideal’s Matthew Still sees an advantage for LED here as well. “It’s not restricted to producing light in the typical 3000 Kelvin white light we are used to. LED opens up a whole new flexibility with colour.
“While halogen has always been available with coloured filters, colour changing was restricted to stage shows. Now you can light your garden or home in any colour you choose for a special occasion, and with the flick of a button return it to the light you typically use. You are only limited to your imagination,” he said.
“For hospitality, this means a different feel for breakfast and lunch, then into yellows and orange for cocktail hours, then blues and reds as the night wears on and patrons continue to party.”
Size and flexibility
While the men still see some colour superiority for halogen, that is almost where the advantages end. One of the big plusses for LED is the size of the lamps and the flexibility this gives.
Said Gerard Woods from Switch Lighting: “When it comes to size you cannot go beyond LED. The smallest product we make is a one watt LED, which in a hotel we could put into a bathroom to create an effect in the shower.”
That makes LED excellent for such uses as pathways, gardens and feature lighting, he said.
“You could have three luminaires of them in there – three watts in total. And the OD (outside diameter) of the product is 20mm. That’s tiny – just a little bit bigger than a 10 cent piece. You can’t do that with other lighting. That’s one of the advantages of LED, you can put it in shelving or similar confined spaces.”
Ideal’s Matthew Still agrees: “LED can be incorporated into areas and things that were not conceivable before with traditional light sources. This means they can be used as features under kitchen benches and kick boards, or in gardens without intruding on the landscape. LED can be placed in fittings, flexible strips and a number of other such places, allowing all kinds of creativity to create ambiance.”
He says with LED, there is a significant reduction in the heat generated from the light source.
“With the cool running temperatures of LED, the product can be used down halls and in stairwells to guide people to where they need to go, without a lot of overhead light, while fittings this low down are still safe around children. This kind of light greatly increases orientation in an emergency situation as a supplement to the standard emergency lighting system.”
Said Hugo Lighting’s Mark Ralston: “We do a lot of marker lights and also wall lights so it’s great for that because you don’t need ceiling lights going and you’ll still have plenty of light. You can run on one watt and you’ll be fine. That’s enough to give people plenty of guidance to get from A to B.”
All three see major LED advantages for those involved in the hospitality business.
Mark Ralston: “LED is definitely cheaper to run, so you save money on power – the life of an LED is almost 10 times as long as halogen. And you don’t have to replace the lamps so often so your maintenance is a lot lower.
“You’d be changing halogen lamps probably every 3-5,000 hours. For an LED, it would be a minimum of 30,000-50,000. By that time you could be due to update the motel and you’d probably just throw the lamp away – perhaps by then able to replace a nine watt with a one watt.”
Gerard Woods also sees advantages in the economy of LED: “With exterior security lighting, a one watt LED is enough illumination for exterior lighting so you could have it on all night, every night, and it’s very cost efficient to run. To put that in context, a one watt LED running 10 hours per night every night of the year, uses less than one dollar’s worth of energy. You don’t have to worry about the cost.”
Matthew Still: “In real terms, for a house using lighting five hours a day on average means taking the lamp change from 1-2 years to 16 years and up, effectively eliminating maintenance. By upgrading to LED, you’re also upgrading your old assets to something new that will see a long maintenance free period.”
And with the economy and flexibility advantages of LED, he says accommodation establishments should be questioning the way they are portraying their brands to customers.
“Is it a dull sign that disappears at night, or is it back-lit using LED and creating a ‘wow’ factor. Use it to boost revenue.”
Taking the LED plunge
While the initial costs of LED lighting might be still be higher, all three men say the gap is closing rapidly.
Mark Ralston: “The price gap closing up all the time, driven by the market. If I was building a hotel or motel, I wouldn’t go with anything except LED because of the savings. Some LED wall lights are now five watt and are putting out just as much light as a halogen used to do.
Gerard Woods: “In a commercial environment we’re looking at a two year payback. The costs are coming down to a point where the replacement product is now less than double the conventional product. It used to be three or four times the price. The payback period can now be quite short.
“LED is revolutionising the lighting industry. There are new products coming out all the time such as built-in sensors, smart automation, app controlled etc – the potential is untapped. The change in lighting over the next 10 years is going to be quite phenomenal.”