Tips for Your Retrofit
There are a lot of considerations to take into account when contemplating a lighting retrofit. As always, it’s often helpful to listen to what the experts have to say, while at the same time considering the practical advice offered by those who’ve already successfully implemented their own retrofits
Tom Spanley is senior project manager for AMB over his company’s lighting retrofit, where it was determined that lighting was the largest source of energy consumption for the company. As a result of his experience, Spanley offers the following advice to other facilities considering lighting retrofits:
- Meet with all the key players in the entire supply chain, including contractors, suppliers, and distributors.
- Understand the size of the lighting program and bulk bid to achieve the greatest economy of scale.
- Agree on a product type or specification and stay the course throughout the program to ensure true scale and pricing benefits are not eroded. “In general, only tenant-specific lighting requirements have changed our specifications,” notes Spanley.
- Don’t just retrofit the light fixtures; upgrade the building lighting system. “Our retrofit was not just a one-for-one replacement, but rather a complete rewire back to the electrical panel, including relabeling as needed,” he says. “Existing hardware was removed and recycled whenever possible. As a result our ceilings are free of old chains, conduit, and wire, which improves the condition and appearance of our buildings.”
- Ask the contractor for detailed schedules and work directly with building occupants to make a large-scale rollout more manageable and streamlined.
- Recognize that some benefits may not be readily quantifiable
“New lighting may help lease a vacant space more quickly, or it may help retain an existing building occupant when their lease is up for renewal,” adds Spanley.
According to Precision-Paragon’s Lou Preston, a building owner has many options in taking advantage of current lighting technologies, such as:
- reducing energy and maintain existing light levels, with the change almost unnoticeable, except on the electric bill
- increasing light levels and maintain existing energy use
- improving energy efficiency, but focus on implementing a system with lowest annual maintenance cost
- evenly distributed light
For example, a parking lot typically has puddles of light underneath the light fixtures and no light in between. An energy-efficient lighting system could be designed to evenly distribute the light across the entire site. “If they don’t need 50 foot-candles underneath a fixture using technology with today’s optics, they can redistribute the light evenly,” says Preston.
- unevenly distributed light
For example, a building shell may have been erected with fixtures evenly spaced throughout the facility, but the occupier does not need the same light levels throughout. “We can design a system that delivers lower light levels in bulk storage, higher light levels in production, and highest light levels and quality of light in inspection areas,” says Preston. “Today’s technology allows us to tailor a design while still using common components for stocking and maintenance.”
- surveying the existing lighting system
“It is very important to have the project goals in mind while performing an audit,” says Preston. “If your objective is to reduce kilowatts and maintain light levels, you probably can keep the survey simple. Note the existing fixture type, light source, and foot-candle readings. More comprehensive solutions required more details such as fixture mounting heights, fixture spacing, rack heights, and layouts in warehouses, pictures, type of work performed in each area, utility bills, and occupancy rates for various areas.”
- acquiring all available utility rebates in the area; for multi-facility projects, acquire rebate information for each facility to help prioritize program rollout
- putting together a proposal showing how program meets objectives, showing financial metrics
“Retrofit projects are typically not construction in nature,” says Preston. “They resemble maintenance projects and can even be done during working hours without disturbing operations. An office of six two-by-four troffers can typically be retrofitted in less than an hour and the crews are trained to clean as they go.”
When it comes to lighting technologies, “it is not just one technology today that delivers the best results,” says Keith Hall, director of marketing and product development for Cooper Lighting’s Metalux brand. “It is about pairing the right solution and technology for optimal results. LED, fluorescent, and HID technology have their uses and can offer paybacks depending on the existing technology, the product environment and maintenance costs.”
Acknowledging that while LED is a “big buzz word” these days, Hall points out it is not the solution for every application.
“Determine what is in your facility and seek out new, updated technology,” he says. “Either do some research on your own or ask a contractor to audit your facility. Make sure to research all utility rebates as well as local and federal tax incentives that may be available. When a proposal is submitted, inquire about existing and proposed light levels. Although energy savings are important, you need to make sure that the lighting is correct for the application. Sacrificing light levels just to save on your electricity bills could be a step backward.”