With over 1,000,000 LED retrofits installed, Light Efficient Design is providing lighting solutions for businesses, municipalities and university campuses across North America and in the UK.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was starting my own business in 2008,” says Tim Taylor, chief executive officer and co-owner of Light Efficient Design.
The company has headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Carey, a knowledgeable and professional staff of thirty, and warehouses in Oakland, Philadelphia, Toronto and London. Light Efficient Design has emerged from its early days in the electrical distribution chain as a supplier of LED bulbs to become the premier source of retrofit solutions for replacing HID (High Intensity Discharge), fluorescent and halogen lamps with energy efficient, cost saving, high performance LED lamps.
Light Efficient Design has been listed as one of the fifty fastest-growing companies in the Chicago area for the past three years and included on the INC Magazine 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. Its products are installed at many corporate locations including Fenway Park, Petco Park, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Barnes and Noble, Amtrak, Underwriters Laboratories, University of Nottingham, Loyola University, Wiregrass Mall, the City of Independence, MO, and Fox Sports, but was a very small company when Taylor purchased it nine years ago.
But while the business volume was small, Taylor recognized the potential for growth was huge as LED lighting was poised to move into the mainstream. Taylor is a well-respected industry professional with thirty years’ experience, which included a term as vice president at Intermatic, a manufacturer of low voltage lighting and timing controls, and he had long been following LED technology.
The first LED lights, developed in the 1960s, were low powered, producing light in the low, red frequencies of the spectrum. It was not until 1994 that Japanese physicists Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, who in 2014 received the Nobel Physics Prize for their work, demonstrated the first high-brightness blue LED which led to the development of the first white LED lamp.
Since then, the technology has grown exponentially, so that today’s LED lights use at least seventy-five percent less energy than HID lighting and have a considerably longer lifespan, all while maintaining a brightness that is equal to or greater than HID.
Taylor’s company, however, is about a lot more than supplying high-quality lamps. “I started out marketing LED for regular household lamps, and at the time, not too many other companies were doing what I was doing, and so we were just going along,” he said, “but all of a sudden, the big brands like Phillips, GE and Sylvania started developing their own LED bulbs, so I knew I needed to have some other type of product.
“I was also into retrofit with regular incandescent lighting, and one of those early products was a light that was designed to replace a ballast and HID light bulb, and so I started selling quite a few of those and going out and talking to people who sell energy efficient lighting products and discussing replacing HID lamps, and they told me that this would be quite an opportunity as HID lamps are inefficient and very expensive to have to keep replacing in some circumstances,” said Taylor.
“A lot of times they are high up on a pole, a street lamp for example, and you may need a truck with a bucket and a couple of guys to change one light bulb. And then there are places like parking garages where lights are left on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and they have to be replaced even more frequently, so the payback (from retrofitting with LED) is even quicker,” he explained.
“So I decided six years ago that I wanted to have the broadest selection of LED retrofit lamps of anyone in the business, and that was my mission. We have since developed about thirty different shapes and styles, so I can retrofit almost any HID fixture and offer the broadest assortment of state-of-the-art lighting products.”
Taylor believes in the importance of product testing to ensure performance and reliability and is proud that his products come with the stamp of approval from various agencies. Among them are UL – formerly known as Underwriters Laboratory – which carries out safety analysis of new technologies and Design Lights Consortium (DLC), a non-profit organization with a mission to define quality and facilitate industry leadership. Products are also certified by Lighting Design Lab which is sponsored by the Northwest Efficiency Alliance; Lumen Maintenance Testing, an independent testing organization that measures luminous flux, color, dominant wavelength, chromaticity and color temperature and LED Lighting Facts, a program of the US Department of Energy that showcases manufacturers committed to testing and reporting performance results.
Retrofitting existing fixtures as opposed to replacing them represents a major cost savings of course, but it also preserves the original design. “Early on, we retrofitted Nottingham University in England,” Taylor said. “They didn’t want modern-looking fixtures, they liked the traditional look they had and wanted to keep it, but at the same time they wanted the benefit of the energy efficient LED lights.”
