Courtesy of Lutron Electronics
LED retrofits are essential for spaces that suit individual styles and tasks while contributing to resilience, flexibility and well-being.

Emerging Legislation Drives High-Performance, Sustainable Lighting Upgrades

Feb. 14, 2024
As of August 2023, most incandescent and halogen light bulbs are banned from sale. Fluorescents are headed down the same path. What are the options for building owners and managers?

For decades, fluorescent lighting was the dominant light source in commercial buildings, but over the last 10 years, energy-efficient, long-lasting LEDs have become the de facto choice for new projects and lighting upgrades. The transformation to LEDs continues at a rapid pace—fluorescent bulbs are being phased out and the federal government banned the sale of most incandescent and halogen bulbs, as of Aug. 1, 2023.

Several U.S. states and Canada have adopted legislation banning the sale of fluorescent lamps, and about a dozen other states are enacting restrictions on high-CRI linear fluorescents, making LEDs the clear path forward. As the new regulations limit demand, manufacturers are already responding—replacement fluorescent lamps and ballasts will be largely unavailable, and maintaining installed fluorescent lighting will become increasingly difficult.

For the thousands of commercial buildings, healthcare facilities, schools, universities and other spaces still using outdated fluorescent lighting, now is the time to plan and implement whole-scale LED upgrades. The good news is LEDs offer tremendous advantages that improve building operations and reduce environmental impact:

  • More sustainable: Long lamp life results in fewer lamps purchased, less packaging and less raw material used over time. LEDs contain no mercury, eliminating problems caused by the estimated 75% of mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs disposed of improperly.
  • More efficient: LEDs are up to 80% more energy efficient than fluorescents, helping to meet energy codes without sacrificing comfort or control.
  • Higher performance: LEDs deliver unparalleled control flexibility, color options, tunable white capability and digital control options with the ability to adapt over time as space needs change.

Start with a Simple LED Retrofit

LED upgrades can easily be accomplished with LED retrofit kits that bundle the LED lamp with the appropriate driver to ensure compatibility and simplify installation. With kitted options, it’s typically possible to maintain existing fixtures and controls while improving light quality and ensuring uninterrupted lighting performance. The result is a straightforward, 1:1-replacement process involving swapping the fluorescent tubes and ballasts with LED lamps and drivers.

Consider the Advantages of a Comprehensive System Upgrade

LED upgrades often present the perfect opportunity to evaluate the added benefits of a comprehensive system upgrade. A large-scale lighting retrofit is the ideal time for many properties to install a digital lighting control solution, maximizing your property's lighting performance, operations and energy-saving benefits.

Digital LED drivers easily integrate with an intelligent lighting control system to facilitate superior dimming and color-temperature adjustments, making the space more comfortable and versatile while enhancing value. As part of a comprehensive lighting retrofit, you can install a wireless, energy-code-compliant control system quickly and with relatively low labor costs compared to taking on two different projects over the space of a few years. Many upgrades use existing lighting control infrastructure—no opening walls or running new wiring necessary.

For buildings with basic, switched fluorescent lighting, a smart lighting control system creates opportunities for enhancement. Cloud-connected control takes lighting technology to the next level, providing information that enables actionable insights. Systems and structures can be adjusted to best support business goals, inform better space planning, enhance real-estate value and space flexibility over time, and potentially aid in employee recruitment and retention. Connected, wireless lighting control solutions can flex easily, seamlessly evolving to meet current and future space needs.

Like other smart devices we use every day, connected LED lighting control systems ensure the ability to make changes right from an app, with the assurance that new capabilities are just a cloud update away. With the right lighting system, the built environment becomes more dynamic and sustainable, enhances wellbeing and still provides the data and insights that help drive operational improvements.

How to Get Started

Begin with an overview of the lighting and controls currently installed in your building. Is fluorescent lighting still being used? Is there a lighting control system already in place? What capabilities and features do you need for optimal building performance, and what solutions best meet your lighting and control needs? Are you primarily looking to mitigate problems with obsolete fluorescent lighting, or do you want to enhance building value with improved dimming performance and superior light quality?

Where budgets, code compliance and time are overarching goals, LED retrofit kits deliver the ability to replace fluorescent lamps and ballasts without impacting the controls. For more robust dimming performance and system flexibility, an updated LED lighting and control system may best support corporate operational goals and sustainability initiatives.

Whether you plan a 1:1 retrofit or a more comprehensive system upgrade, an LED upgrade can reduce maintenance and operating costs and improve the lighting environment. Many solutions, especially wireless options, can be implemented in any space—one room or a floor, building or campus—and are easily scalable.

Your System Provider Can Help Plan, Design and Implement Your LED Upgrades

Count on your controls provider to offer valuable support and information about driver compatibility and performance. LED retrofits and system upgrades create opportunities to add value to the property while increasing occupant comfort.

Think of lighting control as part of the total property package and embrace systems that suit individual styles and tasks while contributing to resilience, flexibility and wellbeing. Work with manufacturers that offer a proven history of innovation and customer care and can help you think through desired system performance from initial design to system commissioning, and for years into the future.

The fluorescent era is closing quickly. Embrace the energy-saving, light-quality-improving power of LEDs in all your projects for a more occupant-friendly, future-proof environment.

About the Author

Abhinav Ajmera

Abhinav Ajmera is the director of commercial business for Lutron Electronics.

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