An Informative Guide to Lighting Retrofits




While you may be very familiar with LED technology, you may not fully understand what a (LED) retrofit is. So, what exactly is a lighting retrofit?




The term retrofitting means adding something new – like technology or a component – that wasn't there before or wasn't part of the original structure. When it comes to lighting, retrofitting with LEDs means replacing traditional lights with LED lights without replacing the existing fixtures.

Before LED lights were introduced, linear fluorescent lamps were the most popular. In fact, many commercial buildings in the U.S. still have these lights. Can you imagine how much money and electricity would be saved if these lights were replaced with LEDs which can reduce energy consumption by up to 90%?

Just to give you an idea, this is what will happen if you replace conventional lights with LED lights.
  • Energy consumption will be reduced
  • You won't have to replace lights for many years (since LEDs have a long lifespan)
  • Maintenance costs will significantly decrease
  • No need for cooling as LEDs emit very little heat
  • No risk of shock as bulbs are replaced

How to Determine If Your Building Needs Lighting Retrofits

The best way to determine if lighting retrofits are perfect for your building is by identifying the problem you're trying to solve. Are you looking to significantly reduce energy consumption or are there other problems you’re trying to solve with the retrofits? Retrofitting is not ideal for every building as it depends on the condition of the existing fixtures, the lighting infrastructure in place, and your sustainability goals.

To find out whether retrofitting is perfect for your building, ask yourself these 7 questions.
  1. Are the existing lighting fixtures in good working condition?
  2. Do I need to replace the lights in order to adhere to municipal lighting code changes?
  3. Am I spending too much money on lighting maintenance and replacement bulbs?
  4. Do I want to considerably lower my building's energy consumption?
  5. Are there some lighting fixtures in my building that are hard to service?
  6. Do the lights operate for more than 12 hours a day?
  7. Does my business or organization want to decrease its environmental footprint?

When you have the answers to these questions, you can determine whether retrofitting or a full fixture replacement (a full redesign) is better for your building.

The 2 Different Types of Lighting Retrofits

While we described retrofitting in detail at the beginning of this post, let’s delve a little deeper. Retrofitting doesn't just mean replacing traditional lights with LED lights. The process can be conducted in two ways, it all depends on the existing fixtures and the lighting infrastructure.
These are the 2 retrofitting methods used by electrical professionals and contractors.

1. RetrofitKits

Retrofit Kits offer an easy upgrade option and are used by many businesses, organizations, and institutions. The kits come complete with LEDs and drivers and are mounted directly onto existing fixtures. They quickly change your existing lighting fixtures to energy-saving LED fixtures.

If you have fluorescent fixtures in your building, retrofit kits can make the fixtures energy-efficient by reusing their upper parts. However, it is worth noting that the labor costs for installing retrofit kits will depend on your existing lighting infrastructure. If the electricians doing the retrofitting have to follow complex component removal processes (which apply to fluorescent lamps) or perform wiring modifications, the labor costs may be higher.

2. Direct Bulb Change Out

LEDs, unlike fluorescent lights and High Intensity Discharge lights, do not require ballasts to regulate the current and voltage supplied to them. They use internal drivers to convert alternating current voltage to direct current voltage. Some conventional lighting fixtures can easily be retrofitted by replacing the bulbs.

An electrician may simply remove fluorescent tubes, ballasts, and lamp holders and replace them with LEDs. This is the most affordable retrofitting option for both indoor and outdoor settings, since the LEDs are placed directly into traditional HID fixtures or fluorescent tube troffers. Many new LEDs can be installed directly into existing fixtures, regardless of the fixtures. The electrical professional simply swaps the conventional bulb with the right LED bulb and electricity consumption goes down right away.

However, if your lighting fixtures are old, damaged, or completely enclosed, a full fixture replacement may be the only option. LEDs cannot be used in fixtures that are completely enclosed unless they are approved for use in those fixtures. This is because they may malfunction because heat can't disperse. While this process is the most costly, it's the only option in some instances.

Calculating the ROI of Your Retrofitting Project

Whether you are a business or an organization, it is always a good thing to save money. Recouping your initial investment is a crucial component of any financial decision you make, whether it's switching your lighting to LED technology or adding a product line.

As a business, it is important to understand the estimated return on investment (ROI) as it tells you how profitable a venture will be. When you know how quickly you will recover the money you invested, you can decide whether upgrading your building’s lighting to LED is a good choice. Remember, anything that minimizes costs will give your business a competitive edge.

When calculating the ROI of retrofitting, there are a few things to take into consideration. Here are 6.
  1. The rebates offered when you convert to LED. You can check the rebates offered in your area on https://www.energystar.gov/
  2. The incentives given by the state and local governments. https://www.energy.gov/ provides this important information
  3. The decrease in energy consumption. LEDs use up to 90% less electricity compared to other lighting systems
  4. The low maintenance costs. Lighting maintenance will be almost nonexistent for many years to come
  5. The reduction in cooling costs; LEDs don't need to be cooled as they give off very little heat
  6. The increased light output. LEDs are directional lights and illuminate surfaces better

There you have it. With the right retrofitting option, it won't take you long to get back the money you invested as LEDs significantly reduce costs and offer quality performance. This is why converting to LED technology is a no-brainer.


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