Published: January 9, 2014


Maximize efficiency in lighting

Light emitting diodes (LED) are one of the most promising new technologies in lighting. LED's provide a long-lasting, efficient light source that also meets consumer demand for pleasing light quality. Not only that, but prices are steadily decreasing, making them more competitive with other lighting technologies. LED retrofits provide an opportunity for both commercial and residential energy users to make a dent in their electricity load.

GE LED Grocery Store Lighting at The Fresh Market

LEDs are a solid-state lighting technology that converts energy to light through a semiconductor. This is in contrast to incandescent bulbs that generate light (and excess waste heat) through a filament or compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) that generate light by passing electricity through a gaseous mixture of argon and mercury.

LEDs can be as much as 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs start up and provide light as soon as the switch is flipped and they have less impact on the environment because they do not contain mercury as do CFLs. LEDs have been shown to have a smaller environmental impact than incandescent light bulbs as well.



Implementation costs

Linear LED = ~$50 for T-8 equivalent
Street lamp = $100
Recessed can = $20-40

Potential energy savings

30% - 50%, depending on usage and what the bulb is replacing

Market barrier(s)


Commercial applications

GE Pressroom: Warehouse LED lightingHighbay LED lighting in warehouse

Nearly all lighting in commercial buildings can be retrofitted with LEDs. LEDs can be used for both exterior and interior lighting. Interior lighting applications include task lighting and overhead lighting. LEDs are particularly suited to the following applications:

High bay LED retrofits for cold storage

Unlike linear fluorescent bulbs which lose light output in colder temperatures, LED lighting thrives in colder temperatures. It has a longer life which translates into operational savings for the building owner. The savings are even greater when coupled with control strategies that only turn on lights when a building/room is occupied.

Things to consider: incorporate lighting controls with LED lighting in high bay storage for even greater savings.

Grocery store lighting

LEDs can be used throughout a grocery store, but they perform especially well in cold temperatures, such as refrigerated cases. Applications in other parts of the store include linear LED T-8 retrofits.

Things to consider: Studies have shown that LED lighting makes food look good providing a boost in retail appeal as an additional benefit for incorporating LEDs in grocery lighting.

Street and parking area lights

Street lighting, parking lots and parking garages are particularly suited for LED retrofits. Pricing has become more competitive and with the high run-time of these outdoor lights, the savings can be substantial to municipalities and building owners.

In parking garages, using controls adds even further benefit. See advanced lighting controls for more information:

Residential applications

The residential market for LEDs is growing. LEDs for recessed canned lighting are becoming more cost-competitive and there are more types of LEDs on the market that are suitable for replacing existing incandescent or CFL lights.

The most common uses for residential LEDs are replacing incandescent lights or CFLs in recessed canned and globe lights. The LED market now includes specialty bulbs like candelabra and smaller bulbs; these bulbs are typically more expensive than the recessed can and globe lights.


Significant energy savings: Energy savings can be substantial, especially when replacing incandescent or halogen lighting with LEDs. Savings are even greater for applications where lighting is used throughout the day and night, such as in parking garages, parking lots, street lighting and warehouse lighting.

Less maintenance due to lamp longevity: For lighting in some high bay situations, changing light bulbs incurs significant maintenance costs. Since LEDs last a long time they don't need to be replaced as frequently leading to significant maintenance cost savings.

Better light quality: The light quality of LEDs is especially valuable in grocery stores and parking lots. Studies have shown that LED lighting makes food look appealing; potentially increasing sales for a business. In parking lots, LEDs provide greater visibility than other lights.

Challenges and market barriers

First cost: LED bulbs suitable for residential applications can be nearly 10 times the cost of an equivalent CFL but have a projected lifespan of 50,000 hours compared to the CFL's 10,000 hours.

State impact

We took a high-level look at the potential energy savings in Wisconsin from LED lighting. The estimate is meant to provide a sense of scale showing the impact this technology might have on Wisconsin energy customers.

To estimate statewide impacts, we assumed that LED lighting would be a retrofit opportunity for both residential and commercial applications. The technical savings rate is estimated to be 40% for both commercial and residential applications. We assumed that 50% of lighting would be applicable for lighting controls.

