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Practical advice on commercial lighting from LED retrofts to lighting design

Why a mockup could change your mind about LEDs

Posted by Tad Mehringer on


support image for Why a mockup could change your mind about LEDs articleOverall, there are two main concerns that our clients tend to bring when interest in an LED project begins to form: 1) “Most LEDs look like they belong on an X-Files episode” (or something to that effect) and 2) It’s hard to get the same look of light that I currently have.

To that I say, "I hear ya". LEDs may not always be the right answer, but if you’re worried about the look or light color of LEDs, I think I have some news that will quell your fears.

LED technology is changing rapidly and constantly. That makes it difficult to stay up to date and really understand your lighting options. Even if it has only been a couple of years since you looked into LED as a lighting option for your building, you’re probably in need of a refresher.

In search of ‘normal-looking’ LEDs

Customers who are skeptical about switching to LED often talk about the aesthetics of the LED bulb. "It looks kind of funky," they say.

Earlier generations of LED bulbs totally looked funky. There may be no better word to describe the look of those bulbs than funky, as a matter of fact. Some had fins. Other looked like UFOs created by aliens with a thing for lava lamps. Who would want something that looked like that in the lobby of their hotel or whatever space they’re responsible for? What, is the Star Trek convention in town?

Today’s LEDs have no such look. "Increasingly conventional" might be the right descriptor for modern bulbs. You can actually get the aesthetic look of an incandescent bulb or even a fluorescent tube with an LED. And as strides continue to be made in the design of LED technology, expect this pattern to continue. LED manufacturers don’t want the superiority of their technology and use of energy to be offset by bad aesthetics, so the exterior of the bulbs on today’s market are a major focus.

Really, no matter what conventional look you’re going for, there’s probably an LED option for it.

Don’t hurt my eyes: LED color quality

Okay, maybe aesthetics aren’t an obstacle anymore, but can you trust the light that LEDs put out will illuminate your space the same way your current lighting does?

Back to the hotel lobby, you don’t want to go from a light color that’s warm and inviting to guests to one that makes them feel like they’re on an operating table. But is that really the kind of effect that a switch to LEDs will have?

Of course, that’s a possibility if you choose a bulb with a higher Kelvin temperature. But you know what else is a possibility? Near-identical mimicry of your current warm incandescent glow via LED.

Read more: What is color temperature?

LEDs are so often associated only with energy efficiency that their ability to render good color quality is misunderstood or simply understood to be poor. Today, more than ever before, however, LEDs are giving out excellent light color.

For more on this, check out our post “Beyond energy efficiency: Does LED lighting provide quality light?

Testing 1-2-3: How to mock up an LED retrofit project

When sizing up a LED retrofit project, it’s important to carefully consider comparison. How does this newer, more efficient, longer-lasting LED product compare with your existing product when it comes to light, not just all the other stuff? And what’s the best way to compare? Testing.

Mock up the project. Put LEDs on one side of the room and keep your existing fluorescent or incandescent lighting on the other. Does the naked eye notice a difference? Use a spectrometer to measure light levels. Now is there a difference? What kind of color is coming out of those LED bulbs?

All too often, the way you think an LED will emit light based on the specs you see on paper turns out to be wrong. That can be pretty frustrating. Don’t fall into that pit of disappointment. Circumnavigate it with a mockup.

Based on the results of a live mockup, you’ll feel more confident in your decision to either move forward with the retrofit project or table LED and look at another solution. But before you write off LEDs as ugly or inferior in color rendering, test them out. Look again, because there’s a good chance there’s an LED solution for you and you may be missing out on the opportunity for major savings if you let misperception get in your way.