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Commercial LED Lighting: The Ultimate Guide

Commercial LED Lighting: The Ultimate Guide

By Vanessa Peng

Welcome to our ultimate guide on commercial LED lighting. This is an in-depth look at all aspects of commercial LED lighting – frequently asked questions, its benefits, and why you should make the switch if you haven’t already.

What is Commercial Lighting?

Commercial lighting is a term used to describe lighting that is used in commercial spaces, including auto dealerships, distribution centers, churches, factories, offices, and warehouses. Unlike residential lighting, commercial lighting is made to withstand more abuse and has a longer lifespan. 

While the focus of residential lighting is often on aesthetics, commercial lighting is task orientated. Commercial lighting systems are designed based on what the application is. For example, in an office-type setting, you may see task lighting, which illuminates specific areas where employees need concentrated light to be able to perform their jobs. 

In another example, warehouses usually choose to go with lighting that reduces glare and provides a wider distribution of illumination than task lighting. Read more about LED lighting options for commercial facilities here.

large warehouse with forklifts being parked and charging

In recent years, commercial lighting has moved away from traditional lighting, such as incandescent, fluorescent, and metal halide bulbs. Commercial facilities across the U.S. are turning to light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, for dozens of reasons.

Businesses usually opt for a commercial LED lighting retrofit as opposed to a replacement to save money and preserve the lighting layout they already have in place. When compared with traditional lighting, LEDs are more energy-efficient, better for the safety and health of employees, save energy and maintenance costs, are more durable, have a longer lifespan, and have tuning and dimming abilities, among many other benefits.

Everything LED lighting

LED lighting has advantages for every industry. LEDs are the unrivaled lighting choice for commercial and industrial facilities. The benefits of LEDs reach all members of a commercial building –  the workers on the ground, the decision-makers in offices, the customers outside of the facility, and corporate leaders of the company. 

LED lighting increases worker productivity and morale, increases the brightness of a facility, doesn’t create headaches and other health-related issues that are often associated with traditional lighting choices, slashes a facility’s electricity bill, decreases a facility’s carbon footprint, and helps facility leaders meet sustainability goals.

What is LED?

LED stands for light-emitting diode. Diodes are composed of two electrodes through which electricity flows in one direction. An LED light bulb works by passing an electric current through a diode, a semiconductor device, which causes it to emit light.

What are LED lights made of?

As explained above, LEDs are made from a semiconducting material. The semiconductor is the key to how they work. A semiconductor has an excess of electrons and holes. When you send an electric current through this material, it excites the electrons in the semiconductor and they give off light as a result.

Are LED lights energy efficient?

LED lights are energy-efficient in terms of energy usage. LED lights utilize 75-80 percent less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs and 65 percent less energy than halogen lamps, according to the US Department of Energy. 

For business enterprises that require long-term lighting, whether for lengthy working hours, safety and security in a warehouse or manufacturing plant, or for other uses, switching to LED lights can save millions of dollars annually.

How much electricity do LED lights use?

Just by replacing obsolete lighting systems with state-of-the-art LED lighting, U.S. Energy Recovery clients save 20-55 percent on their electric power bills.

The table below, provided by the Department of Energy shows how much electricity LED lights use when compared with incandescent and CFLs.

Table of the Amount of electricity LED lights use - USEnergyRecovery

How to calculate energy savings for LED lighting?

When it comes to calculating your energy savings with LED lighting you have to consider several factors first: your building size, the number of fixtures you currently have, the type of lighting you currently use, and how many hours per day the lights are left on.

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How big is your facility?

If you’re interested in how much your business can save with LED lighting and better controls, try out U.S. Energy Recovery’s energy savings calculator.

Do LED lights last longer?

In comparison to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LED lights have a much longer lifespan. LED lights can endure for more than 50,000 hours with residential lighting and more than 100,000 hours with commercial lighting solutions. If burned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this can result in an 11-year lifespan.

LED light bulbs are also more durable than their traditional lighting counterparts. LED lights do not break as easily as fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs, which means they need little to no maintenance.

Do LED lights put out heat?