All data used for these estimates are from the Wisconsin Energy Statistics (2012), and Department of Energy's Commercial Energy Consumption Survey data (2003) and Residential Energy Consumption Survey (2009).

Available incentives

Lighting incentives for LED lighting in commercial buildings are available through the Focus on Energy program:

Currently, Focus on Energy does not provide rebates for residential LED lighting (only CFLs).

Fire department retrofit in Brookfield, WI
The fire department in Brookfield replaced T-8 fluorescent bulbs with linear LEDs. While the maintenance and energy savings gained were a big driver for the change, they also cited quality of light as another reason the switch was so successful. Parts of the garage floor which previously were poorly lit are now much more visible.

Car dealership in Monroe OH
Joe Morgan Honda installed 59 LED luminaires on their outdoor sales lot. The illumination quality of the LEDs is an improvement in comparison to traditional HID luminaires and delivers 60% more energy savings than traditional technology. Customers have commented on how much easier it is to see the cars.

LED retrofits in St. Catherine's High School auditorium
The high school retrofitted 500-watt T4 quartz luminaires in 15 architectural downlights in the auditorium with LEDs. The quartz technology had a short lamp life and required replacing bulbs frequently, a task that incurred a high maintenance cost since the lamps were located in the high auditorium ceiling.

The school is expecting to see nearly 15 years of maintenance-free operations through the use of these LED lamps and 84% energy savings. Another benefit of the LEDs is that they produce far less heat than the technology they’ve replaced. The old quartz lighting would automatically turn off when it got too hot, causing problems for assembly meetings.

Street lights in Waukesha and Racine
The cities of Waukesha and Racine have retrofitted many of their streetlights to LED lamps. Waukesha replaced around 10,000 of the city's streetlights and expects to save $250,000 annually in electricity costs.

Racine also replaced 1,000 of its 3,600 sodium streetlights and expects to reduce electricity use by 40%.

Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Environmental Impacts of LED Lighting Products
summary. This report by the US Department of Energy looks at the overall impacts of LED lighting products. The report does not limit itself to energy reduction potential form LED products but also looks at environmental and waste implications of LED lights.
citation."Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Environmental Impacts of LED Lighting Products," US Department of Energy, accessed February 12, 2014.

Town Of Brookfield Fire Department
summary. This is a case study from Titan, a lighting company. It showcases a Wisconsin example of an LED retrofit of the Brookfield fire department.
citation."Town Of Brookfield Fire Department," Titan LED Wisconsin, accessed February 12, 2014

St. Catherine's High School
summary.This case study from by Cree Lighting Company highlights a Racine, Wisconsin high school that replaced 500-watt T4 quartz luminaires with LED fixtures. The lighting became more uniform and the school estimates an 84% savings through the retrofit. Perhaps more importantly, maintenance costs are significantly reduced because the LEDs have such a long life span, compared to the quartz luminaires that had to be changed more frequently.
citation."St. Catherine's High School," Cree, accessed February 12, 2014.

Joe Morgan Honda Car Lot Retrofit
summary. Joe Morgan Honda Dealership in Ohio replaced nearly 60 of their car lot lamps with LED lights. This case study from Cree showcases the positive effect that the retrofit had on the dealership. Not only are they saving money but their light quality has improved and customers have reacted positively saying they can see the cars better.
citation."Joe Morgan Honda," Cree, accessed February 12, 2014,

Waukesha, Racine, Madison to test energy efficient streetlights
summary. This article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlights streetlight retrofits these three communities undertook. As a pilot program,Waukesha tested 21 different types of lights and manufacturers to determine the best one for their application.
citation."Waukesha, Racine, Madison to test energy efficient streetlights," Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, accessed February 12, 2014.

PNL, 2013. SSL Pricing and Efficacy Trend Analysis for Utility Program Planning, U.S. Dept. of Energy, Solid-State Lighting Program. Website:

PNNL, January 2014, Solid-State Lighting: Early Lessons Learned on the Way to Market, Solid State Lighting Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy,

Scheib, 2011. A Retail Lighting Guide: Six Steps to Energy Savings, draft report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.