Smart Strategies for Relamping and Beyond

LED lighting continues to drop in cost and improve in quality, and it now boasts the lowest total cost of ownership of any lighting technology, Baird adds. Compare your current lighting system with prospective upgrade technologies by examining your costs and savings over a period of five years or more.

“What will it cost me to operate over the next five years in terms of energy? What’s the lifetime of each technology and how often will I have to replace them? What’s the warranty on the upgrade option? Can the manufacturer stand behind the product?” Baird says. “At this point, I think if you’re not using LED, it’s a good time to look at your options there. The energy savings up front and the long-term maintenance costs translate into a larger savings over time.”

How to Make the Best Choice

Whether you’re changing your relamping strategy or opting for a replacement or redesign, it’s crucial that you do your homework beforehand so you don’t run into problems later. Determine how much energy or maintenance you should save beforehand so you can watch for higher-than-expected spending that can indicate trouble, and know the ins and outs of any new technology so the installation goes smoothly. Get it right the first time with these tips. 

1) Evaluate the condition of old fixtures. Opting for long-life lamps may make sense from a savings standpoint, but if the existing fixtures are worn out and will need to be replaced sooner than the lamps, you may find you’ve wasted your money when you should have just replaced the whole thing at once. 

“If the existing fixture is 25 years old and has aging sockets that need to be replaced anyway, you don’t want to put a 10-year lamp in there because the socket could fail in 5 years,” Strandberg says. “Look at the condition of your existing fixtures. If there’s something special about them, like decorative fixtures in the lobby that have a historic look, you’ll have to put some work into refurbishing that fixture. It doesn’t make sense to put a long-life, high-cost lamp into aging infrastructure.”

In cases like that, it makes the most sense to do at least a floor at once so that you’re not faced with mismatched fixtures in the same general area, Strandberg adds. “Even if a few fixtures are still in good shape, they might not look the same. That’s irrelevant in applications like warehousing, but if you have a grocery store, office space or school, you probably want them all to match.”

2) Assess the performance of the current lighting system and incorporate your findings into the search for new products. Strandberg recommends looking around your building to see how the current system is performing in terms of light distribution, quality and quantity. Are some areas overlit? Is the light color too warm or cool? Has the use of the space changed since the current system was installed?

“If everything is great, then you want to try and match it as much as possible, but often there are ways to improve things,” says Strandberg. “It’s not always about maximum energy savings. Sometimes it’s about having a chance to say, ‘We need more light than we currently have.’ Evaluate the existing lighting to see how it’s performing instead of saying, ‘It’s a three-lamp fixture, so let’s put in three of the new lamps.’ You don’t always need to do that.”

3) Look at all components when you use a kit. Tube-style LEDs that replace linear fluorescent lighting sometimes leave the original ballast intact, which can throw off your relamping schedule later, Baird explains. “There are alternative options that allow you to eliminate the ballast, which means you have less maintenance down the road,” Baird adds. “The ballast can expire earlier than the lamp if you’re looking at upgrading the lamps separately. You might want to consider replacing the ballast at the same time or going with a solution that doesn’t require a ballast at all to save on long-term maintenance costs.” 

4) Check compatibility. If you’re not replacing every component, consult with the manufacturer to make sure that the new installation is compatible with the old fixture, location and ballast (if applicable). “If you’re upgrading linear lighting and keeping the old ballast, make sure it’s on the manufacturer’s recommended list of compatible ballasts. Otherwise it could be an issue for the life of the lamp,” Baird suggests. “Also check the fixture and ask the manufacturer whether it’s OK for that particular installation. For example, if it’s an enclosed fixture and you’re putting LEDs into it, do you need more space for heat dissipation?”

5) Field-test samples before committing to an order. Consider it a red flag if the manufacturer you’re considering won’t let you try out lighting products in your facility before you buy enough for an upgrade, Strandberg warns. There’s no replacement for a field test. In addition to seeing how the new lighting products look in your facility, you can test other lighting measures alongside them – for example, painting walls with more reflective surfaces to get more mileage out of the same amount of light.

“Repainting to a lighter color or even just going from a tan to a white can increased both perceived and measured brightness dramatically,” Strandberg says. “Examine surface reflectance and see if you can make changes there while you’re upgrading.” 

Janelle Penny is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS. 

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