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12/22/13 Alternatives to Incandescent Bulbs for Commercial and Industrial Applications

Article- Nov, 2013 By Larson

10 Watt LED A19 Style LED Bulb

Larson Electronics LED Light Bulb

By January 1st 2014 the 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulb will join the 100 and 75 watt in obsolescence. This means that under the guidelines set forth in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, starting in January 2014, 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulbs which do not meet federal efficiency standards will not be legal for sale or import in the United States. Although the end of the 100 watt incandescent had limited effect on the residential sector, the industrial and commercial sectors did indeed feel some pinching due to their heavier reliance on these more powerful bulbs. Now that the more widely used 40 and 60 watt bulbs will also be phased out, it is expected the effect will be much broader and more acute, with both residential and commercial customers affected on a large scale.

Most people associate 100, 75, 60, and 40 watt bulbs with residential applications. The bulbs used in table lamps, desk lamps, ceiling fans, and the like are the most familiar of the incandescent family and have changed little in the 130 odd years they’ve been around. However, these bulbs have also played a large role in commercial and industrial applications as well. When we think of industrial and commercial lighting, we usually think of the 12 foot long fluorescent tubes, metal halide fixtures, and high pressure sodium fixtures common to warehouses, processing and manufacturing plants, stadiums, and other large sites where high power illumination is required. Yet these commercial sites have also made significant use of the typical incandescent bulb, and as a result will be equally affected by the coming phase out of 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulbs. Just like the average residential consumer, they will have to turn to alternatives to fill the gaps these bulbs will leave once they are gone.

The majority of incandescent bulbs used in industrial applications are utilized in small structures and handheld lighting fixtures. Chief among these are control booths, passageways, trouble lights, work lights, string lights, storage areas, and loading/unloading zones. For these applications and more, finding an alternative to the incandescent bulb that can work with existing fixtures without compromising durability, output, or light quality is critical. Because replacing entire fixtures in order to upgrade lighting represents a large initial expense, costs can be greatly reduced if only the lamp itself is replaced. This means finding an alternative that can work with standard fixtures and sockets intended for incandescent bulbs. Currently, there are two viable alternatives available, LEDs and CFLs, and each presents specific benefits and drawbacks that need to be weighed before choosing either.

CFLs, (Compact Fluorescent) have been around for awhile now, but really began to gain prominence when the first stages of the incandescent bulb phase out began. Initially touted as the most practical and viable replacement for the incandescent bulb, early CFLs were plagued with a host of issues including low output, slow startup, poor color quality, poor cold weather operation, lack of dimming capability, and drastically shortened operating life when cycled on and off frequently. Some quick improvements by manufacturers did much to reduce or eliminate these issues, but dimming capability, slow startup, poor cold weather operation, and shortened life due to frequent cycling remain problematic. As a result, CFLs have limited practical potential for industrial and commercial applications. Although they can work well for hand lamp and general area use, their poor cold weather operation and slow startup (CFLs need 30 seconds to 1 minute to reach full output) can make them a poor choice for operations where cold temperatures and the need for immediate output can be an issue. It is also important to note that CFLS are fragile, just like the typical incandescent bulb. They can withstand only limited rough handling, and are just as prone to breakage and shattering when exposed to impacts.

LEDs have been around for decades as well, but it is only within the last 15 years LEDs capable of producing enough output for general illumination have been produced. Even at that, early LEDs had very poor color quality and limited output. Development of LED technology has taken place at a break neck pace however, and today’s now LEDs surpass almost all other forms of lighting in terms of output per watt except HID. The biggest remaining drawback to modern LEDs is their higher initial price, with LED bulbs capable of replacing 60 and 100 watt bulbs averaging around $10.00 to $25.00 compared to the $1.25 average for an incandescent. The deciding factor though is given that LEDs last up to 50 times as long, and reduce energy use by up to 90%, they have a very good payback rate, with high savings rates following initial payback. For commercial and industrial operations, payback can be as soon as 1 year after purchase, with the following years representing annual savings. Although LEDs are initially more expensive, they are actually cost effective and fit in well with long term energy savings plans.

LEDs are perhaps the ideal incandescent alternative for industrial and commercial applications.  Extremely long lived, durable and incapable of shattering (bulbs without glass), cool running, reaching full power immediately, available in dimming configurations, and available in a variety of color temperatures, LED bulbs can be fitted to almost any standard incandescent socket or fixture, allowing them to be used in hand lamps and work lights as well as standard fixtures on ceilings and walls. This means an entire string light system can be outfitted with LEDs, or explosion proof fixtures housing 60 or 100 watt incandescent bulbs can be retrofitted, eliminating the need for new fixtures while improving performance.

Although when the phase out of the incandescent light bulb first began alternatives were limited, we are now in a period of lighting development where alternatives are available that can not only replace the traditional light bulb, but surpass it in performance. The only real issue now is deciding which alternative best fits your needs and requirements.

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