LED Connects Mid-Missouri with Lower Cost Lighting

Sep 1, 2015

LED connects on many levels with commercial customers.
Credit Gary Grigsby / KBIA

In the world of lighting, reducing energy costs rules the day especially in lighting used outside the home.

Enter the light emitting diode or LED.  It has become the light for choice for efficiency and in recent years, cost.  "The operating costs are a sixth of an incandescent bulb," said Gordan Spainhower who's an electrical contractor in Columbia.  He had stopped by an LED manufacturers display earlier this year to check out the latest in fixtures.  "You'll be buying 10 incandescent bulbs over the life of this one LED fixture," he said.

The one LED fixture he was talking about was one of many that Paul Warner had on display in Columbia at the event.  "These are each 9-10 watts a piece," Warner said.  "They replace about a 65 watt."  Warner was busy at the display getting his sales pitch in to the many people milling around.  "This stuff is changing all the time.  It's getting more efficient and less wattage."

Warner knows lighting.  32 years in the business.  The St. Louis County man is now a representative for lighting manufacturers.  But he said only in recent years has LED become a game changer when he sits down with someone to talk lighting.  "They pick out a fixture.  We're looking at a fixture that two years ago would use 80 watts.  Now, we could use 40 watts so it's helping them reduce their overall energy consumption," he said.  "And, the fixtures are nicer looking because they are smaller, thinner and more efficient."

His clients are generally those who spend a lot of money on lighting bills.  Warner said, "we just finished a garage over at the hospital, University Hospital.  That was an HID garage converted to LED."  That of course is not the only MU facility going with LED.  

LED now illuminates all City of Columbia parking garages.
Credit Gary Grigsby / KBIA

The City of Columbia got on board with LED awhile back.  "The parking garages downtown have all been changed to LED," said Frank Cunningham who is the Energy Services Supervisor for the city.  He said when LED lights are installed there is some up front cost because the lighting fixtures have to be retrofitted. "The energy savings that you see pays for the cost of the retrofit in two years time."

The energy savings for the city are significant.  The garage at 6th and Cherry, $12,000 a year.  That's energy savings every year and that's just one garage.

Columbia's Parks and Recreation staff is also considering making a switch to LED in the gymnasium and swimming pool areas at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).  "These two areas provide us with the biggest payback and that's where we want to start with," said Recreation Services Manager Erika Coffman.  She will have a big say in making that call.   A call that could save them 50-60% in energy costs.

Lighting specialist Paul Warner discusses the benefits of LED with City of Columbia Maintenance Specialist Jesse Amelunke.
Credit Gary Grigsby / KBIA

Those savings on the ARC's swimming pool area light bill could amount to $10,000 a year.  But Energy Services Supervisor Cunningham said that's just savings at the pool.  "The gymnasium we have one estimate, that's another $10,000 a year."

These kind of numbers are not uncommon.  It's probably part of the reason Paul Warner said LED lighting now makes up about 80% of his business.