This article originally appeared in DTE Energy’s EnergySmarts for Michigan Business, a free publication for our customers.

Savvy business owners know a 20-percent energy bill reduction is easily achieved by replacing incandescent bulbs and high-intensity discharge lighting with highly efficient ENERGY STAR®- or DesignLights Consortium°-certified LEDs.

LEDs produce superior light without generating heat and deliver numerous benefits.

  • Reduce overall cost: While LEDs cost more initially, they last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, making them a significant­ly better value.
  • Lower air conditioning costs: Because LEDs run cooler, air conditioning systems don’t work as hard in warm weather.
  • Superb lighting: LEDs enable enhanced and focused retail display lighting that attracts attention and builds sales volume.

LEDs have saturated the market and are widely available in a variety of shapes, sizes, lumen ratings and color temperatures, ranging from white and cool to golden warm. LED popularity has grown tremendously in a relatively short period of time, the technology has advanced exponentially, and prices have declined.

We recently spoke to lighting expert Jim Colantoni III, national account manager at Lunera, to learn what’s on the horizon for LEDs. According to Colantoni, LEDs will continue to advance. They’re becoming more refined and will soon deliver features and benefits one can only imagine. Connectivity and specialized applications are key.

Connectivity and Lighting Control

“One of the major trends we’re seeing is in the area of advanced lighting controls and Wi-Fi capability,” said Colantoni. “At Lunera, we’ve developed technology that connects LEDs and other devices within range to networks and the cloud.”

Lunera’s cloud-connected commercial LEDs are now available with embedded networking and control functions. This advanced technology allows LEDs to connect to each other seamlessly via Wi-Fi or guest networks. Because they also have Bluetooth capability, these LEDs deliver a wealth of benefits to small-business owners.

“With small businesses, lighting control is typically handled via a light switch or perhaps with occupancy sensors. These new LEDs can track occupancy, switching on and off as employees enter or leave a room. They can handle time tracking, notifying you when employees arrive or leave. This is accomplished with Bluetooth employee badges that cost about $1,” Colantoni said.

Other systems within the facility can be interconnected, allowing business owners —including those with multiple locations spread across a large geographical area — to have greater control of overall energy usage.

“Let’s say that based on the system sensors, a business owner notices there aren’t many customers or employees present on a given day,” said Colantoni. “The lights can be dimmed 20 percent, and because the LEDs can communicate with a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, the business owner can adjust the HVAC system a couple of degrees and reduce energy usage.”

In addition to the added savings from networked lighting controls, occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting and automatic demand response, the Smart Lamp Platform can also deliver occupancy-based HVAC control, making this an affordable Building Management Services (BMS) solution for existing small- and mid-sized facilities.

Beyond energy savings and building management, the software-configurable Smart Lamp Platform can be configured as an open Internet of Things infrastructure (see callout on page 12) without any additional installation cost or maintenance burden.

Imagine using these energy- saving lights for indoor GPS, asset tracking, proximity messaging, space utilization mapping, occupancy-based security and more. For example, businesses with expensive equipment, such as a doctor’s office, can use the Bluetooth-enabled LEDs to monitor an area and sense if equipment is removed — reducing misplacement and theft.

The Bluetooth capability of the new LEDs delivers further conveniences. When paired with devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Assistant, a voice command can switch lights on or off. When coupled with an app, the same can be accomplished from anywhere in the world with a smartphone or tablet.

Horticultural Lighting

Specialized businesses are benefiting from advanced LED technology. Horticulturalists, for example, are increasingly relying on the latest LEDs to help them grow a better product using less energy.

Some LEDs engineered for horticultural use can emphasize desirable plant traits, resulting in better taste, fuller leaves or enhanced coloring, for example. Studies have shown that LEDs can help plants grow faster and with better overall health than those illuminated by high-pressure sodium lighting. Because LEDs produce less heat and evaporation, water requirements are reduced. Less heat also means lower cooling costs. For companies with limited space, the relatively small LED grow lamps make plants more accessible.

An Abundance of Features

As LEDs have become connected and capable, their usefulness has increased, and numerous control features are possible.

  • Lights can be programmed to turn on and off at preset times.
  • Triggers can respond to predetermined situations, such as motion around a building.
  • Parking lot lights can be dimmed or brightened depending on ambient lighting.
  • Interior lights can be programmed to mimic sunlight, warming as the day progresses. This is a natural cycle, and it creates a pleasant working environment.

Enlist the Aid of a Specialist

To maximize the benefits that LEDs provide and ensure they’re suited to your requirements, Colantoni advises that business owners work with a supplier who employs an LED specialist, whose assistance can be invaluable.

Where you purchase your LEDs is also important. Products listed by DesignLights Consortium° (DLC) carry an assurance of high quality. DLC is a nonprofit that works with utility companies and suppliers to establish goals for energy efficient lighting. DLC maintains a list of qualified products that business customers can review when selecting a product. DTE Energy and others recognize the organization as the new standard in energy efficiency for commercial lighting. DTE offers instant discounts at participating lighting distributors on a number of DLC-listed products. See the Toolbox for more information.

Working with a DTE Designated Trade Ally who specializes in lighting is another good option. These energy experts have knowledge of DTE incentive programs and can help ensure you’ll receive as much incentive money as possible.

Learn more about how the latest LEDs can benefit your business. Talk to a Designated Trade Ally or a participating lighting distributor today. With applicable discounts and incentives from DTE, there’s never been a better time to upgrade lighting.

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