Since 1995, the Energy Star program has guided homebuilders in the selection of building materials, heating and cooling systems, efficient appliances and other components of more energy efficient homes. Energy Star-certified new homes not only save energy, they’re also built better inside and out.
Advanced lighting is one of the major drivers of Energy Star certification for new residential construction. And while compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are still the first choice of most builders today because of their low initial cost, LED lighting solutions are gaining ground.
“More and more homebuilders are choosing to go with LEDs,” Marketing Manager Bryant Bilal of Eaton’s Lighting Division said. “The rapid growth of technology and falling prices make LEDs hard to ignore as a long-term lighting solution.”
LED lighting adds value for builders.
CFLs have been popular for nearly 30 years, and because they offer a broad range of colors and sizes at a low cost, they remain the favorite of many builders. But that’s changing as the price of LEDs continues to fall.
“LEDs offer many advantages, and lower initial costs should make them an even more attractive option to builders,” Bilal said. “LED installation requires no additional expertise and is often faster than installation for other types of lighting, meaning builders can finish lighting and deliver homes to their customers more quickly.”
Bryant said Eaton’s product housings include features designed to ensure ease of installation for builders. In addition, the manufacturer provides a broad range of literature, videos and other support to transform contractors into experts on LED housings and modules.
Shrinking apertures is another positive result of the movement toward LEDs. “Previously, we needed larger, higher-wattage fixtures in order to achieve desired light levels,” Bilal said. “That meant we also needed large housings and lots of space for installation. Today, we have ultra-shallow housings such as the H245RICAT, which only needs 3.5 inches of space! Also, traditional six-inch apertures are being replaced with four-inch and even three-inch apertures in new construction. By selecting LEDs, builders can achieve the same light levels using a much smaller aperture size and far less energy.”
LED downlight modules also help reduce the amount of headaches for builders after their customers close on the home. Warranty claims can make new homeowners dissatisfied and prevent homebuilders from giving their full attention to the next project, but even small measures can help ensure a happy ending for everyone.
“By installing LED lighting in a new home, builders can potentially reduce the number of callbacks they receive,” Bilal said. “Issues with lighting might sound like small potatoes, but it can be a source of frustration for a new homeowner who is excited and expects everything to function properly. Compared to other lighting solutions, LED downlights carry a longer life and lower risk of failure.”
Builders can sell LED lighting as an amenity to their customers.
On average, lighting consumes about 25 percent of the electricity in a home, but LED downlight modules provide significant energy savings.
LED downlight modules also last longer than CFLs and incandescent bulbs, meaning homeowners will have to buy and install fewer lightbulbs over time. Today, lighting manufacturers offer a broad range of LED products for single-family homes, from warm, soft lighting for bedrooms to bright task lighting for kitchens and bathrooms.
Because the LED downlight modules consume less power — usually less than 10W — they produce much less heat and are more comfortable than other products, particularly in the kitchen. “Remember the 65- or 70W recessed lights that made it too hot to stick around in the kitchen on Thanksgiving?” Bilal said. “My customers are always amazed at how much cooler LED downlight modules are, and their heating and cooling bills also decrease.”
Safety is another benefit of LED downlight modules that builders can sell to their customers. Before LEDs, some housings could become extremely hot and create a fire risk if used incorrectly. But because LED downlight modules run so cool, they can increase fire safety and give homeowners peace of mind.
Speaking of safety, used LED downlight modules are also easier to dispose of than CFLs. Because CFLs contain mercury, they can become dangerous if broken. The EPA recommends that consumers recycle used CFLs and follow strict cleanup steps if a CFL bulb is broken.
LEDs are the future of lighting in new residential construction.
As the price of LED downlight modules continues to fall, CFLs will disappear from homes. Pressure from power producers and new utility incentives are moving builders and homeowners to take the next step. More efficient lighting translates to less energy utilities have to generate for the grid; LED downlights reduce strain on the system and support conservation. And in the United States, California’s Title 24 is spearheading a movement that’s spread to every corner of the continent.
“California is leading the charge, but there will be a sea change within the next five years,” Bilal said. “And at the end of the day, customers are going to begin demanding this technology. Builders want to be ready to deliver.”