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Making the Switch to LED: Why it’s Such a Bright Idea

There’s a reason you can get a master’s degree in change management: convincing people to move away from the way things have always been is hard. How does it happen? How do new ideas spread? This article focuses specifically on the use of incandescent (the traditional light bulb) lighting and the transition in homes and businesses to light emitting diodes (LEDs) happening now.

The Kurt Lewin model for change begins with an unfreezing phase, a change phase, and a refreeze phase. The unfreezing phase is the most important phase and can also be the most challenging. Using LEDs as the example of a change that is currently in the change phase (not everyone has converted), the correct course of action during the unfreezing phase would be to review the benefits and help others and ourselves come to a conclusion.

Why Make the Switch to LEDs?

There are plenty of reasons to make the switch from incandescent to LED bulbs. For starters, according to, the average lifespan of an LED light is 50,000 hours compared to 1,200 in an incandescent. 50,000 hours is equal to five straight years, 24/7. One of the reasons for LED’s longevity is that 30% of the energy used in LED lighting is converted to electricity, compared with only 10% of the energy used in traditional lighting. Additionally, LED is innovative because of the way light projects. It sounds simple – and it is – but light emitted from LEDs aims down and light emitted from incandescent bulbs will light a much less focused area. Up to 40% of the light projected is wasted above the bulb when using incandescent. Rather than geek out on statistics, let’s take a look at some well-known company case studies.

Lighting the Way

Starbucks: Starbucks was an early adopter of LEDs as a way to save on energy and reduce the company’s environmental footprint. According to a company spokesman when asked about the reason for the change: “Our new green construction methodologies and lighting efforts have the rigor to help us achieve our environmental goals and the flexibility to support our scale.” The initiative to replace incandescent and halogen lighting with LEDs at over 7,000 global stores will, according to Jim Hanna, Director of Environmental Impact for Starbucks, cut energy consumption by 80%.

IKEA: While it’s easy to appreciate cost savings, a concern for some might be presentation or quality of lighting produced by LED. If you’ve ever shopped at IKEA, the trip is more of an experience, than an errand. How do they power such an operation? If you answered Swedish meatballs, you’re correct! But if you’re wondering if a company focused so much on presentation has switched to LED, they certainly have. Bjorn Block, development lighting specialist for IKEA, is featured in this video discussing not only the energy savings, but also the versatility, durability, and creative designs now available with LED lighting. All of IKEA’s LEDs are tested at minimum lifetime use of 20,000 hours… and that’s on the low side!

Walmart: Legend has it Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, used to drive his own car across state lines to pick up everything from #2 pencils to men’s underwear if it meant he could resell at lower prices than his regional competitors. It’s tough to ignore the balance sheet benefits of LED lighting, and Walmart certainly hasn’t let the opportunity slip away. According to a news article from Walmart, the switch to LED ceiling lighting in the U.S. is “expected to produce an energy savings of 340,000 kilowatt hours per store, equating to more than $34,000 in savings per year in each store.”

Starbucks, IKEA, Walmart, and millions of other business and consumers are making the switch to LEDs, not because they know something others don’t – it’s because it makes sense. Statistically speaking, the benefits of switching from incandescent to LED are pretty clear to anyone with an understanding of return on investment or even just an appreciation for helping the environment. So why hasn’t every company and every individual that pays an electric bill jumped on board? Understanding the reasons change happens and how it happens is another piece of the puzzle.

How Ideas Spread

In the book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, Gladwell cites several studies of behavioral psychology and examples in recent consumer past about how ideas spread. Gladwell points to the people communicating the idea (or not communicating the idea) to the masses as instrumental to the success of change. Breaking them into three categories, we’ll take a look at Gladwell’s cast of characters and use examples in today’s consumer market to study the spread of LED.

Mavens: Mavens are individuals that believe in an idea and promote the idea in a similar way that brush fires grow. A maven might be a small business woman that recently switched from incandescent lighting to LED in her coffee shop. With a price tag higher than traditional light bulbs, she made the investment and noticed a decrease of 85% from her previous month electric bill. As one that enjoys the outdoors, she appreciates the tiny environmental impact LEDs have since they burn more efficiently and you can recycle them afterwards with plastics. Impressed with the results month after month, she informs her family and other folks in her weekly meet up group of entrepreneurs of the savings on the bottom line. She doesn’t have a megaphone or an energy blog; she’s simply a believer and an educator.

Connectors: Connectors are not primary sources, but are the gasoline to the Mavens’ brush fire. These might be social media influencers that can reach hundreds of thousands with a single tweet or a Facebook post. In communicating the benefits of LED lighting, this might be a politician or the director of the EPA magnifying a study like the one done by GE’s Ecomagination program. These folks have the capability to prominently showcase new ideas.

Salesmen: Salesmen are the folks that help the fire jump the river when it looks like the end. Salesmen have a keen ability to persuade and promote the idea without actually trying very hard. A salesman could be a savvy accountant that sees the simply return on investment of LED lighting and has the wherewithal to approach the C-suite about the idea. It could be a member of the PTSA that can implement incandescent to LED change in the school district without putting together a two-year committee and it could be the environmentally conscious politician that reaches across party lines to put a bill in place to encourage home-owners and businesses to use LED.

Watt Now?

Companies like Starbucks, Ikea, Walmart, and GE have already discovered the long lasting benefits of switching from incandescent to LED lighting. From in-store LED lighting to selling LED products, they’re promoting an environmentally-conscious practice while reducing energy consumption and keeping your wallet happy for businesses and consumers alike. Do you have the power to flip the switch to LED?




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