A growing number of Durango and area business people are seeing the light, the illumination of LED bulbs.
LED (light-emitting diode) lamps use 75 percent less energy than old incandescent and more modern compact fluorescent bulbs.
Karma Bhotia, owner and executive chef at Himalayan Kitchen, is a convert to the new technology. And he’s another beneficiary of a La Plata Electric Association program that eases the switch.
It was a no-brainer, he said.
“I pay up to $2,300 a month for electricity,” Bhotia said Wednesday as he swapped incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs. “An electrician who checked for me said (the bill) is normal for the system I have.”
Bhotia, a Nepalese who has owned Himalayan Kitchen for five years, is putting in 74 LED bulbs in the dining room and banquet hall in the first round of updating.
He plans to exchange kitchen lights later.
The 74 LED bulbs fall into three categories – standard bulbs, floodlights and accent lights. They cost him $1,913, less a $752 rebate from LPEA, the net cost being $1,161.
The LED bulbs will save 13,071 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, an estimated $1,241, on Bhotia’s electric bill, Ray Pierotti, project specialist at LPEA.
The rebate and the savings on the electric bill will allow Bhotia to recoup his cost in 0.93 years, Pierotti said. The calculations are based on Bhotia using lights 12 hours a day, 362 days a year.
The LED lights are generally several times more expensive, but last about 10 to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. As well as the financial aspect, some converts take pride in the environmental aspects of the switch.
A factor not calculated in the savings, Pierotti said, is the reduction in air conditioning costs because LED bulbs produced much less heat.
“The quality of LED lighting has improved greatly in the past six months, particularly the quality of the light and the fact that most LED bulbs are now dimmable,” Pierotti said.
Durango businesses typically have their lights on 14 hours a day for more than 300 days a year.
“In today’s economy, you can’t raise prices much,” Pierotti said. “So you have to cut expenses, which is the easiest way to a good bottom line.”
He estimated that LPEA has given $150,000 in rebates since the program 2½ began years ago.
Charles Shaw who, with wife, Lisa, owns the Smiley Building, is sold on LED bulbs.
“They are amazing,” Shaw said Wednesday. “They do all that incandescent bulbs do but with 15 percent of the electricity.”
Shaw said that about 20 percent of the 1,000 bulbs in the Smiley Building are LED. He expects to have the entire building converted within a few years.
LED bulbs comes in various shapes for various purposes. They range from the traditional “A” or standard bulb size, accent lighting, street lights, security lights, “exit” signs, refrigeration cases and decorative lighting.
Lighting accounts for 25 to 35 percent of a business energy use.
Among Durango and area enterprises that have switched to LED lighting are Steamworks Brewery, the Smiley Building, Bank of Colorado, City Market, Brennan gasoline stations, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Tamarron Resort, Durango Mountain Resort, Durango Coffee Co., the Glacier Club, Zuke’s, J.C. Penney, Maurice’s, Liquor World, Wagon Wheel Liquors, Star Liquors and LPEA itself.
Businesses in the process of installing LED lamps are Maria’s Bookshop, Open Shutter Gallery; Stoneage Industries; Overland Outfitters and Toh-Atin Gallery.
Rebates offered are;
Replacing fluorescent bulbs: $250 per kilowatt hour reduced up to $20,000; rebate can’t exceed 50 percent of lamp material costs.
Refrigeration cases: $60 per door, with a limit of 50 doors or $3,000.
Parking lot or street lighting: One-fourth of the cost of the head or $200, whichever is less, and a cap of $20,000.
A good reason to switch to LED lighting, Pierotti said, is that T-12 fluorescent lamps are no longer produced, which means users must someday use T-5 or T-8 bulbs.
LED lamps usually are given a 25,000- to 50,000-hour life. An incandescent bulb lasts an average of 2,000 hours, Pierotti said.