US (CA): Get a utility rebate by using LED instead of HPS

With the latest advancements in horticultural technology, many growers would rather use LEDs instead of HPS lighting. High quality LED lights are famously more efficient and longer lasting. They emit less heat than HPS and MH bulbs. Used correctly, they even produce higher yields and a more potent product.

So why are many growers only dreaming of using LEDs instead of HPS lighting? Because making the switch isn’t cheap. Premium LED grow lights do pay for themselves over time due to their efficiency and longevity. But their purchase cost is higher than that of HPS fixtures. Add the cost of retrofitting, and a lot of growers are scared off by the upfront investment.

This is where utility rebates come in. There is a strong possibility that your utility company offers a rebate for using LEDs instead of HPS lighting. While a rebate is unlikely to pay for the full cost of LED lamps and installation, it can offset the initial cost considerably. This means a greater—and faster—return on your investment.

Here’s everything you need to know about getting a utility rebate for switching to LED grow lights.

Why would my utility company care if I use LEDs instead of HPS lighting? 
With indoor and greenhouse growing on the rise, many utility companies are concerned about the strain on their grid. If their electrical load is not big enough to accommodate local horticultural operations, they have to add infrastructure. The bottom line: paying you to use less energy is a more affordable option than building new power plants.

Your utility company benefits quite a bit when you use LEDs instead of HPS lighting. That simple switch cuts your lighting-related energy consumption by about 50 percent.

How does a utility rebate work?
The amount of money you could get from using LEDs instead of HPS lighting depends on your utility company’s rebate program. The average rebate program offers somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the cost of your new lighting system. However, some programs offer as much as 75 percent or more.

Rebate programs typically involve an application process. It is important to note that you can’t swap out your HPS fixtures for just any LED lighting system. Your utility company will have standards specifying which LED lamps qualify for the program.

Common considerations include:

  • How efficiently the LED fixture converts electrical energy into PAR.
  • The lamp’s micromoles per joule.
  • Whether a greenhouse LED light is DLC listed.

Generally speaking, your utility company wants to know that your lights don’t just use less energy, they also use less energy more efficiently. In order for the rebate program to work, their customers must be able to get the same results as they did with HPS bulbs.

As for how you can secure your rebate, the process once again depends on the program.

Rebates vs. incentives
Some utility companies offer energy rebates. Others offer incentives. The difference is the following.

You receive a rebate after you have already purchased your LED grow lights. If you are pursuing a utility rebate, be absolutely certain that your LED fixtures qualify before you buy them.

An incentive requires a little more planning. Typically, you apply for an incentive program up to six weeks before purchasing your new lighting system. Your utility provider will likely want to see extensive documentation and a lighting design. When you purchase your lamps, you do so knowing for sure that the financial support is there.

Prescriptive vs. custom
Prescriptive and custom rebates refer to the way in which the utility company calculates your rebate amount.

A prescriptive rebate is determined based on a set standard that applies to all growers. Essentially, you receive a pre-established dollar amount for every fixture you replace.

A custom rebate takes more work to secure, but the payout is often higher. You submit extensive paperwork that helps the utility company determine an appropriate rebate based on the exact details of your unique lighting system.

How do I find out if I can get a rebate by using LEDs instead of HPS lighting? 
You may be able to find out if your utility company offers a rebate just by visiting their website. If not, ask them. Also, consider reaching out to your LED grow light manufacturer. Most manufacturers are more than happy to help you find rebate and incentive programs in your area. In fact, if your utility provider does not have an official rebate program, your manufacturer may be able to contact them about offering a rebate to you.

Why you should move quickly on a rebate program
The benefits of using LEDs instead of HPS lighting in commercial growing are many. Between lower energy bills, higher yields, and long lamp life, LED fixtures deliver a substantial ROI. If you can also use a rebate program to offset the cost of installation, you’re in a great position.

But don’t spend too much time toying with the dream of switching to LEDs. Changing your lighting system is an option today, but it may one day become a requirement.

In fact, the California Energy Commission is already considering whether it’s time to make LED lighting mandatory for growers. When growers no longer have the option of HID lighting, they can no longer be rewarded for making the energy efficient choice.

Source: California Lightworks.


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