What is LED Lighting and what are the benefits?

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are semiconductor devices that emit photons (visible light) when an electrical current runs through them. Often in one lighting system there is a cluster of LEDs (or semi-conductor chips). There is no actual gas-filled bulb or filament. This construction makes LEDs highly resilient and efficient. 

Benefits of LEDs when compared to conventional lighting include:

  • More uniform illumination with less overall light
  • Inherently directional
  • Significantly longer service life (50,000+ hours)
  • 30-50% reductions in electricity consumption
  • Extensive available colour spectrum
  • Minimal heat radiation

LED lighting is currently more costly than most conventional lighting, but costs are reducing annually, coinciding with an increase in available and certified LED products. LEDs, and some forms of conventional lighting, can be combined with advanced lighting control technologies to improve efficiency, performance and safety.  Such controls range from the simple ability to dim a bank of lights to individually network-controlled lamps that can be adjusted to suit different applications and individual preferences.

What are Adaptive Controls?

Adaptive controls can greatly increase the efficiency of lighting. Occupancy sensors, for example, can be used in garages, laundry rooms and corridors to dim lighting when the area is not in use and to quickly (within a couple of seconds) restore full illumination when someone enters the area. The result can be a significant jump in energy savings. Adaptive controls work particularly well with LEDs, which can respond almost instantly to different settings.

In late August 2010, Toronto City Council passed an amendment to the property standards code to allow the use of motion sensor-controlled lighting in multi-unit residential and other buildings. Motion sensor lighting is now allowed in corridors, parking garages, storage rooms and laundry rooms, but not allowed in stairwells and lobbies. This bylaw includes a number of safety provisions including a required 10 lux (1fc) standby lighting level for hallways and garages and a requirement that the sensors reliably activate full lighting within two seconds of any movement. LightSavers and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund’s TowerWise program will be working with building owners and managers to find cost-effective ways of using motion sensors while meeting the new standards.

How did Lightsavers get started? 

LightSavers Canada was founded in 2008 by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund to accelerate transformation of the outdoor lighting market, nudging it towards LED and smart adaptive control technologies. This is achieved through supporting the development of scale-up tools, communication activities, and a national summit focused on the scale-up of LED and adaptive control technologies in outdoor applications.

A Technical Advisory Panel comprising industry experts oversees the work in the Program. Funding has been provided by Natural Resources Canada, the Ontario Power Authority (now IESO), and participating private sector event sponsors.

LightSavers initially focused on building a rigorous framework for testing and evaluating the performance of LED luminaires for streetlighting. The results of this initial phase are available on this website as technical reports, a database of pilots, and a field testing performance protocol. LEDs and adaptive controls have been shown to reduce electricity use 50-70% in outdoor applications, along with compelling public benefits that include significantly lower operating costs, central management of lighting assets, improved visibility and public safety, and reduced light pollution and carbon emissions.

LightSavers expanded to evaluate the opportunity for LED lighting in parking lots and garages. Trials showed that electricity use for such lighting could be reduced by 50% by switching to LED lighting and 70% or more when smart lighting controls, such as occupancy sensors, are also used.

As LightSavers in the Toronto region continued its work, in 2009, The Climate Group, based in the United Kingdom, applied the program worldwide. Ten global cities, including London, New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Kolkata, were recruited as LightSavers partners. They expanded the performance trials begun in Toronto with the aim of developing a comparable database of product evaluations that would be useful to municipal lighting asset managers everywhere. The results from these trials were published in 2012.

In March 2012, LightSavers Canada was launched as the third phase of the program. This involved creating a national market consortium to accelerate industry engagement towards the adoption of LED lighting and smart adaptive controls in certain general illumination applications across the country. While continuing to disseminate performance trial results, LightSavers Canada now focuses on remaining barriers to scale-up and deployment, including procurement and financing.