Reaping the Benefits of an LED Lighting Retrofit

May 16, 2017 Neil Egan

Jeff Spencer, Director of Product Management and Market Development - Commercial, Acuity Brands Lighting  

As LED technology continues to evolve, lighting system upgrades are becoming the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to improve facilities and reduce annual spending.  Once you’ve decided to upgrade, there are a number of options to consider in order to maximize your return on investment (ROI) including government and utility rebates, incorporating controls and even the method of replacing the existing lighting.  For example, a “rip and replace” approach can often be more expensive and wasteful than simply retrofitting your existing luminaires.  A retrofit allows you to reuse existing parts and keep installation costs lower. Done properly, retrofitting can maximize the utility of existing infrastructure while providing environmental benefits and cost savings.

The best place to start any lighting project is with an audit. First, determine what type of light is needed and the levels of brightness required for each space. Working on one area at a time lets you gain a better understanding of how to parse out the retrofit in multiple phases to minimize disruption in the use of the space. This can be particularly important for lighting projects in spaces that do not have non-business hours such as medical facilities or a 24-hour retail location.

Upgrading a lighting system to LED can provide many benefits, including money and energy savings, improving the aesthetics of a space, and adding features such as color tuning which can impact mood and productivity. The audit can help identify the best types of LEDs for a given project and any opportunities to add energy saving controls such as daylight harvesting and motion sensors for areas that see less occupancy. These controls add additional layers of security as motion-detectors not only control lighting on/off functions but can also alert security personnel and support security cameras with better-lit spaces.

While approaching the retrofit project, look beyond only replacing lamps and consider reusing, relocating or reducing fixtures.  Replacing lamps is laborious, expensive and can lead to human error such as using lamps with different color temperatures in the same fixture and unbalancing the way light is spread across a room. Any space where yellow or white hues are randomly mismatched is distracting and decreases quality of appearance. Standardizing the types of fixtures and light source used in a given environment reduces these types of mistakes. It also frees up storage space and reduces costs by decreasing the variety of lamps needed.

Replacing or relocating LED fixtures has become a much simpler and less expensive process. For example, our Indy L-Series Family includes install-from-below fixtures where you can push the ‘old’ fixture out of the way in a closed ceiling and replace with a new one from below, and true-retrofit fixtures that will actually convert a traditional fixture into an LED fixture for 4-, 6-, 8-, 9-, 10-, and 12-inch aperture sizes. These fixtures are available with a wide range of reflector options for various applications including downlighting as well as single, double, or corner wall washing. They are also compatible with nearly any dimming or control protocol to avoid the need for the installer to run new control wires.

The unique form factors of LEDs provide more options for designing pleasing and well-lit spaces that provide responsible energy consumption. The large selection of LED lighting options on the market can cover areas of many shapes and sizes, and account for existing light sources, color temperature, ceiling height and aperture size. Furthermore, LEDs have long lifecycles, which simplifies and shortens repair and replacement.

As is the case with any construction and facilities management projects, finding technology that can easily and effectively meet your goals is important. Acuity Brands offers a range of retrofit kits from very low-cost retrofit kits for ‘light commercial’ applications where almost anything will do, to very competitively priced specification-grade fixtures that will allow a facility to change out their lighting  while improving quality, performance, or aesthetics.

No matter what approach you take – total replacement, retrofit, or something in between – proper research and preparation is the most important step in the project lifecycle. Understanding your objectives before choosing hardware, controls and construction approaches will define your lighting needs and best-size approach. As the time-tested adage suggests, measuring twice and cutting once is always a bright idea. 

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