LEDs offer a brighter future, says report

Social housing block fitted with LED lights (Image: Energy Saving Trust) The EST wanted to measure the effectiveness of LED lights in order to test manufacturers' claims

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A field trial of LED light fittings in social housing says the new technology can deliver huge energy savings, reduce costs and makes residents feel safer.

The study, carried out by the Energy Saving Trust (EST), measured the performance of more than 4,250 LED light fittings installed at 35 sites.

The EST said it carried out the trial because an increasing number of LED lights were now commercially available.

It is predicted the technology could dominate the lighting market by 2015.

"We like to test things in-situ in order to understand their real performance rather than rely on manufacturers' claims," explained James Russill, EST's technical development manager.

But, he added: "We are at one of those rare times when there is a revolution, I think it is fair to say, within the lighting sector.

"LEDs promise to be the way forward for the whole sector, to be honest. There are so many benefits: they can be smaller, brighter; it is one of those rare technologies where the trial has shown it performs better than the lighting systems it is replacing but, at the same time, using less energy."

LED appreciation

At the 35 sites in the field trial, the authors of the Lit Up report calculated that the LED fittings saved more than three million kilowatt hours (kWh) each year when compared with the previous lighting.

What is LED lighting?

Communal area with standard lighting (left) and LED fittings (right) (Image: Energy Saving Trust)

Light-emitting diodes have been around for years.

Traditionally, they have been used as indicators on electrical devices, such as standby lights on TVs. This was because LEDs were only available in red, but recent advances means that other colours are now available, and the light emitted is much brighter.

White light (used for general lighting) using LEDs can be created via a number of techniques. One example is mixing red, green and blue LEDs.

It is suggested that LEDs can last for up to 100,000 hours, compared with the 1,000 hours of traditional incandescent light-bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps' (CFLs) 15,000 hours.

The technology is also much more energy efficient, using up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs.

The long lifespans and low energy use make LEDs economically attractive because even though the fittings cost more, the running and maintenance bills are lower.

"The trial has shown that the installation of LED light fittings can be used to maintain or enhance light levels, and in both cases can generate energy savings," the report's authors wrote.

They added: "The increase in colour temperature typically produced by LEDs also improved the environments monitored in the field trial, a factor much appreciated by the social housing tenants.

"With the rising price of electricity, the high efficiencies of LED lighting technology will make it an even more attractive investment in the years ahead."

Mr Russill said that he thought that there would be a natural take-up for the new lighting systems.

"I am already aware of many people that have bought LEDs without any subsidy or incentive," He told BBC News.

"As with any new technology, there is a higher initial cost - these products are new to market - but people seem to be looking beyond that and seeing they last much longer.

"LEDs will take over the market in due course because I think they are such better products, but I do think introducing them into a subsidy scheme would be a real benefit to speed things up," he added.

As well as the technical benefits, Mr Russill said feedback from tenants involved in the trial highlighted social benefits too.

"Some of the comments we had was that the light was fresher, brighter and more like daylight," he said.

"Generally, the feedback was that the lighting make it a nicer place to live."

The brighter light levels also had a positive impact on people's sense of security, he observed.

"We also did fit some lighting in external area, such as balcony areas and car parks.

"People also did comment and did make the areas outside feel like a safer environment because it was better lit.

"That also applied to stairwells as well which could be perceived to be an area where shadowy figures like to hang out."

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