Local Law 88: When Should You Upgrade to LED Lighting?

By George Crawford

With Local Law 88 requiring multifamily buildings in New York City to upgrade common area lighting to energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs), owners and managers will need to develop a compliance strategy. With the deadline some years away—January 1, 2025—many are asking, “Should I do it now or wait it out?”

Lessons from Early Adopters

A number of multifamily buildings already comply with LL 88 because of earlier, voluntary LED upgrades to their common area lighting. These early adopters typically made the switch for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Expense reduction. LED lighting products consume only a fraction of the energy used by traditional lights. Replacing incandescent and fluorescent lighting with LED products will create significant energy savings—80% and 50%, respectively. On average, the savings will pay for the upgrade in about two years.
  • Operational efficiency. Although harder to quantify, improvements in operational efficiency quickly add up. With a 2,000-hour life span for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescents, an average-sized residential building with 350 lamps will have approximately 15 lamp changes per week—in addition to the time and cost of buying and storing replacements. With an average life span of five to 10 years, LED lamps will virtually eliminate this now-routine task and its related expenses.
  • Code compliance. Many buildings with older installations have code issues with battery back-up lighting or egress lighting levels. Combining code compliance upgrades with an LED retrofit allows buildings to offset compliance costs with energy savings.

Reasons to Wait and See

While switching to LED lighting has clear advantages, the up-front costs of buying and installing LED products can be substantial. Delaying the retrofit may help resolve budget priorities.

Another possible advantage to the wait-and-see approach is the potential for additional technology advancements. Will future LED products be substantially better or have a longer life than those available today?

Upgrade now? Or later?

Clearly, the decision of when to comply with LL 88 has several moving parts. We recommend that building owners and managers start with the facts and hard numbers for their properties.

  • Establish a benchmark. Start with the existing lighting configuration, including annual electric charges, maintenance costs, and lamp replacement costs. Also, survey building common areas for lighting-related code compliance issues.
  • Calculate the benefits. Consider working with a knowledgeable Con Edison partner, who can not only source funding, but also know current LED product specifications. Such a partner should have access to Con Ed software to model the “before” and “after” scenarios of the project.

Accurate modeling will provide the reliable payback calculations required to make an informed decision.

George Crawford leads Green Partners LLC, which identifies money-saving solutions of owners of commercial and residential properties in New York City. For help with your energy needs, please contact George by email at gcrawford@greenpartnersny.com.