Retrofitting vs. A Full Fixture Replacement: Which One Is Better?

There are two things most people grapple with when converting to energy-efficient lighting:

  1. Choosing the best lighting technology for their spaces
  2. Deciding whether they should retain their existing light fixtures or replace both the light sources and the fixtures

LED technology is the best solution in both cases as it is highly versatile and extremely energy-efficient. However, switching to LED doesn't always mean replacing traditional light bulbs. Sure, if your current light fixtures work well, all you may need to do is replace the old bulbs with LED modules. But if they are old, your only option may be a full fixture replacement.

Before we discuss retrofitting and a full replacement, let's talk a little about LED technology.


Why Choose LED Technology

LED lighting offers a myriad of benefits you will be hard pressed to find in other light sources. Here are five reasons why it is the best option for industrial and commercial spaces.

Enhanced Energy Efficiency

The most impressive thing about LED technology is its energy efficiency. LED bulbs consume very little electricity and can lower power usage by up to 75%. And the best thing is that they do this while producing the same amount of light (or more) than other bulbs.

LEDs Produce Less Heat Than Other Lights

Up until the inception of LED technology, we depended on heat to produce light. HID and fluorescent lights produce a lot of heat. However, LEDs have semiconductors with electron holes that produce energy as light when introduced to electricity.

Better for the Environment

The materials used to manufacture LED lights are more eco-friendly than those used to manufacture fluorescent and HID lights. LEDs consume less electricity than traditional lighting systems, decreasing the demand from power plants and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The Light is Focused

Unlike HID lights which are omni-directional, LEDs are directional. This means they emit light in a limited range. They don't need reflectors – like HIDs – to redirect the light to a specific area. Omnidirectional lights lose a lot of lumens during the reflection process (up to 30%) hence their light output is much lower than that of LED lights.

Lower Maintenance

One of the less appreciated benefits of LEDs is the cost savings they offer because of reduced maintenance costs. They have a longer lifespan than other light sources and lower the cost of replacement fixtures. They also reduce the cost of labor for replacing spoilt bulbs.

Retrofit LEDs vs. New Fixtures: The Benefits and Downsides of Each

When upgrading to LED technology, you have two options: Retrofitting or a full replacement (a full redesign). It's important that you know the difference between these two options so that you can make a wise buying decision. With retrofitting, the old light sources are replaced with retrofits that work with the existing lighting equipment. With a full fixture replacement, the light sources as well as the lighting equipment are replaced.

Retrofitting and a full redesign both have their pros and cons. Let us look at each in detail.


No doubt about it, retrofitting with LEDs is the most affordable way to upgrade the lighting in your property. It can be ideal even for fixtures that need a little upgrade to house LEDs. You will quickly recoup your investment as LEDs use less energy and will significantly decrease your power bill. Rebates can also decrease the amount you spend on LED lights.

On the other hand, new LED light fixtures don't come cheap. But they are the only viable option in some cases - like when the old lighting equipment is damaged or old. You'll also have to pay a qualified electrician to change the lighting infrastructure –and spend more money in the process.


Retrofit LEDs are much easier to install, which means you don't have to pay an electrician a lot of money for the work done. The electrician simply removes the existing luminaire and ballast and replaces it with LED lighting. Your work won't be significantly interrupted as installation doesn't take time.

However, a full redesign is more complex and time-consuming, which means your business operations will be interrupted. You'll also have to pay the electrician more for the extensive work they do.


Both retrofit LEDs and new light fixtures can last up to 100,000 hours, you won't have to replace them for years. They need very little maintenance and you can help prolong their lifespans by dusting them regularly and inspecting them. This will also help prevent component failure.

But new LED light fixtures have one major downside: they may need to be replaced when their lifespans come to an end. While this may be years in the future, you'll still have to spend a tidy sum changing the lighting infrastructure.

The Better Choice

To be honest, the better choice for you will depend on the light fixtures in your property.

While retrofit LEDs help you to save money with their low initial cost and ease of installation, they may not be the best option if your fixtures are dated or damaged. Additionally, the lumen output of each bulb will be determined by the existing fixtures.

The good thing about a full replacement is that the light fixtures will have a higher lumen output because the LEDs are specially designed to work with the fixtures. However, new LED light fixtures don’t come in a variety of options like retrofits.

4 Questions To ask Yourself When Deciding Which Option is Better for You

As we have discussed, both retrofits and new LED light fixtures have their pros and cons. So, how do you go about choosing the best option for your property? Here are four questions to ask yourself to determine the best option for you.

Is My Building Being Constructed or Remodeled?

If your property is in the process of being constructed or remodeled, you can choose either of the two options. The biggest limitation of installing new LED fixtures is that wiring is usually required. However, if your building is unfinished, electricians can easily access the lighting fixtures and replace them. While new fixtures cost more than retrofits, their cost is justified by their enhanced light output.

The bottom line is, whether you choose retrofits or new fixtures, you’ll still be able to achieve the energy efficiency most building codes require.

How Much Am I Willing to Spend?

If you have a limited budget, pick retrofitting over a full fixture replacement. You won't have to spend a lot of money on the fixtures or paying an electrician to install them. You'll also be able to resume work in a short while as retrofitting doesn't take time. Be sure to check the available rebates in your area as this will further decrease the upfront cost.

What’s the Condition of the Current Fixtures?

If your existing light fixtures are in perfectly good condition, there's no need to get new light fixtures. Installing new fixtures means getting rid of good lighting infrastructure. In this case, a full replacement is not the best option. However, if the existing fixtures have ceased to function, you should consider replacing the fixture.

What Do I Need from the Lighting?

When it comes to lighting, each company has its own needs. For one company, cost-effective lighting may be the best option. For another, new modern LED fixtures may be the best option. Many new buildings need lights with hi-tech features – dimmable, able to change color, connected to a network, and able to go on and off automatically (to reduce energy consumption). If you need such lighting, your best bet is new fixtures as they will meet your demands. Retrofits may not be able to provide hi-tech features as they will be limited by the existing fixtures.

Pick the Best Option for Your Property

There's so much information on converting to LED technology to the extent that it may be difficult for you to decide which option is better for your needs. We've written this post to help make the decision much easier for you. The good news is, whether you choose retrofits or new fixtures, you'll be buying energy-efficient lights that will decrease your property’s energy consumption and help you to save money.

MyLEDLightingGuide stocks both retrofit LEDs and new LED light fixtures and gives lengthy warranties for each option (10 years). Don't hesitate to talk to us if you need help choosing a product or want some questions answered.

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