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Church Energy Series

Church Energy Series: Calculating ROI On LED Stage Lighting


Over the course of the Church Energy Series we’ve been covering ways to get fast return on investment with upgrades to energy efficient lighting.  We are wrapping up the lighting portion of the series and today we’ll dive into a more exciting topic: LED stage lights.  A recent national trade-show (LDI) that is all about lighting gear saw an onslaught of new LED products.  The shear number of different LED stage light fixtures coming to the market is yet another testament to the flexibility of LED technology.  Many covering the trade-show warn against cheap products.  While you do indeed get what you pay for in terms of quality, the same is true when it comes to efficiency.  Throughout this series we have observed that higher upfront costs of LEDs can be a hangup when compared to incandescents, fluorescents, and halogens.  However, we are also seeing LED lifetime up to 10 times that of incandescents.  You will replace LED fixtures once for every ten incandescent bulbs you replace.  When you include that fact with the savings you achieve on your energy bill from day one of operating with new LEDs, our calculations show a shrinking payback period.  Does the same principle hold true for LED stage lighting?  Let’s take a look.

LED Stage Light Upgrade Example:

Let’s say our imaginary church has 16 ETC Source Fours and 8 Par 56s (nothing fancy in this example).  At 750 watts each, the Source 4’s use 12,000 watts when they are 100% on.  The Par 56’s use about 500 watts each, which is 3000 watts total when they are full on.  In total we have a 15,000 watt lighting system.  If the stage lights are on for about 12 hours a week, they use a total of 7,488,000 watt-hours per year.  Using the national average of $0.12 per kilowatt hour, the stage lighting costs this church $898.56 per year.  That’s $74.88 per month just for this section of lighting.

Let’s say this church upgrades to LEDs.  12 ETC D40 Studio LEDs, 4 ETC Source Four LEDs, and 8 ETC D40 Studio HD 7-Color LED fixtures (slightly fancy). All together, this 2,884 watt LED lighting system will provide an energy savings of 80%.  Each month, the church will save $60.48 every month on energy for stage lighting.

Payback Period:

From list prices on, our new LED stage light system will cost roughly $45,000 (not included taxes or shipping).  Now our payback period based on purchase price alone would be north or 50 years.  Yikes.  However, there are several considerations that this upgrade does for us that price alone doesn’t communicate.

The first thing that should be considered is the usable lifetime of these fixtures, about 50,000 hours each.  Pretty impressive when compared to the 300-hour lifetime of one bulb in the original Source-4. You would have to replace the tungsten-halogen bulbs in each original Source-4 fixture 167 times before the LED Source4’s should need maintenance (in a perfect world).  Each halogen bulb cost $26 and for 18 fixtures you would spend $78,000 in bulb replacement during the same amount of time it would take the 18 LED fixtures to require maintenance.  In the real world your church probably won’t ever spend $78,000 in replacement light bulbs, but you get the idea. It’s likely that the LED fixtures will outlast your current building setup and will not need to be replaced until you renovate.  It’s likely the technology will have evolved to be even more efficient by then.

The next thing to consider is the fact that the LED fixtures bring DMX control onboard.  DMX control provides access to new color combinations and color correction built right into the fixture.  This eliminates the need for large dimming racks.  However if you want to drop these fixtures right in line, you may be able to swap out your dimming modules for relay modules.  Stefan Svard of Audio Video Electronics (AVE) has recently done just that on an install his company did at a local church.  Stefan also coordinated with ETC to perform a refurbishment on their old dimming rack and returned it with a new warrantee.  Now that’s efficient.


Still on the fence about upgrading your church to all LED stage lights?  I would recommend this upgrade to two types of churches.  One that is planning a renovation/new build project of their stage or worship center.  And two, a church that is SERIOUS about reducing it’s energy usage and carbon footprint.  And by serious I mean  your church has a xx% energy reduction goal by 2020 serious.  If that isn’t your church,  maybe you wait a bit for prices to come down some before jumping in.

There are a lot of lower cost items on the market that would allow a church to enter the LED age at a significantly lower price point.  The example here just used what would be direct replacements from the same manufacturer of the outgoing lights.  Again, the pro’s are warning churches not to buy on price alone.   The cheap lights will not perform as well or last as long.  If you are considering switching to LED stage lights, I highly recommend you hire a AVL engineer.  They can provide you with cost effective options, renderings of the design, and help you achieve your energy efficiency goals.

The last thing I will mention is that your church can always elect to do these sort of upgrades in phases.  That will help spread out the burden of the high cost of LEDs while allowing the church to achieve some operation savings quickly.  Start by calculating how much energy your lighting rig uses each year, then set some goals.

How much energy is your church lighting system using each year?


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