LEDs can transform a business. Anna Dove talks to a specialist who helps firms plug into the new technology.
LED technology is revolutionising the lighting market. It’s popping up in warehouses, supermarkets, hospitals and offices but there are businesses which are yet to embrace what has been described as the biggest advance in lighting since Thomas Edison invented the bulb in 1879.
The advantages of LEDs over conventional light sources are threefold: they are compact, long lasting and, above all, energy efficient.
This is reflected in the significant savings that can be made by making the switch.
“People are currently paying high electricity bills for all their lighting but there has been a quantum leap forward in lighting with LED,” says Ryan McCann, director at McCann Electrical, a Philips value-added lighting partner, which offers a full turnkey service on LED lighting design and installation.
“LED lamps last up to 25 times longer than traditional lamps and save up to 75 per cent on energy costs.
“It’s about unlocking hidden capital within your building.”
A family business with 30 years’ experience in delivering a wide range of electrical solutions, McCann Electrical started working with commercial clients on LED lighting installation five years ago and the technology has come on in leaps and bounds since then.
“We have done a lot of commercial work over the years but now design and build lighting projects is one of our core business streams,” says McCann.
“When LED lighting first came on the market it wasn’t financially viable for people. Now the cost of production has come right down. We saw this as an opportunity to grow the business.”
At the time, the focus was on solar power and other forms of renewable energy but with recent cuts to government subsidies for renewables, McCann and his team have found themselves in their element.
“We were already generating savings for people by making what they already had energy efficient,” he explains. “That has put us in good stead now that the government support for renewables has fallen. Our time spent specialising in lighting design has yielded results in being recognised as a partner with one of the world’s leading lighting brands.
“I think people are attuned to the concept that LED lighting is a beneficial technology but I don’t think they necessarily know about all the opportunities that are available.”
As a Philips lighting partner, McCann Electrical can distribute products from the world-leading manufacturer and tap into its knowledge and training, as well as offer extended warranties.
“The value in this technology is its longevity so it’s really important that customers buy from a reputable manufacturer that’s going to be there in ten years’ time.”
Because they operate at very low power, it is common for LEDs to be rated at 50,000 hours, so making the decision to have them installed is certainly a worthwhile investment.
McCann compares LED technology to double glazing, which people embraced almost overnight once they realised the benefits it would have in terms of insulating their homes and businesses and cutting down heating bills.
“Fitting LED lighting is going to save people money in the same way,” he says.
“It’s a superior technology and saves the user energy, however with LED the energy and operating cost savings are so great we can finance against the savings you make, meaning the investment is cash neutral to your business.”
McCann Electrical can guide customers through every step of the process, which starts with a survey of the building and goes through a bespoke design process before a proposal is reached and the lighting solution is installed.
“We offer a turnkey service so we are not just a contractor,” says McCann. “We are a distributor and a designer as well. We can go to the client and offer them the complete package.
“We will redesign the lighting layout in building so it’s not just a case of swapping to LEDs. We look at the environment and how we can put in the right kind of lighting that won’t put a glare on a screen in an office, or which means workers don’t strain their eyes.
“It’s about the design that we can bring – it’s a full lighting consultation.”
The financial advantages in terms of a business’s operating costs are clear but there is also evidence to suggest that the right kind of lighting can increase human productivity, so employers can maximise the output from their employees.
With McCann Electrical, there is no upfront cost because the savings for the customer cancel it out.
“We can offer zero per cent finance,” explains McCann. “If you are spending, say, £1,000 per month on your existing lighting, when we are finished you might only be spending around £250 per month.
“We would match the repayments back against the savings the customer is making. There will be a point about one to two years in when they would achieve return on investment.”
From universities to petrol stations, the market is gradually converting to LED solutions. McCann Electrical has experience working across all sectors, with student accommodation providers and with private and NHS hospitals.
“Last year we completed to 100 petrol stations and 80 supermarkets; this month we have worked with three private hospital clients as well as student accommodation,” says McCann.
“Because it’s LED technology, the asset will be good for up to ten years. There’s no catch. People just need to know that by taking up this opportunity and investing in LED for their business, they are going to really benefit from it.”
Shine a light on student living
Student accommodation provider Unite Students is on a mission to makes its properties as environmentally friendly as possible.
The company provides homes for 50,000 students across the UK, including nearly 1,000 at its Kelvin Court and Thurso Street sites in Glasgow, which have recently benefitted from the installation of LED lighting by McCann Electrical.
Barry Edwards, project manager at Unite Students, says the decision to make the initial investment was for a combination of reasons: “One of the primary reasons was that we wanted to be a responsible business.
“There is a lot more focus now on looking after the environment and being energy efficient. Carbon footprint is a big focus point.
“The other reason was energy consumption – the less energy we use, the better it is for the environment, but it’s also cost saving for us as a business.
“We are looking at six to seven years as the payback on the LEDs. It is an investment.”
Another benefit of switching to LED lighting has been the reduced impact on the students and staff who live and work in the buildings.
“One of the biggest maintenance elements within student accommodation is when lights go, so we wanted to put in something that lasts longer and improved the service for students.”
With LED lighting lasting up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, maintenance costs for both replacement parts and man hours have reduced significantly.
Glasgow is just one part of a bigger project which Unite Students is rolling out up and down the country.
“We are doing this project all the way from Aberdeen to Plymouth. That’s about 36,000 beds in total,” explains Edwards.
“The quality of the work is beyond reproach. We have our own quality checks in place and we haven’t found any problems.
“Ryan [McCann] works alongside us as the client and that’s really important. He is all about making it work for both of us.”
The first viable version of LED technology was invented in 1962 by an American engineer called Nick Holonyak jnr . It was dubbed “the magic one” and it has certainly earned its reputation in the 55 years that followed.
Lighting costs account for a large proportion of any organisation’s energy bill and increasingly businesses are realising the potential of LED solutions for cutting prices.
LED bulbs can last 25 times longer than traditional lamps and save up to 75 per cent in energy costs.
For some commercial customers, return on investment can be seen just one year after installation.
In addition to being energy efficient, LED lighting contains no mercury and is therefore more environmentally friendly than traditional bulbs.
Motherwell-based McCann Electrical can offer 0 per cent finance for up to £3 million per project to businesses so making the switch to LED lighting can be cash neutral.
A McCann Philips proposal includes the redesign of the customer’s existing lighting layout to ensure that it complies with British standards and Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers guidance.