5 Tips for a Hassle-Free Lighting Upgrade

06/01/2015 | By Jennie Morton

Avoid potential snares with retrofit projects

Lighting upgrade

Haven’t gotten around to lighting upgrades yet? Before you commit to a replacement fixture, ensure your selection will satisfy your energy and quality goals.

You know it and we know it – lighting efficiency is one of the easiest ways to slash your utility bills. Not to mention that better illumination can increase safety, improve productivity, and lower maintenance costs. But sometimes lighting retrofits get pushed back when there are major capital improvements afoot.

Show your leadership that it doesn’t pay to wait when an upgrade can immediately start saving money. Use these five tips to show how replacing those outdated fixtures will improve your operations.

1) Investigate All Options
Your first priority is to establish what your lighting goals are. Are you simply looking to decrease energy costs or does the project need to satisfy functional improvements as well, such as dimming, even distribution, or branding? Knowing the answer will help you weed out options that won’t fulfill your needs.

To extend your system’s performance, you should also explore control options, says Mick Wilcox, vice president of controls strategy for Acuity Brands. You could recoup additional savings if an occupancy sensor can turn off lights as well as set back the thermostat when a room is empty.

The capability to sequence controls is easiest to coordinate at the onset of a project rather than after the installation is in place, notes Andy Wakefield, director of building solutions and services with Lutron. If controls aren’t in the cards now, make sure the fixtures have scalability that you can tap into down the road, he adds.

While LEDs remain at the forefront of lighting technology, don’t automatically assume they’ll be the answer to your lighting needs – evaluate all source types to make sure you have the right fit.

“While LEDs are becoming more prevalent and cost effective, traditional lighting technologies such as metal halide have also improved their performance so they can continue to compete,” explains Will Teichman, director of sustainability at Kimco Properties.

Also try to project your illumination needs in the future. As workplace layouts become more dynamic, your lighting should be able to keep pace. You want the flexibility to reconfigure a space and adjust the fixtures accordingly, notes Wilcox.

2) Measure Light Levels
It’s best to quantitatively measure illumination rather than make decisions based on what looks pleasing to the human eye.

“We put all of our properties through a rigorous lighting assessment that is professionally administered by a third party,” notes Teichman. “To objectively evaluate safety and appearance, we go out at night and map a grid of measurement points in the parking field by taking actual light measurements on the ground.”

For outdoor fixtures, make sure replacements provide even coverage without high contrast areas or dark spots. For interior lighting, carefully consider how footcandles, lumen output, wattage, and color rendering will affect the look of a space.

3) Anticipate Operational Costs
Your utility bill doesn’t tell the whole story – lifecycle costs can get buried in other departmental expenditures. Calculate the total cost of ownership by forecasting what to expect for labor and replacement parts.

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