Here we'll outline what it takes to perform a lighting retrofit—from data collection, to value engineering your lighting design, to installation. We'll take you through the process step by step so you don't miss a thing.
First, determine if your building is a good candidate for a lighting retrofit. In most cases, if you have traditional lighting (incandescent, fluorescent) still in place, you will be. But we’ve also seen retrofit projects for LED lighting. In these cases, the LEDs are usually older, first-generation lamps that don’t have the longevity, functionality, or aesthetic quality of modern LEDs, or, the tenants simply aren’t happy with the light they provide.
A lighting audit will help you identify the retrofit opportunities in your space by creating a detailed profile of lighting energy use and quality.
No retrofit is the same. Every building is unique and every operation has its own lighting needs. A walk through will determine areas where light levels may be too high or too low, where lights are left on unnecessarily or not used, and any other factors leading to visual discomfort. The quantity, type, and location of lighting is noted, as well as measurements of light levels throughout the space.
Data to collect before your retrofit starts:
- Fixture and lamp type, quantities, and location
- This will include details like:
- What type of bulb is in the existing fixture? (Metal halide, fluorescent, high intensity discharge (HID), etc.)
- What is the fixture type? (Troffer, wall washer, high bay, etc.)
- What are the dimensions of the fixtures?
- Does the fixture have a reflector? Can it be removed?
- What is the mounting? What is its height? Are there concerns or special requirements?
- What is the wattage of the current bulbs?
- What is the voltage?
- What special requirements does the application of the light require? (eg. Is it a retail environment? Is it an office space?)
- What is the color temperature and should it be adjusted?
- Hours of lighting run time
- Sensor locations, control system locations, etc.
- Electricity costs (copy of most recent electricity bill to determine Kw/h rate and project-generated savings)
At this point, you’ll also want to consider the goals you'd like your retrofit to achieve. Some questions to ask before you start your project:
- Does my building fall under the categories included in NYC’s benchmarking laws? And if yes, have I accurately recorded my building’s energy use and submitted that to the city before performing my retrofit in order to accurately determine the efficiency upgrades achieved?
- What are the priorities of my project? If financial savings are your bottom line, this will influence the “type” of project you’ll want to perform. (See our "Compatibility" chapter for more information on this). A lamp-for-lamp retrofit is usually the lowest-cost option, while a full fixture replacement is more expensive. But if aesthetic improvements are important to you, or, if your lighting electronics (such as ballasts, transformers, or dimmers) are old or not in good working condition, a fixture replacement would be the way to go.
- Does my building qualify for any of the energy efficiency rebate programs? These programs vary depending on your energy provider. For example, Con Edison provides cash rebates and incentive programs for energy efficiency projects, and if you’re a ConEd customer, you can—and should—take advantage of these programs. However, all projects must be pre-approved my ConEd before work begins in order to qualify.
A detailed proposal outlining lighting applications, product cost, lead-time, installation cost, payback time, and future ROI is presented to the client for approval. When requested, a value-engineered lighting package is also created. With a value-engineered lighting package, equivalent lighting to that specified by your lighting designer or engineer is sourced. This alternative package maintains the fidelity of the design, at a significantly reduced cost, and is optimized for lead time.
Both proposals include a financial summary that breaks down the cost of the project and value (including any available incentives), an outline of the environmental impact of the lighting retrofit project, material list, project timeline, and purchase and installation agreement.
Depending on the needs of your building, a team of union or non-union electricians with experience in LED installation and retrofits will perform the retrofit project on a schedule convenient to the tenants of your space. Often this means coming in after work hours or on weekends to ensure that the lighting transition is seamless and there is no disruption to work or any ongoings in your building. Partnering with a lighting company that specializes in LEDs ensures that the project will be done right and be completed on time.
Some installations are simple, and some are not. When you've done as many lighting retrofit projects as we have, you've seen it all—and there's a lot that can go wrong. The good news is that an experienced LED provider will be prepared for any troubleshooting that comes their way before stepping foot in the building.
Some issues that can arise during an LED installation:
- Not compatible
- Too bright
- Wrong color temperature
- Electrical wiring issues
- Old ballasts
- Incorrect count
These issues should all be resolved before the order for materials is even placed. That way, you know that the products you're paying for will work with any existing electronics in your space—and your project will finish on time.
Following installation, old bulbs and fixtures are properly disposed of and/or recycled, and the space remains as you left it—well, just better lit.
An important, and oft-forgotten, step is performing a final energy analysis once your lighting is up and running. This will show you how far you've come: your reduction in energy use and your cost savings, as well as ensure that light levels are where they should be and the tenants of your space are happy.
This is the shortest part of the process—and for good reason. LEDs require virtually no maintenance. Most LEDs are rated for about 50,000 hours of use, so if your LEDs are on eight hours a day, that means it will be about 17 years before you'll need to replace one.