LED lighting technology, unlike traditional lighting, produces extremely little heat. This means that LED lights can be left on for long periods of time without harming them. Furthermore, whether it’s air conditioning in an office or fans in a manufacturing plant, they lessen the requirement for cooling in an area. Our customers are often surprised by how much money they save just by eliminating that excess heat. 

Any organization’s primary priority should always be safety, and when it comes to lighting, the danger is heat and fire. Incandescent bulbs use the bulk of their energy to produce heat rather than light. The heat intensity increases as the bulb is used longer. LEDs, on the other hand, produce extremely little heat over lengthy periods of time.

The law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed – only converted into heat, vibration, and energy. The more energy that is converted into usable energy (light) the better and more efficient the light source will be. Excess heat becomes wasted energy.

Do LED lights save money?

LED lighting saves money for commercial facilities on their electricity bill and maintenance costs. LED bulbs are more expensive than halogen, incandescent, or fluorescent bulbs, but they live far longer, resulting in long-term cost benefits. Furthermore, as LED lighting becomes more widely used, prices continue to fall.

Businesses can also take advantage of utility incentives for adopting energy efficiency upgrades by using LED lighting.

LED technology delivered as part of an Energy as a Service (EaaS) model offers even greater cost savings. Commercial organizations can use LED technology in the same way they use the internet service with EaaS.

How do LED lights help the environment?

One of the major contributions to greenhouse gas emissions is energy production. Individuals and businesses that choose LED lighting use less energy and therefore, have a smaller carbon footprint and release a reduced amount of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. 

LEDs let businesses function in a more environmentally sustainable manner while also saving money – up to 80% energy savings when compared to traditional lighting.

LED versus other commercial lighting technology


Is LED lighting brighter than fluorescent?

Light-emitting diodes are brighter than fluorescent light bulbs and can dramatically increase the light levels at your facility. LEDs contain higher lumen counts than fluorescent lights. Lumens measure the amount of visible light emitted from a light source.  Read more about lumens here.

One of the many advantages of LED lighting for commercial spaces is that it may produce a white hue akin to sunshine or a warm color similar to a dawn or sunset. Adjusting your LED lighting color temperature is known as color tuning. You can learn more about color tuning here.

LEDs are not only brighter than fluorescents, LED lighting doesn’t cause headaches, migraines, or other health issues related to flickering or buzzing. We explain the differences between fluorescent and LED lighting here. Below you’ll find a quick breakdown:

A LED vs fluorescent chart that shows the differences between the two lighting technologies.


What are the benefits of LED lights?

LED lights have dozens of benefits and are the best choice for commercial and industrial applications. Some benefits include:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Instantly turn on with no delay
  • Lights don’t flicker
  • Lifespan is 70,000+ hours
  • Do not contain harmful gases or materials
  • Extremely durable 
  • Don’t generate a lot of heat, cool to the touch
  • Require little to no maintenance

Read about the 16 key benefits of LED lighting here. Read about commercial outdoor lighting benefits by checking out this article.

What are the disadvantages of LED lights?

The only disadvantage of LED lights is they are initially more expensive, but as the technology has matured, costs have decreased significantly.

LEDs are a far better long-term investment than conventional lighting options since they last considerably longer and are far more energy efficient. You’ll save money on your energy bill as well as on maintenance. If you consider all the extra expenses that go into traditional lighting, you would end up spending more money in the long run than if you had gone with LED commercial light fixtures in the first place.

The time it takes to recoup the difference in price after making an initial investment of LEDs is typically just a few months.

A financing alternative known as Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) is also available to you, which will make an LED retrofit not only inexpensive, but also generate positive cash flow from the start. Learn more about Lighting-as-a-Service here.

Different LED lighting Solutions


What is recessed LED lighting?

Recessed LED lighting are fixtures that are installed directly into the ceiling or other chosen surface. Recessed LED lights are made-up of the housing, trim, and bulb.

