Incandescent bulbs vs. LED bulbs
According to the Energy Star website, light-emitting diodes are “semiconductor devices that produce visible light when an electrical current is passed through them.” They rely on solid-state electroluminesence to produce light, which means they convert electricity into light through the excitation of electrons.
Incandescent lights, meanwhile, use thermal radiation to produce light, which results in a huge amount of energy loss due to heat and in turn a much shorter lifespan. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that solid-state technology could reduce national light energy usage by up to 50 percent.
LED bulbs got their start in commercial applications such as retail signs, traffic lights and children’s toys. In part, this was because they couldn’t replicate the brightness or warm color of incandescent lights. They’re also directional by nature, meaning the light emitted is a focused beam instead of diffusing out in many directions. The good news is that improved bulb coatings have largely negated this issue. Today’s LEDs can diffuse light 360 degrees.
You’ll find two common types of LEDs in home lighting:
• High power LEDs (HPLEDs). HPLEDs produce a much stronger light than familiar miniature bulbs but generate much more heat, which means they need reliable heat sinks (devices that dissipate that heat), usually in the form of metal fins at the base.
• Organic LEDs (OLEDs). OLEDs, meanwhile, use an organic material as a semiconductor rather than a crystal structure. Organic materials produce a naturally diffuse light, and their molecules allow for more variation in performance and light quality than crystals.
One LED can last up to 50,000 hours, the equivalent of 42 60-watt incandescent bulbs. (Photo by Hugh Vandivier)
Light bulb cost
While a worldwide push seeks to end the dependence on incandescent bulbs, there have been several stumbling blocks. The first is price. The lowest-priced 60-watt LED bulb on the market costs around $10, which is five times more than a comparable incandescent. High-end bulbs, meanwhile, cost upwards of $80 or more. This price is often balanced out by longevity because these bulbs can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years or more depending on use.
In addition, there has been confusion over how manufacturers label bulbs. Traditional packaging reported the brightness of a bulb using watts. LEDs, however, need far fewer watts (between six and 10) to produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent. This has led many consumers to mistakenly think that all HPLED and OLED products are “underpowered.”
New guidelines, however, are focused on reporting a bulb’s brightness in lumens, effectively standardizing the market and making all bulbs easily comparable.
It’s also worth noting that LEDs can’t actually produce white light. To achieve this color, a phosphor coating is added to the bulb. First-generation LEDs, therefore, often had the problem of too-white or too-blue light that didn’t work well in spaces like living rooms or kitchens. Fortunately, major manufacturers have virtually eliminated this problem.
Pros and cons of LED lights
LED bulbs come with many benefits, and some drawbacks:
• They use far less energy to produce light, so they aren’t hot to the touch.
• They don’t “burn out” like typical bulbs, but instead start to dim slowly.
• LEDs can go from dark to full bright within seconds.
• Because they rely on solid-state components, LEDs aren’t easily damaged or broken and aren’t subject to failure due to constant switching.
• They don’t contain mercury like fluorescent bulbs. However, some LEDs may contain metals such as lead, nickel or copper, meaning you should handle broken lights with caution.
• Over time, LEDs can begin to change color due to temperature variations and age.
• Some newer bulbs may not work with older dimmer switches, instead refusing to turn on altogether or remaining very dim.
If you’re looking to switch over to LEDs but can’t make them work in existing sockets, it may be worth hiring an electrician to update your wiring and fixtures to help “future proof” your home.
As equipment gets older, the potential for parts failures increases. The older the generator the more difficult it may be to source replacement parts. Some manufacturers go out of business. Some manufactures will only continue to produce spare parts for a period of time. When their parts inventory is exhausted it may be impossible to repair the unit. Or, retrofitting the equipment may not be worth the expense.
Reliability, Repairs and Maintenance
Emergency generators are installed for very good reasons, to back up critical electrical needs. If proper maintenance is being performed and failures are popping up regularly the confidence in the equipment to operate when needed erodes. The more critical the need, the more reliable the emergency generator needs to be.
The costs associated with repairs and the risk of unreliable equipment will ultimately outweigh the price of a new generator system.
Older generators should also receive a regular load bank test to insure the integrity of the entire system to carry its name plated load. As equipment ages or facility upgrades are made that could reduce the operating characteristics of the equipment the generator may not be able to handle its intended load.
Increased Capacity Needs-
As buildings age new equipment may be installed. This new equipment may require increased demands on the generator system. Any time loads are added to a building that needs to be backed via the emergency generator; a load study should be completed to insure that the generator can continue to operate as intended. If the load study shows the existing generator can handle the additional load you can be assured that your generator is capable of doing its job when you need it. If not you will either need to shed other loads or consider a larger generator system.
