Key findings from new research on LED use in hotels

LED lighting solutions

Image courtesy of Philips

Jenny Ya He, with teams at the Centre for Sustainable Development and the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Cambridge, has conducted a study into LED use in hotels.

LEDs have become increasingly popular in hotels over the past few years, but there has been little understanding of how the technologies actually perform in the hotel environment; their high up-front cost also poses a significant barrier to hotel use. The rationale of this research is to assess how LEDs perform in hotels, the strategies which hoteliers adopt to implement projects, and the various financing mechanisms that can help operators overcome the up-front cost barrier to LED retrofit.

The research involved case study interviews with several hotel chains,  fieldwork in the UK and US on financing mechanisms, and a survey regarding hoteliers views on LEDs and financing mechanisms. The organisations involved in this study include Marriott International, Whitbread PLC, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, SEVEn (the Energy Efficiency Centre), and several energy efficiency finance companies.

The research revealed that:

  • Lighting performance of LEDs has improved dramatically over the past three years, and LED A-lamps[1], recessed downlight and track light applications are now fully capable of replacing incandescent, halogen or CFL lamps
  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy research[2], ‘LED AR111 product category and LED linear lamps are unlikely to effectively replace halogen AR111 lamps and troffers or in cove applications yet.’ This is because of the poor performance characteristics currently displayed in these two product categories
  • Despite manufacturers’ claims, the compatibility of LED products with the existing lighting system is still highly contextual. In certain systems, LEDs may not function well with the existing transformers and dimmers
  • Hoteliers are cautious of using LEDs in dimmable spaces and of adopting low voltage LED products. This is due to the unreliable dimming performance of LEDs and the incompatibility of certain LED products with transformers in low-voltage lighting systems
  • Costs entailed with installing and purchasing electrical  accessories for LED systems can amount to as much as 100% of the overall LED equipment cost
  • Even when an LED project has a quick project payback period, the high upfront cost of the LED equipment is still a major barrier to LED retrofit in hotels
  • Energy efficiency financing programmes have received increasing support from governments in the UK and US, and an increasing number of financing schemes are available to finance LED retrofit
  • External financing services for energy efficiency can package design and installation services with appropriate funding channels for LED investments
  • The major barriers to adopting financing mechanisms are the complex decision-making processes in hotels, and the lack of understanding and knowledge of financing schemes by hotel operators


  • Hoteliers should share more information on LED retrofit experiences to avoid investment pitfalls and to fully utilise the benefits of LEDs
  • When conducting financial appraisals for an LED retrofit project, hotel managers should take into account the equipment cost, the engineering cost and other electronic accessory costs entailed with the LED technologies
  • Hotel operators should establish clearer decision-making processes and funding channels for LED projects
  • Hotel chains can potentially play an effective role in introducing effective energy efficiency financing mechanisms to hotel franchisees

Quantitative analysis of the Energy Efficiency Financing survey and two hotel case studies utilising external financing schemes will be accomplished by the end of 2012. We hope to feature them on Green Hotelier so watch this space.

For more information on the report please contact Jenny by email or see her Cambridge University Bio
For more information on sustainable fittings in hotels see our article on sustainable furniture, fixtures and fittings or on retro-fitting hotels

[1] A-lamps [2] CALiPER Application Summary Report 17: LED AR111 Lamps; CALiPER Summary Report Round 12

One Response to Key findings from new research on LED use in hotels

  1. Interesting report but from our experience of supplying LEDs to hotels this misses a key issue regarding the importance of binning to ensure consistency of light and colour.

    Hotels are one of the few places where large amounts of bulbs can be seen in one place e.g. one of our customer hotel ballrooms has 900 GU10’s so if the binning is poor they will all look slightly different colours and shades.

    What does warm or cool white really mean and how can you ensure the bulbs you buy today will be the same shade as in a year’s time? Correct binning offers hoteliers the consistency they require, especially in the 4 and 5 star market.

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