Recessed LED lighting typically sits flush with the surface of the ceiling and is usually chosen for its aesthetic appeal. Recessed LED lights can make a smaller room feel bigger like in a residential setting, but are not a good choice for large industrial spaces. You would need to install a large number of can lights in order to produce enough light for commercial operations. At the same time, most industrial facilities don’t have ceilings where you can or would want to drill holes into.

What does integrated LED lighting mean?

Integrated LED lights have the LED array built into the fixture itself. Traditional LED fixtures are built to be used with separate tubes or bulbs. 

Integrated LED fixtures are less bulky than traditional fixtures. They can fit into spaces traditional fixtures cannot and offer new lighting design opportunities.

Integrated LED lights do come with some financial risks. Once the LEDs finally stop working, even though it could be years, the entire fixture is usually useless as well. You may be able to find an electrician to replace the entire LED module, but it won’t be cheap and may be more expensive than just replacing the entire fixture itself. 

What is high bay LED lighting?

High bay LED lighting is one of the best choices for commercial and industrial lighting. High bays lights are ideal for facilities with high ceilings that need the illumination of large, expansive areas.

High bay LED lighting fixtures are energy efficient and their light distribution is even and uniform. The lights are affordable and come in different styles, sizes, and shapes.

What LED lights are best?

Deciding which LED lights are best for your building depends on many factors. You have to consider your ceiling height, how many fixtures you need, what color temperature you want the lights to be, how the lights should be spaced out, how bright the lights should be, how the light should be distributed, and how the lights will be used (i.e., task lighting or lighting an aisle), among other factors. Find out more about how to light a warehouse by reading this article.

Why choose LED lights?

LED lighting is the unrivaled choice for any commercial or industrial facility for dozens of reasons. LEDs are more energy efficient, safer, and durable than traditional lighting options. LEDs save you money on electricity and maintenance costs and increase quality control and worker productivity. 

In the lighting industry, LEDs have the longest life span. The average LED light bulb lasts six times as long as a CFL light bulb. LEDs are also 40 percent to 90 percent less expensive to run than traditional lighting options. Due to their durability and energy efficiency, LEDs don’t need to be replaced as frequently as traditional lighting options, saving you on maintenance costs on top of the money you will save from using less electricity.

An LED lamp is also safer due to its lack of toxic materials. Unlike traditional lighting, you don’t have to find ways to properly dispose of LEDs since they don’t contain any hazardous materials. 

LEDs increase worker productivity and morale. With a brighter, more vibrant working environment, employees are happier and alert. Unlike conventional lighting, LEDs do not induce headaches, migraines, or other health problems due to flickering or buzzing, adding to employees’ happiness.

Below is an example of what a well-lit work environment after a led lighting retrofit should look like:Shows before and after images of lighting project at BHP Billiton in Arizona. Before image is dark, after image is bright and inviting.

LED lighting also makes a commercial facility safer for employees. Without dark spots and corners, workers can properly execute their jobs and safely work around hazards that may have been hard to see before under traditional lighting. Read about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for safe lighting here.

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How to choose the right commercial lighting company?

An LED lighting upgrade is a significant undertaking. It requires a thorough grasp of products and lighting fixtures, as well as energy usage, utility incentives, the optimum installation and maintenance methods, and financial concerns. 

It can be a worry-free and uncomplicated process if you choose a trusted lighting partner that can help guide you through it all, give you higher-quality products, and offer you positive changes without you having to stress about the project. Here are the top 8 lighting project mistakes to avoid.

A good commercial lighting contractor should assist you from inception to the installation of the lighting project, while also providing continued maintenance of the technology.

Read about the top things to consider when choosing a commercial lighting contractor here.

At U.S. Energy Recovery, we are committed to the companies we partner with. Our goal is to create a lasting relationship while increasing bottom lines and decreasing carbon footprints.

Through a unique process, U.S. Energy Recovery has found a way to provide its customers with a turnkey package that includes energy efficiency utility rebates, products tailored to each customers’ energy needs, and an overhaul of energy systems without a huge expense.

Let us help you with your next LED lighting retrofit.

Commercial lighting resources – terminology made simple

The commercial and industrial lighting technology space introduces a lot of technical terminologies which can get quite confusing. We’ve simplified it for you so you can get to grips with the terminology at ease, and spend more time focusing on becoming more energy efficient.

