Lighting is one of the largest loads in New York City buildings, accounting for 11% of energy consumption in buildings that benchmark their energy and water use per Local Law 84. Energy audits have revealed that many lighting systems in NYC are still old, especially in the multifamily residential sector. Therefore, upgrading to LED lighting is a very promising energy efficiency measure for many properties in the city.
LED lighting offers many benefits for NYC properties, both in terms of operating costs and code compliance. This article provides an overview of the main reasons why you should consider the upgrade if you are a property manager or owner.
1) LED Lighting is Energy Efficient
This is perhaps the best-known feature of LED lighting, and also the main reason why many home and business owners become interested in the technology. Assuming you compare lighting sources based on the same output, an LED lamp can deliver it with a lower power consumption that older types of lamps. Although the specific savings achieved vary by project, you can expect percentage savings in the following ranges when older lighting systems are upgraded to LED:
When LED Lighting Replaces...
Expect to Save Around...
Compact fluorescent lights
Old linear fluorescent lights (T12)
Newer linear fluorescent (T8, T5)
Metal halide HID
High-pressure sodium HID
Even greater savings are possible when an LED upgrade is complemented with automatic controls. For example, an upgrade for metal halide fixtures that would have normally yielded 60% savings may go over 80% if lighting controls are also added.
In NYC, the multifamily residential sector is illuminated mostly by incandescent, CFL and T12 lights. The office sector has more efficient lighting on average, composed mostly of new fluorescent lighting like T8 and T5, but lighting also operates for longer hours than in the residential sector. In both cases, there are significant savings to achieve by upgrading to LED. There is also a great opportunity to improve efficiency with controls, which are only found in around 10% of properties.
Only low-pressure sodium lighting offers an efficacy comparable to that of LED, but it is limited by an extremely poor lighting quality. On the other hand, LED lighting offers a high color rendering index is you choose good-quality products, and it can be manufactured to deliver any color in the visible spectrum, while low-pressure sodium is limited to a pale yellow tone.
2) LED Lighting Provides Air Conditioning Savings
If LED lighting can provide the same luminous output as older lamp types while consuming less watts, you may be wondering where all those watts were going previously? The answer is unwanted heating.
During the summer, unwanted lighting heat increases the load on air conditioning equipment. A single fixture does not have a noticeable effect, but consider a high-rise building can have thousands. 2,000 fixtures using fluorescent tubes may consume around 90W each and 180 kW in total, while 2,000 LED fixtures consuming 50W each only use 100 kW in total. The 80 kW difference is subtracted from the overall cooling load, equivalent to nearly 23 tons of refrigeration.
The heating effect is lost during the winter, but this actually represent savings. Following with the same example, producing 80 kW of heating as a by-product of lighting is actually more expensive than producing 80 kW with dedicated space heating equipment. Lighting heat is electric resistance heating from the technical standpoint, while gas heaters and heat pumps can deliver the same output for a lower cost.
3) Maintenance is Simpler with LED Lighting
LED products are characterized by their sturdiness and long service life. Since they use solid-state electronics to produce light, they do not have delicate filaments or electrodes. In addition, LED products are often built with shatter-free lens made from polymers instead of glass, further improving their physical resistance. Thanks to these features, LED products are much less likely to be damaged when handled.
LED lighting also offers a much longer service life than the lamps and fixtures replaced. The following table provides the typical service life of many LED products, compared with that of the lighting systems replaced:
Type of Lighting
Typical Service Life (Hours)
Equivalent LED Service Life (Hours)
Metal halide HID
High-pressure sodium HID
LED lighting not only reduces the frequency of lamp and fixture replacements, but also the associated cost. For example, one LED bulb does not replace one incandescent bulb, but actually 25 throughout its service life.
4) LED Lighting Meets Local Law 88 and the Energy Code
According to Local Law 88 of 2009 (part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan), all buildings subject to mandatory benchmarking and energy audits must also upgrade their lighting systems to meet the NYC Energy Conservation Code by the year 2025. Since the newer types of fluorescent lighting are capable of meeting code requirements, LED lighting actually exceeds it.
Property owners who upgrade to LED are likely to meet a significant number of NYC Energy Code requirements thanks to the efficiency achieved, if not all of them. Just make sure you review the Energy Code in detail to be sure no requirements were missed.
5) You May Be Eligible for Free LED Lighting in NYC
Con Edison has an incentive program for building system upgrades that improve energy efficiency, and this includes lighting upgrades. These normally take the form of cash incentives, calculated per lamp, per fixture, or per kWh saved annually, but some property types and NYC neighborhoods are eligible for 100% free LED lighting.
For example, the Con Edison incentive program includes LED upgrades for multifamily buildings in certain Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods. If a building is approved, it gets a full upgrade for common areas and up to 10 free LED bulbs for each dwelling.
LED lighting provides many performance benefits, and lighting retrofits are among the fastest and less disruptive building upgrades. Depending on the characteristics of your building, a lighting upgrade may be mandatory before 2025 to meet Local Law 88, and LED is among the most efficient and cost-effective solutions in the market.