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Church Energy Series

Church Energy Series: Upgrading To LED Recessed Lighting


Last time we compared the difference in church energy savings achieved if your church switched to CFLs or LEDs.  Today we take a look at another simple example: Replacing incandescent bulbs in recessed pot lights with LED bulbs.

Before we begin there are several considerations that need to be addressed before you go LED crazy.  In the previous example, we saw that replacing reading lamp bulbs is a quick DIY project to get a fast return on investment with CFL and LED bulbs.  In this example, hiring professionals to handle the job is the best way to ensure that the right fixtures are chosen and the installation is done well.  This may include contracting a lighting consultant and certified electrician familiar with LED technology in worship environments.  Depending on your room setup, you may also need to rent a lift and temporarily remove installed seating.  Lastly, a finishing contractor may be needed to make it all pretty again.  Remember, your ROI goes out the window if you have to do this twice.

Your ROI calculations will depend on electric rates in your area.  For this example, we’ll use the national average electricity rate of $0.12 per kilowatt-hours (kWh).

An example LED upgrade in a typical sanctuary

To keep our example simple, we’ll use a 500 seat rectangular auditorium with no incline, 20ft ceiling, and portable chairs.  Let’s also say that this room has 36 ceiling recessed-lights on regular non-dimming wall switches.  The four rows of nine incandescent light bulbs each are either on or off.  Each incandescent bulb is rated at 120-watts each.  Let’s say they are on 20 hours a week for services, meetings, and rehearsals.  That is 4,492.8 kilowatt-hours per year which cost $539.14 per year.  That’s $44.93 per month just for this section of lighting.

LED_Pot_LightLet’s say our lighting engineer found LED bulbs that can be retrofitted to our existing recessed pot cans without needing modification. lists a 6-pack of 19-watt LED bulbs for $211.44.  We’ll need six of these packs. Our total product cost will be $1268.64.  Additionally, a one-day $150 scissor lift rental, a $500 engineer fee, and $200 for labor for a total upgrade cost of $1968.64.

Once installed, the new LED bulbs will use 711.36 kilowatt-hours each year and cost $85.36 per year.  That’s only $7.11 per month, a savings of 84%.

With a savings of $37.82 a month on lighting the sanctuary, it would take about 4 years and 4 months to recoup the investment.  However, one thing to note about this payback period is the fact that you would likely have had to replace every incandescent bulb twice during those four years.  If 120W incandescents are $10/bulb, your church would’ve spent $720 on replacement bulbs during that this payback period.  Subtracting replacement bulbs from our initial investment brings our recoupment period to 2 years and 9 months.  Over the lifetime of the LED bulbs, this church would have to replace each incandescent bulb a whopping 41 times before you would have to replace a LED bulb.

This presents a compelling case for upgrading sanctuaries to  LEDs.  This upgrade as you can see will have an impact on your church energy usage.  Keep in mind not all auditoriums are created equal, but I do hope you have a base to do the math on your own ROI of a LED upgrade to your sanctuary’s lighting.

Next time we’ll tackle calculations of ROI for replacing stage lights (oh what fun!).  Stay tuned!

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