Switching on to New Possibilities

The benefits of switching to LEDs are difficult to dispute. The achievable savings in terms of both energy usage and carbon emissions have been well documented, with building managers across the UK opting for LED luminaires – often retrospectively – in lieu of their fluorescent counterparts. Ian Drinkwater – managing director of Applelec, which recently became an official UK supplier for SloanLED products – explains how the latest advancements are opening up new possibilities across many areas.

It’s not uncommon to open a magazine such as this and find an article about how switching to LED lighting schemes has saved a facility jaw-dropping amounts on its electricity bill.

The savings achieved by changing to LED bulbs have been extensively chronicled. Switching from fluorescent bulbs leads to reduced energy use, therefore electricity bills are curtailed alongside carbon emissions, which is great news for managers and the environment alike.

These savings can be made across a huge number of applications, from warehouses to university campuses, and from social housing schemes to furniture stores. It’s not unusual for premises managers to report savings on energy bills of around 75%, which when combined with significantly reduced carbon emissions, make a compelling case for changing to LED.

However, such possibilities do not merely apply to traditional fixtures such as pendants or wall lamps. As technology develops and products such as LED ribbon and lightboxes evolve, the boundaries on how light can be utilised are constantly expanding. The latest generation of lightboxes, for instance, can simply be aesthetically pleasing or they can be used to display brand or advertising messages; LED modules can draw attention to specific areas of a building or be used to aid wayfinding.

Signage is a great example of how developments in technology are pushing the parameters of what can be achieved. While LED tape, or ribbon, can look stunning, it may also be difficult to fit and require some complex calculations to ensure spacing is correct. A number of the latest generation of LED modules, however, incorporate a built-in module spacer, which yields perfect LED pitch every time. With an impressive output – often around 1,700 lumens often around 120lm/W – these modules provide bright and even illumination for a variety of applications, many of which would be impossible to light with fluorescent tubes.

New, energy-efficient ranges incorporate modules designed specifically to illuminate built-up letters, light boxes, cabinets and fabric signage, combining best-in-class brightness and flexible contouring. The very latest developments are able to optimise the light inside the box, eliminating both the stripes produced by fluorescent tubes and the light ring effect produced by batwing lenses.

Previously, at shallow depths, batwing type lenses had to be used at reduced output with a significant amount of frosting on the lens to soften these rings of light. By comparison, the latest generation modules have optically clear lenses, meaning more light leaves the module so light is better distributed.

Despite the increased illumination, this type of white module draws just 1.12W per module while colour options such as red, orange, green and blue consume a mere 0.72W per module, despite being the brightest of their type. As significantly fewer modules are needed to achieve the same level of brightness as their older generation counterparts, this in turn results in impressive energy savings.

Such lenses are suitable for use in even the shallowest of boxes, making them an ideal choice for shop signs and shallow depth light boxes. Slim, edge mounted modules make installation swift and simple, with fewer modules required to produce the same illumination as regular LED ribbon. Such market-leading modules enjoy a far lower failure rate than LED tape, as well as fewer drivers and a lower heat output.

The latest modules not only look great, they are economical to power, thanks to the use of Constant Current Technology (CCT) around a constant voltage system, which protects the module and controls the drive current through the LEDs, improving reliability and maintaining brightness while limiting power usage.

It is interesting to note that some manufacturers do not offer more than a two-year warranty on products. Those who offer a five-year guarantee stand out in the market and arguably provide greater product reliability.

Ian Drinkwater is managing director of trade supplier and manufacturer of signs, displays and lighting Applelec. The company was recently granted full UK distributor status for SloanLED products, which use the latest Prism technology to achieve a best-in-class illumination while remaining extremely energy-efficient. Applelec recently supported corporate branding specialists Nebula Creative in the design and installation of two rock ‘n’ roll lightboxes for the VIP bar of the Leeds first direct arena, pairing SloanLED PosterBOX 3 LED modules with a textile framing system.