LEDs may have reached "tipping point" with electrical contractors

A survey of 700 readers of Electrical Contractor magazine showed a majority of contractors believe LEDs are either now ready to replace incandescent and fluorescent lamps or will be ready by the Fall of 2012.

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Electrical contractors may be reaching the point where specification and installation of LED lighting, where appropriate, is becoming the rule and not the exception.

Results of a survey of 700 readers of Electrical Contractor magazine indicate a majority of electrical contractors believe LED lamps are now ready or will be ready within a year to replace incandescent and fluorescent lamps.

The publisher of Electrical Contractor, John Maisel, said, “The more we educate [electrical contractors] on the technology and opportunities in the multibillion dollar LED market that’s growing more than 30 percent per year, the greater value they bring to their customers." Electrical Contractor, which reaches over 85,000 electrical contractors in the US, is published by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) in Bethesda, MD.

Among those readers who responded to the survey, 33 percent of electrical contractors said LEDs are ready to replace incandescent lamps, compared with 23 percent saying LEDs are ready to replace CFLs and 19 percent claiming LEDs are ready to replace fluorescent lamps (see figure).

Market readiness for LED replacement

An additional 33 percent of electrical contractors believe LEDs will be ready to replace these traditional lamp sources within the next two years. The remaining respondents see LEDs becoming more viable later, or they “don’t know” when viability will occur. Of those who said LEDs were not ready or they didn’t know, 19 percent said that high cost was a factor, while 10 percent mentioned needed improvements in performance.

The survey was conducted by the firm Renaissance Research & Consulting (New York, NY) in the Fall of 2010. Participants included contractors working on residential projects, commercial/industrial/institutional (CII) projects and non-building projects (see figure).

Lighting work performed by construction type (Res, CII, NB)
All things to all people?

Lighting is an inherent part of the electrical contractor’s job. As such, it comes as little surprise that 97 percent of respondents indicated they work with indoor or outdoor fixtures (on a combined basis), while 95 percent perform work with lamps, 93 percent with ballasts and 85 percent with controls.

A substantial portion, between 45 and 60 percent of electrical contractors, perform all functions on the job including buying, specifying and installing lighting products. Ninety percent of contractors perform some lamp work, while about 60 percent work on all aspects, meaning they specify and install lamps.

Regarding lamp types, contractors mentioned fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps the most, while LEDs actually were mentioned the least. However, the report says “ECs are proportionately more involved in LED specification than with other lamp types.”

LEDs on building projects

Beyond this recent survey, Electrical Contractor featured a special supplement entitled The LED Revolution, with its July issue. With articles addressing initial cost and payback, dimming and required drivers, compatibility with controls and LED standards, the issue provides a useful overview to contractors and distributors.

Out of the readership survey came important tips for electrical contractors. For instance, contractors should specify LED luminaires with well-designed optics to ensure the light reaches the intended surfaces. Controls are considered the largest contributor to improved efficiency through sophisticated addressable ballasts along with daylight and motion sensors.

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