Induction Lighting: The Unsung (Temporary) Hero

April 22, 2011


Outdoor lighting is tough. High intensity discharge (HID) lighting is the typical technology you’ll find up at the tippy-top of parking lot light posts, tucked in parking garages, illuminating airport runways, and lighting our streets.

HID lighting has two benefits: it’s cheap to buy the lights and it gets the job done. But it has one MAJOR pitfall: it is insanely expensive to operate.

A typical parking lot post light (like the one pictured to the left) runs 2,000 watts per hour. Considering the average commercial electric rate in Michigan, a business owner would be paying approximately $1,752/year per post. For small convenience stores, this could add up to $14,000 a year. For large properties, like an airport, this could equate to well over $200,000 each year.

Expensive, right? So, it seems like common sense that business owners would be changing these HID lights out for more efficient alternatives, right? You would think so but that’s not the case.

Exterior lighting applications have two inherent challenges: The inexpensive energy efficient technologies on the market plainly suck in cold temperatures while the efficient technologies that thrive in cold temperatures are uber expensive to purchase.

Most vendors and distributors will tell a business owner that their only option is the ever-so-trendy and hot light emitting diode (LED). LED technology is bad ass and always evolving to become more efficient and more accessible. I will give it that.

But it’s also *so* expensive that my customers burst into uncomfortable laughter when I mention it. There’s always an exception, sure, but the vast majority of businesses will not even consider LED until it comes down in price drastically.

So what do I suggest when LED is scoffed at? Enter: The Unsung (Temporary) Hero – magnetic industion lighting.

One form of induction lighting (bulb shapes available too - I snapped this shot in the office)

Almost as energy efficient but half the price of LED. Induction technology has been around for ages but has never been a hot ticket item. Despite all my research, I cannot figure out why. Maybe lighting manufacturers didn’t promote or market it enough ? I’m not sure.

But the energy savings are there. One could replace a 2,000-watt HID post with four 250-watt induction lamps to cut energy consumption in half and keep the same light output. This would equate to $920/year for each parking lot post rather than $1,752. The calculator does not lie.

Costs are reasonable and result in simple pay back periods of typically less than 3 years – a fairly standard corporate pay back requirement for capital investments.

While induction lighting is old technology and no new innovative strides are being made to make them bigger, better, or more efficient than they are now, they could serve as a temporary hero for business owners with exterior lighting cost concerns while LED technology comes down in price.

Would you prioritize cutting edge technology over reasonable pay back periods for your business? Or would you bide your time with a less swanky, heavy hitter with a pay back period you can stomach – until the new stuff gets cheaper?

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7 Comments on “Induction Lighting: The Unsung (Temporary) Hero”

  1. Ben Says:

    I would *think* that the biggest user of HID lighting would be local governments. This sounds like something that concerned citizens should talk to their municipality about as well.


  2. Madam Energy Says:

    Ben, I couldn’t agree more! There has been quite the movement here in Michigan for LED and induction street lighting in recent years due to grant money available to municipals. It is definitely something more citizens should be aware of and be vocal about!


  3. greenlanternindustries Says:

    If it gives the replacement of as many watts we want then well and good.


    • Madam Energy Says:

      It gives as much light output but with less watts than HID and less cost than LED. It’s a great temporary solution until the lower-wattage LED fixtures become more affordable. 🙂 Thanks for visiting!


  4. Ken Says:

    The reason induction lighting in not a favorite is the light pattern is poor. The light under the fixture is great, but as soon as you move away it drops off much more rapidly than traditional HID and can’t hold a candle to a well engineered LED solution (reduction in required fixtures). The only true savings achieved by induction is the labor savings of maintenance, if you need to maintain light levels(addition of fixtures).


    • Don Leaman Says:

      I have been a commercial lighting contractor specializing in energy efficient lighting for over 20 years. I have personally retrofit and replaced existing exterior HPS and Metal Halide fixtures with Induction lamp amp driver products with great success. My most recent project was a parking garage and lot located at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA. My team was able to retrofit existing 400W, 250W and 175W Metal Halide post top, canopy and wall pack fixtures with 150W, 120W and 80W Induction kits. Typically we would have gone with a 200W Induction kit to retrofit the 400W Metal Halide. However, we have found that by going 5000 kelvin Induction lamps, any photopic lumens we loose are typically made up for in scotopic lumens. The hospital was very pleased with the results and did a write up of the project on there intranet.


      • Madam Energy Says:

        Don, thanks for sharing your experiences! Photopic lumens vs scotopic lumens is a very important distinction. Thanks for mentioning that. I’m glad to hear the hospital liked the results of their project. My customers that have done induction retrofits have also been really pleased with the results as well.

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