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Cree About To Brighten The Commercial Office Environment With LED T-8 Replacement

2016-12-03 22:34:41 SENY LED Read
Cree announced today the introduction of its linear LED lighting technology to replace the T-8 fluorescent tube. (Note: this author is a current Cree shareholder). While not the first to market, Cree’s technology delivers a 30 percent energy savings, and has the best color rendering index (CRI) in the industry, at 90. It also has nearly universal T-8 compatibility and is approved by the DesignLights Consortium (DLC). DLC administers a list of qualified products list that often facilitate utility rebates.

Why is this a big deal? Because the linear fluorescent market in the United States is enormous. And LEDs are superior to fluorescent lighting with respect to quality, energy efficiency, and longevity. According to Cree, almost half of the electricity dedicated to lighting is used by the commercial sector, which is dominated by linear (tube) fluorescent lighting. To put another perspective on it, over 2.3 billion fluorescent sockets use 42% of all electricity consumed for lighting. A good number of these (1.1 billion) fit squarely within Cree’s T-8 target market.

Cree’s vice president for corporate marketing and business development, David Elien, and the company’s product portfolio manager, Jeff Hungarter, took some time to explain why the company is focusing on this sector and this technology, as well as discuss some of the attendant challenges and opportunities.

Elien noted that just as Cree set out to develop some of the best LED lighting technology in the residential sector with their LED replacement of the standard incandescent, they have now set their sites on another common technology that can be made better: the T-8 four foot fluorescent tube (it should be noted that not so long ago, the T-8 itself – along with an electronic ballast – represented a significant improvement in energy use over the older, less efficient, and ‘fatter’ T-12 tube with its magnetic ballast). 

The commercial sector accounts for half of electricity used in lighting, and the linear fluorescent market accounts for about half of that. We’ve introduced the Cree LED T8 Lamp series and we expect it will accelerate adoption of LEDs in the commercial sector.

We are going after about a billion sockets that use T-8s. The economics are strong because the commercial sector uses light for about 12 hours per day. Longer hours equate to more kilowatthours of energy. Our lamps save about 30% compared to the standard T-8. We can produce about 100 lumens per watt compared to about 70 lumens per watt for a T-8 today.

Elien also comments that the Cree T8 replacement provides a,

higher quality of light compared to other LED alternatives as well as fluorescent tubes. We have a CRI of 90 compared to 80 in most T8 bulbs today and existing T8 fluorescents. We also have universal compatibility – there is a wide range of power supplies used to provide power to fluorescent lamps in commercial buildings. Most LEDs don’t have a wide range of compatibility with drivers and ballasts. But we will be compatible with 90% of ballasts installed out in the market. And that’s what the end user needs – an LED conversion as simple as switching a bulb.

Hungarter notes that DLC approval will help many end-use customers in terms of the economics,

When we look at this from a payback scenario, what we see is that because the lamp qualified under the DLC, it will qualify for many utility rebates that can range from $5 to $15 or even $20 per lamp. So we can see 2.5 to 3 year paybacks in most applications.

He comments that LEDs also save hugely on maintenance,

T8 fluorescent mortality is based on re-lamping halfway through the life of a bulb that lasts about 15,000 hours. The Cree LED T8 Lamp will last 50,000 hours, with a five-year warranty.

The 50,000 hour warranty is based on an L70 rating, which means that at 50,000 hours the lamp will provide approximately 70% of the original lumen output (where it becomes visible to the average occupant). By contrast, fluorescent bulbs are rated on mean lamp failure rate: when 50% of the bulbs are expected to fail. Many companies adopt preventive re-lamping policies prior to that failure rate, so the effect life is actually as much as 60% shorter).

The lighting space is intriguing, since many companies involved have such different business models. Companies such as Sylvania, Philips and SiemensSiemens focus on all aspects and technologies of lighting, and they have LEDs within their repertoire. Some technology and electronics companies – such as ToshibaToshiba – also market LED lighting as one of their numerous electronics-related offerings. By contrast, Cree has adopted a much more specific, LED-based focus, and the vertically-integrated company aims to address all problems related to integrating LEDs into the broader marketplace.

Elien contends,

When you look at who’s doing it well, there isn’t anybody. Larger companies don’t have something that solves all the problems. Their products offer 80 CRI versus our 90. We integrate with multiple ballasts. The idea is to put out an overall value proposition that will compel the customer to switch. There have been LED lights for a long time but they have forced customers to compromise, and we’ve learned that customers won’t make the switch unless the new product is better than what’s being replaced”

He sees significant room for the LED product to increase its future presence in the lighting market,

We are the leader in this space and from what we can tell, LEDs are still less than 10 penetrated in general lighting across every sector. These are still the early innings.
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