The latest LED lighng technology enables facilies managers to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions, while improving the quality of light. But is retrofing worth the potenal disrupon and cost?

Ian Drinkwater, Managing Director of trade signage supplier Applelec, explains that not all retrofing opons are created equal.

Facilities managers are in a unique position to adopt sustainable practices to reduce energy costs throughout a building. Whether it’s a hospital, school, office or leisure centre, lighting can account for up to 40% of a commercial property’s electricity costs, according to the Carbon Trust. Added to this is a requirement to adopt environmentally friendly practices, which reduce carbon emissions as well as resources.


Other benefits include reducing the time spent changing light bulbs. LEDs have a much longer lifespan than regular bulbs. The quality of light is far superior, offering an environment that is far better lit.

Until recently, many retrofit systems could be time-consuming and disruptive to install. Buildings had to close off entire areas or shut their doors altogether while the old bulbs were replaced; the installation work itself was sometimes a long, drawn-out process, particularly in larger premises with a considerable number of bulbs to fit such as a school or leisure centre.



Organisations have been deterred not only by the cost of installing such systems but because the process required the purchase of new lamps. But the latest generation of retrofit solutions offers a realistic alternative for those looking to switch from incandescent bulbs to LEDs.

How about for applications such as signage?

How easy is it to fit the latest LED systems?

What are the most notable benefits that can be achieved through retrofitting an LED system?

Specific applications – lightboxes, signage, retail displays and decorative features, such as a lit reception desk in an office or hotel – are extremely easy to retrofit. The latest modules, which are compact and durable, can be fitted into lightboxes previously lit by fluorescent tubes or LED ribbon, as well as replacing neon in signage. The latest modules offer a choice of either a strong adhesive on the reverse, or a mechanical fixing, making them fast and convenient to fit. Many come with built-in spacers, so there is no need to spend hours painstakingly measuring areas.




What should facilities managers consider when looking at which type of module to switch to?

They should consider how many lumens per watt will be required and the number of luminaires per square metre. Because the light produced by LEDs is significantly brighter than from fluorescent equivalents, simply keeping these the same will result in a building being significantly over-lit. In a retail environment, colour rendering must also be taken into account, in order to faithfully illuminate the goods on display.

How much does it cost to switch to the latest generation luminaires?

That’s difficult to answer as there are so many different ranges available. However, managers have to weigh up the cost of investing in the latest technology with the savings that can be achieved. As well as reduced energy consumption and costs, the SloanLED range, for instance, includes some of the brightest modules in their class, which come with a five-year warranty.

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LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY GOES RETRO Your LED retrofit quesons answered

Again, that depends upon the application. If retrofitting from fluorescent tubes, a business could expect to achieve ROI on the cost of a new LED system in around two years, thanks to the reduction in electricity bills. If retrofitting a new SloanLED system, such as Prism, from an older LED arrangement that may be degrading, the time to recoup costs may be slightly longer; however, the added advantages of a more reliable and better performing system should also be considered.


A more efficient system, with modules that last longer and out-perform previous older models, is just one reason to switch. Better colour and an even light output are also achievable. In addition, the latest technology enables greater versatility. SloanLED’s Prism application, for instance, can be used in both lightboxes and channel letters with a depth range of between 70mm and 200mm. They deliver a best in class brightness yet draw just 1.2W per module. Prism lenses are able to eradicate the light ring effect that has been an issue with standard batwing lenses for some time, as its optically clear lenses allow more of the light to leave the product, resulting in a wider distribution of light, even at shallow depths, and improved efficiency.


What other benefits can these new systems offer?

So, the ROI can be achieved in a relatively short space of time?

hen the first direct arena in Leeds wanted to revamp its VIP bar, Applelec supplied the LED system to corporate branding specialists Nebula Creative for the design and installation of two rock ‘n’ roll lightboxes. Using LED tape or ribbon for such a scheme would have been time-consuming to fit; however, using the latest generation of LED modules, the feature was assembled quickly and easily.

Case study: The first direct arena VIP bar W

SloanLED PosterBOX 3 LED modules were paired with a textile framing system, to house a print of 240 classic album covers from artists who have played the venue, such as Robbie Williams, Lionel Richie and JLS, since it opened in September 2013. The feature takes the form of two large-format lightboxes – one almost 10 metres long and the second just under five metres long.

High brightness illumination is achieved across a width of up to 3m using the SloanLED PosterBOX 3 system, with just two rows of facing modules required to provide light. In addition, the product significantly reduces the installation time required to populate a lightbox compared with LED tape or ribbon. The result is an eye-catching, bright and evenly lit feature, which has transformed one of the arena’s most vital areas, yet was easy to fit with modules along just the top and bottom edges of the frame.


uApplelec supplied the LED system to Nebula Creave for the design and installaon of two rock ‘n’ roll lightboxes at the first direct arena VIP bar.


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