In 2016, he opened a warehouse in a London suburb as he continues to see potential there. “We feel it’s a nice market for us as the UK has many more historical areas, and they’ve listed by ordinance probably four or five million fixtures that can’t have design changes, so there’s a great opportunity for us to retrofit in that market.”
In keeping with that desire to maintain original or customized streetlight fixtures, the company has also done towns in North America as well as the Strasbourg Railroad. This is the oldest continuously-operating railroad in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest public utility in Pennsylvania and offers steam locomotive rides through Amish country.
“Most any place where you can find HID lights, we’ve done some type of project,” Taylor said, recalling that one of his earliest projects was to retrofit the concession stands at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Light Efficient Design has worked with municipalities, parking garages, train stations, airports, hospitals, colleges campuses, warehouses, showrooms, large retailers, and casinos. “If you name any type of facility, we’ve done some work at it.”
Among its most recent retrofit projects is one done for the Big Sandy Superstore chain, which has furniture showrooms and warehouses in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. The chain had made a corporate commitment to going green, but at the same time aimed to provide customers with large, well-lit showrooms to choose furniture and match fabric colors. The 400W lamps that were in use just were not doing the job, according to Mike Miller, maintenance director. “We had customers and retail staff literally dragging furniture to the front windows to try to get a good color match.”
But after Light Efficient Design replaced Big Sandy’s lamps with 100W LED-8026 lamps that reduced energy consumption by seventy-five percent and came with a custom color option to create a warmer in-store look, the problem was solved. “The lighting gives a warm feel to our showrooms, instead of the industrial feel they had before, and now it’s a lot easier to get a true match for fabrics and furniture,” Miller said, adding that in addition to lowering its carbon footprint and pleasing customers, the company’s maintenance costs were lower as ballasts and bulbs no longer require frequent changes. Since installing the LED lamps, Miller has not had to send anyone out to do any maintenance of ballasts.
Another triumph for Light Efficient Design was retrofitting the Street of Dreams, the retail centerpiece of the Monte Carlo Casino and Resort in the heart of Las Vegas. New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Las Vegas is the city that never turns out its lights.
Ninety-six 500W halogen lamps were replaced with 50W LED-8045 lamps in the retail shopping area that covers 8,950 square feet, and the dramatic decrease in wattage has created tremendous energy savings with the resort management estimating that project payback has been achieved in less than four months.
“It’s an amazingly quick recovery,” said Chris Magee, executive director of sustainability for MGM Resorts International. “The new lamps not only save wattage they have enabled us to brighten up the area without drastically changing the look and feel of the Street of Dreams.”
Meanwhile, for three years, Swift Electrical Supply had been encouraging the maintenance team at the Bergen County Parking Garage in New Jersey to consider replacing the HID lighting with LED as each of the 330 HID lights was consuming 84W of power per day. It was not as if the maintenance team was not trying to improve the situation. They had experimented with various HID and LED lamps of differing brands, wattages and types, induction fixtures and induction retrofit kits, but their efforts only added to the problem as the inconsistent lighting led to widespread lamp outages and customer complaints.
Finally, a decision was reached to replace all 330 lights with Light Efficient Design’s LED-8025-DL lamps, with the entire installation completed shortly thereafter. As August Sonora, president of Swift Electrical Supply said, “For three years we had been encouraging our customer to move toward energy efficient lighting…and now Bergen County is very happy with the results: energy savings, a forty-two percent carbon reduction and a great light for their users.”
It is no wonder Taylor says starting his own business was the best thing he ever did. It has been personally fulfilling, of course, but on a grander scale, he and his staff are making a real difference as they partner with corporations, municipalities, and universities to help them find ways to live up to their commitments to create a greener future and save business costs, all without compromising quality. In fact, it turns out that with LED retrofits, the quality is even better.