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Lighting Retrofit Project Management for Savings

Lighting retrofit projects represent one of the best ways for a company to reduce its energy costs.

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Representing almost 40% of a commercial facilies utility costs,
paybacks of less than 3 years are commonplace.

Done properly, a lighting retrofit program can increase productivity, reduce defect rates and represent a cost advantage against your competitors who haven’t implemented their own efficiency programs. Selecting the right lighting retrofit vendor who will stand behind their product and system designs is key to real savings.

VENDORS: Check references, test recommendations against proposals, visit past installations and check their financial stability.

STAKEHOLDERS:  get all the key stakeholders are involved up front to reduce delays during the project.

Addressing the finance and purchasing teams’ need to understand the costs and savings will help make sure the project hits all required financial hurdle rates. It’s also important to make sure the operations team is aware of the project’s impact on employee productivity and maintenance.

SET NEW LIGHTING LEVEL BASELINES: Include the latest Illuminating Engineering Society (IESNA) light level recommendations in your review. IESNA guidelines for your application factor in the difficulty level of tasks being performed as well as the age of your work force. In addition to light levels, consider how the environment is perceived. Retrofitting from lower color rendering (CRI) lamps to higher CRI lamps can improve visibility - even with lower light levels.

A poorly designed retrofit lighting system that saves money in energy
costs can take all those savings away in productivity losses, increased
error rates and absenteeism.

Cutting light levels below recommended levels, installing products that increase glare or create shadows can all harm worker and facility productivity.

FACILITY AUDIT:  The facility audit is the blueprint for installation. A poor audit can result in change orders, increased costs, missed deadlines and poor application of product. Beware of the rapid audit.

A good audit collects area by area counts of all existing light fixtures, reviews light level readings, identifies obstructions, checks hours of operation and reviews the tasks being performed within the area to make sure that the design selections will be correct for the environment.

Utility companies vary widely in how they bill and awareness of how demand and usage charges are being applied is critical for an accurate evaluation. Make sure to factor in demand charges, taxes and seasonal peak charges to calculate costs and how they are applied. Watch for billing details!  Consider a utility who charges a demand charge based on your highest usage of electricity for a month. If you’re using occupancy sensors, are the lights going to be on when the demand charge hits? If so, you’ll only be able to capture the kWh usage savings and not the associated demand savings you might otherwise expect.

CONTROLS & SENSORS: Controls, and occupancy sensors are becoming an important component of retrofit strategies. With controls being increasingly legislated and incentivised with ASHRAE 90.1, Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) and utility rebate programs, there is no better way to save money and meet evolving building standards than by turning off or turning down the lights.

Prior to choosing sensors for your facility, consider installing “light loggers” that track occupancy in target areas so that you can get a feel for the savings. Use “program start” ballasted luminaries rather than” instant
start” to assure no loss of lamp life from frequent on/off cycles. And make sure that time and sensitivity levels are set properly during installation.

Not all lighting components work well together in all environmental conditions. Your facility can have a major impact on system performance. Factory temperatures and office occupancy levels affect how fixtures will perform in each environment. Mounting height levels that have temperatures in excess of 55˚C might require “high ambient” approved fixtures. Fixtures that run cooler, last longer - sometimes up to twice as long.

INCENTIVE PROGRAMS: States, federal government, and electrical utilities are actively looking for ways to reduce energy consumption by providing financial incentives. These incentive programs represents an opportunity
for real savings. Programs like Epact, a federal program that offers an accelerated tax deduction for lighting upgrades of up to $.60 per sq foot for projects completed through 2008 is a great example.

For the most up-to-date information on available incentives, ask your project vendor and check with your local utility for all the incentives and rebates available to you.

Workspace lighting should last a long time, so making buying decisions benefit from choosing materials and labor suppliers for the long term. When evaluating suppliers, check the products and associated warranties
being specified for reputation and financial wherewithal to correct problems.

LONG TERM OPERATIONS:  A simple way to validate the projected results is to test the proposed retrofit system in a typical area. It’s easy to measure before and after light levels as well as amperage reductions on tested circuits. However, don’t assume that the initial light levels from this test represents what you’re going to have over the long haul.
    New lighting systems inherently provide more light than aged systems. Dirt depreciation and lamp degradation curves all need to be considered when evaluating a retrofit lighting systems performance over time. While cutting edge lighting systems maintain more light then ever before, make sure your supplier builds maintenance factors into the proposed system evaluation so that light levels meet your long term expectations.
    Maintenance savings  also save in the long term because easy to maintain lighting system lowers operating costs and gives the maintenance team more time to focus on the pressing issues of keeping machines and people productive.

  • Reduce the number of lamp and ballast types that have to be inventoried
  • Select longer life component technologies that extend maintenance intervals.
  • Check sample fixtures to see if access to the ballast compartment is tool-less to shorten time on the ladder.
  • For open air industrial fixtures in caustic or high ambient environments, make sure that the components specified will operate at optimal levels.

SAVINGS:  Consider the life of a lighting system into the savings calculations. The average life of a commercial or industrial lighting system exceeds 10 years. Quality systems cost more, but they also save more over time.

INSTALLATION:  To make sure the installation goes as smoothly as possible, review and document all key elements of the installation plan including security access, product storage, recycling, how to manage “found” and
unaudited areas, as well as how updates will be provided throughout the project. While there may always be a few problems on the job, having a plan to resolve them quickly makes for a smoother and more successful installation.

When implemented correctly, lighting efficiency upgrades can start saving
your business money immediately!

FINANCING:  The vast majority of lighting retrofit projects can provide paybacks within 3 years without any additional incentive at all. As an alternative, consider financing your lighting upgrade instead of waiting for the
next rebate or capital budget. A well designed lighting retrofit project will often offer immediate savings opportunity than can be used to fully fund the cost of the project and provide a positive cash flow from the very first month.

SOURCE:  Cooper Lighting, a leader in the design of energy efficient lighting systems, can arm you with the information necessary to ensure a successful lighting efficiency upgrade, contact them at

Edited by Carolyn Allen, Managing Editor of Solutions For Green

Publication Date: 8/12/2008

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