Increased need for operational knowledge-
Modern generators and electrical switchgear have abilities to communicate their status. In critical applications remote monitoring and control may become desirable. Many modern generators also have the ability to tie into building management systems giving facility managers much better data about their equipment.
Engine exhaust and noise emissions may become critical for an application. This could result from local code requirement enforcement to providing a better operating environment to the people that are situated close to an operating generator.
Modern engines emit significantly lower exhaust emissions than their predecessors. A desire to reduce exhaust emissions can be derived for many reasons including changing local requirements, EPA regulations limiting run time and a company’s desire to be identified as a “green” company.
Noise is also considered an undesirable effect from operating a generator. Modern enclosure designs can significantly reduce noise levels.
In the case of diesel generators fuel storage can be an issue. Diesel fuel can deteriorate over time and cause performance issues with engines.
Diesel fuel storage can also be influenced by local regulations or the local Fire Marshall. In some cases it may be desired to extend the potential run time of the generator in the event that long power outages may occur. Local requirements may limit the amount of diesel fuel that can be stored on site.
In recent years natural gas fueled or Bi-Fueled (operates on a combination of diesel and natural gas) generators in larger size ranges have become commercially viable. A desire to move to natural gas can be a motivation.
Long Term Budgets
Replacing a generator can be expensive. As part of a long term capital improvement project the generator system can be replaced as budgets may allow.
In almost all cases a capital investment in a generator system can last for many, many years. As time and requirements take a toll on existing equipment it may make sense to modernize the emergency generator system. In critical applications it is imperative to insure a well-functioning backup solution that can be managed as appropriate by the facilities management team. Sometimes it makes sense to look at replacing old equipment.
Clifford Power is an Authorized Generac® Industrial Power Dealer
Generac means innovation whether you’re considering, specifying, or installing a power system. Generac provides single generator sets up to 2 MW including multi-megawatt paralleling solutions, Gemini® power systems, with two generators stacked in a single enclosure for amazing space savings. And Generac’s Bi-Fuel™ generators, the only ones fully integrated—and EPA compliant—straight from the factory. Add tools like Power Design Pro™, among the most powerful electrical and mechanical design and sizing software on the market. It’s easy to see why virtually every industry puts their power needs in the hands of Generac.
If you’ve already purchased a generator, you know how essential they can be if the power goes out during a winter storm. Without electricity, you’d either have to try to figure out how to make do, or else you’d need to try to make your way to a friend or to a relative who has working electricity. Both of these options can be dangerous or even outright impossible depending on current conditions. This is likely why you got a generator in the first place.
Unfortunately, generators don’t last forever. At some point, you’re going to have to purchase a new generator to replace the one that you have now. It doesn’t matter whether you bought the cheapest generator that would work or the most expensive one that you could afford – all of them will need to be replaced at some point, just like any other appliance.
But telling when you need to replace your generator isn’t always easy. If you’ve been following proper generator maintenance practices, you are unlikely to need a new generator just yet. Regardless, you should still keep the following things in mind so that you know when you should be getting a new generator:
The older anything is, the more likely it is to fail. Ultimately, the age of a generator isn’t necessarily determined by its physical age but by how many hours it gets used every year. The average standby generator has been designed to last for 10,000 to 30,000 hours of use.
If you frequently lose power and have to use your generator, you will need to replace your generator sooner than someone who only runs their generator once or twice a year. For light-duty use, expect a properly maintained generator to last about thirty years.
Too many repairs
Aside from preventative maintenance to ensure that the generator is functioning correctly, you should not have to repair your generator more than perhaps once or twice a year.
If you find that your generator is breaking down almost every time that you use it, then it’s time to get a new one. If your generator is still only a few years old, check to see whether or not it’s still under any sort of warranty.
Problems starting up
A brand-new generator should start up quickly when needed. If you have a system where the generator is supposed to come on automatically when the power goes out, you shouldn’t have to go out and fiddle with the generator to get it to start unless it has somehow run out of fuel. Once or twice could simply be something that can be repaired. More than that, especially within the same year, and you should start looking for a replacement.
Excessive fuel usage
Your generator’s manual should provide information on expected fuel consumption. If your generator hasn’t been properly maintained or if it’s starting to wear out due to age, this fuel usage will start to rise. Some parts may be able to be repaired or replaced, but the whole generator will eventually need to be swapped for a new one.
Variable power output
Obviously, one of the reasons why you got a generator is so that you can have steady power. If you are using the same appliances and devices that you always have and yet the power flickers or you experience brownouts while using the generator. It may simply need to have a part replaced, but this is still a sign that your generator may be nearing the end of its life.
Now is the best time to make sure that you have a working generator for the winter season. Aside from changing oil or air filters as specified in your user manual, please don’t try to service a generator yourself. Call a professional to safely give it a look.