What is lumens in LED lighting?

Lumens is a measure of luminous flux or the flow of light. Lumens measure the amount of visible light emitted from a light source. If you were to set a candle a foot away from a wall and draw a one-foot square on the wall, the amount of light filling up the square equals one lumen. The more lumens, the brighter the space.

What is lm in LED lighting?

lm is the SI derived unit for lumens. The symbol is usually associated with a number that shows you how much total light is emitted from a light source. For example, a 15-watt LED bulb produces 1,100 lm, while a 38-watt LED lamp produces 3,000 lm.

What does lux mean in LED lighting?

Lux measures the amount of light on a surface, rather than the amount of light coming from a light source. A lux is equal to one lumen per square meter.

What is a foot-candle?

A foot candle measures the amount of light on a surface, or the intensity of light, as opposed to lumens, which measure the flow of light. Foot candles equal one lumen one square foot. The word foot candle does stem from a time when candlepower was the main light source.

A foot candle is equal to about 10 lumens or one lux. Lux is the metric version of foot-candles. Take a deeper dive into foot candles here or if you’re confused about the differences between lumens and footcandles, read this article.

What does Kelvin mean in LED lighting?

The color temperature of LED lighting is measured in degrees Kelvin. The Kelvin color temperature scale spans a wide range of temperatures, from warm light to cool white. 

Warm surroundings have a lower color temperature, whereas daylight environments have a higher color temperature. The appearance of mid-range color temperatures is more warm white or neutral white.

To better visualize different color temperatures. Here is a quick list of what the different color temperatures look like:

  • 1,900K – Candlelight
  • 2,500K – 2,800K – Sunrise/Sunset
  • 4,800K – 5,000K – Direct Sunlight
  • 6,000K – Overcast Sky
  • 8000K-12000K – Blue Sky

Read more about color temperature here.

What does RGB mean in LED lighting?

RGB stands for red, green, and blue. These base colors can be combined to produce over 16 million color variations. 

RGB lighting is extremely versatile and can be used in spaces where you want the option to change your lighting colors.

What does SMB mean in LED lighting?

SMB is an acronym for surface-mounted diode. They are brighter and have the ability to change color unlike the first generation technology of DIP, or Dual In-Line Package, LEDs. 

SMD LEDs have no wires and are directly soldered onto circuit boards. SMD LEDs are used in electronics and LED strip lights. DIP LEDs are encased in plastic with two pins that come out through the plastic.

What is CRI LED lighting?

CRI stands for Color-Rendering Index. CRI measures how well a light source produces colors. CRI is measured on a scale from 1 to 100, with 100 representing daylight, or the most natural light. 

The higher the CRI, the better the artificial light source is at illuminating objects in their natural colors. A low CRI means the light source will show objects with unnatural colors. 

Generally, a CRI of 80 to 90 is considered good and effective, while a CRI of 90+ is excellent at rendering colors.

What is Ra is LED lighting?

Ra is the symbol used in CRI calculations. As mentioned above, an LED light with a Ra of 80 to 90 is considered to be decent at rendering colors, while a light with a Ra of 90+ is considered to be superb.

What is PAR in LED lighting?

PAR is an acronym for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. PAR LED lights are highly directional. They are most often used in theater and concert venue type spaces, but are sometimes used in commercial facilities as well.

What is power factor in LED lighting?

Knowing the power factor (PF) of your LED lighting helps you figure out how energy efficient your lighting is. The lower the PF number, the more energy the LED light wastes. 

The power factor rating is calculated by dividing real power in watts by apparent power (volts x amps).

The power factor is extremely important for the installation of LED lighting. Once an electrician knows the power factor they can figure out how many amps the lighting will draw and make sure they are paired with the correctly rated circuit breaker. Circuit breakers are made with a specific amperage and can only handle about 80% of their overall amperage.

If your LED lighting has a low power factor, you are consuming more energy than you need to. This is not only detrimental to your commercial or industrial facility’s utility bill, but it causes your facility to have a larger carbon footprint.

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