Thinking about converting to LED? Not sure if the benefits of the conversion outweigh the cost of conversion? We put this post together to help you work through the costs and benefits of making the conversion.

The one aspect of LED is its truly an investment that will pay for itself. And as the cost of electricity rises in many parts of the country, the pay-off is even quicker. For commercial and industrial customers who need their lights turned in 12+ and even 24 hours a day, the cost savings are dramatic!


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1. How Much Money Will You Save when You Convert to LED?

Let’s take a practical example. You have a 400-Watt Metal Halide fixture. The bulb consumes 400 watts. The fixture’s ballast consumes an additional 50 to 60 watts (ballast draw). For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit this fixture’s total electrical consumption to 455 Watts.

You want to convert to LED. What would be the reduced consumption? If you understand LED, then you will realize that if you buy a more efficient product, it will reduce energy consumption even more. For example, if you decide you need 20,000 LED lumens to replace your 400-Watt Metal Halide fixture, then you need to see how efficiently the fixture produces 20,000 lumens. At 100 lumens per watt, you need 200 LED Watts. At 200 lumens per watt, you need 100 LED Watts. The more efficient product will be more expensive, but the payback will be much greater over the life of the product. So it’s important to understand what you are buying.

But what are the savings? Let’s use some real numbers. Let’s assume the 400-Watt Metal Halide fixture is a parking lot light. It’s on every night for an average of 12 hours a day. We will compare it to an LED fixture that consumes 100 Watts producing 15,500 lumens (at 155 lumens per watt).

  • The 400-Watt Metal Halide fixture consumes 455 Watts X 12 hours a day = 5,460 watts per night (or 5.46 kilowatts).
  • The 100-Watt LED Fixture consumes 100 Watts X 12 hours a day = 1200 watts per night (or 1.2 kilowatts).

Over a year, these two fixtures consume:

  • 400-Watt Metal Halide: 1992.9 kilowatts
  • 100-Watt LED: 438 kilowatts

If your total cost of electricity is .12 kw/h:

  • The cost of operating the 400-Watt Metal Halide Fixture is $239.14 per year.
  • The cost of operating the 100-Watt LED Fixture is $52.56 per year.

If your facility had 100 fixtures:

  • Your 400-Watt Metal Halide Fixtures would cost you $23,914.00 on your utility bill.
  • Converting to the 100-Watt LED Fixtures would cost you $5,256.00 on your utility bill.

That’s a savings of $18,658.00 per year!

2. How LED Can Reduce Your Maintenance Costs?

We’ve all heard that LEDs will lower your electrical use. And maybe you’ve heard it will reduce your maintenance costs. There are a few factors that add to the cost of maintaining your lighting:

  • the cost of the lights and ballasts
  • the labor cost associated with changing the lights
  • the equipment cost, if any, to perform the maintenance

LEDs’ lifespan is typically longer than traditional light sources. And in some cases, much longer. But let’s discuss real lifespan versus another measurement you’ve seen, L70.

What is L70?

L70 is a measurement of lumen degradation. It indicates how long an LED product will run until it achieves 70% of the initial lumen output. This is not the lifespan of the LED product or the life of the LED driver. The light will continue to work after L70. Therefore, L70 hours are not a good indicator of real life or time between maintenance.

What is Real LED Life?

Real life is an indication of how long the LEDs will stay lit or how long the LED driver will operate before it stops operating. Assuming a normal operating environment, a LED driver will last upwards of 50,000 to 65,000 hours. If you run your lights 12 hours a day, every day of the year, that is well over 10 years of expected life.

If the L70 for your LEDs is 100,000 hours, you can expect the LED driver to fail before the LEDs have lost 30% of their initial lumens.

If the LED driver stops operating, you can replace it just like you would a metal halide ballast.

Comparing LEDs to Metal Halide Bulbs

If the LED diodes have an L70 of 100,000 hours, it’s safe to say it will be a long time before you replace the LEDs.

Metal Halide bulbs are not so lucky. Their lifespan is around 15,000 hours. In fact, their L50 is half of their life. So, you could even debate whether the useful period of a Metal Halide bulb ends well before the bulb stops operating. But let’s say you only replace bulbs when they completely stop working. During the life of the LED fixture (or operating life of the LED driver), you will have performed four bulb changes and maybe one ballast change. Maybe you do the ballast change at the same time as one of the bulb changes.


Let’s Add up the Costs of Maintenance Costs of Metal Halide Versus LED.

  • The cost of four metal halide bulbs and possibly one Metal Halide ballast
  • The cost of labor associated with these bulb and ballast changes. These costs go up when the bulbs are mounted above the height that can be reached safely with a step ladder.
  • The cost of the equipment if the lights are installed above the height of a step ladder

3. the Intrinsic Value of Higher-quality Light

LED light is thought of as high-quality light. But what is a high-quality light and how can you measure the quality?

Color Rendering Index, or CRI, is a measurement of the quality of any light source. It’s a scale of 0 to 100. Sunlight is considered the best light source, and it has a score of 100. CRI reflects how accurately colors are represented under a light source.

So, what will people notice under a high CRI light source versus a lesser quality CRI light source? The colors will appear brighter, more vibrant, and less gray. Colors will “pop”.

There are real-world examples of low-quality lights in our world today. High Pressure Sodium lights, those “yellow” lights we see lighting up our neighborhood streets, have a very low CRI, typically around 25. You can see it for yourself. Everything appears to be brown or yellow under High Pressure Sodium lights. It’s why you will never see one at a car dealership.

So high-quality lighting is synonymous with retail environments. Retailers want to always put their best foot forward so that their products look amazing. Therefore, high CRI lights are imperative – because good-looking products sell. And if you owned a car dealership, wouldn’t you want your product to shine?

LEDs typically are offered at 70 CRI, but you can purchase 98 CRI if that is important to you. These options make LED a good option for retail and commercial lighting.

4. High Quality LED Light Creates a Safe Environment.

Retailers and commercial customers know that if their parking lot is bright and well-lit, customers feel safe and are more likely to stop there at night. And customer traffic equals customer sales.

LEDs are bright. They can be as bright as any metal halide bulb on the market today. They also maintain their brightness much longer than Metal Halides. To maintain a safe bright environment with Metal Halide, you might be changing out bulbs well before their end of life.

That is why high-quality shopping centers have well-lit parking lots. And you will never find High Pressure Sodium in these environments.

With LED, you get a combination of

  • bright high-lumen lighting
  • high-quality light starting at 70 CRI and higher
  • well-distributed light with the addition of lighting optics

What’s the cost of having your customers shop at your competitor’s store?

5. Cost of Recycling Old HID and Fluorescent Bulbs

The problem with old bulb technology is they need mercury to function. Mercury is in the form of a powder. In most places in the USA, it is against the law to throw away dead fluorescent and HID bulbs in the garbage. It is an environmental risk as well as a health risk.

Mercury released from broken bulbs can enter our ground water and contaminate the water supply. It also poisons fish.

And if you’re still not convinced this is a serious issue, here’s what the EPA says to do if you’re in a building and a light bulb containing mercury breaks:

  • Get people and pets out of the room.
  • Air out the room for at least 10 minutes, and preferably several hours.
  • Turn off the heating or air-conditioning system.
  • Clean up all powder and broken glass from the bulb. Put them in a sealed container and discard them.
  • Your local government will have detailed disposal requirements. In some cases, you will be required to take broken or unbroken fluorescent bulbs to a local recycling center.

Recycling bulbs is not free. But it is necessary.

The good news? There is no mercury in LED. So there are no costs associated with recycling an LED product at the end of its life.

Dwayne Kula

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About the Author

Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.

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