Lightbulb Moments

Finding the Right Light: Navigate the World of Lighting Retrofits

Posted by Allison C. on Jul 22, 2015 10:49:00 AM


Phase 1: Learning to Ask the Right Questions


We can’t emphasize it enough, lighting is one of the most important investments you can make in your business. It can change the way your customers view your product, increase your worker’s productivity, maintain safety, and change the overall feel of a room. But like many people we meet, you may be wondering what light is right for your business and overwhelmed at navigating the world of lighting. Here we’ll go into the process and the questions you should be asking along the way.

 Step 1: Know your Needs

It’s important to ask several questions of yourself and your company when thinking about upgrading your lighting.'

  • What are you using the space for? Is it an office space or common area? Retail space or restaurant? Warehouse space or factory?
    Every different space type requires lighting to fulfill different needs either for product illumination, aesthetics, or general safety and security.

  • What lighting are you looking to replace? What application/purpose does the lighting serve? Is it task lighting or security lighting? Ambient lighting? General Lighting? Site Lighting?
    Task lighting illuminates a work space while ambient lighting will set a mood, and general lighting will provide overhead light in your common areas. Security lighting can be for either anti-theft or safety purposes including for emergencies. Site lighting illuminates your property, parking lot, and exterior walkways and building.

  • What lighting do you currently have? Are your current light levels insufficient?
    If you haven’t upgraded your lighting in the past five years, now is a great time to have a lighting analysis performed on your building. Outdated lighting is generally less efficient than modern day technology and does not perform to today’s lighting standards. 

    Today’s current technology can reduce energy costs by up to 80% over your current design while lowering your maintenance costs. Proper light levels will create a safe environment for your staff and patrons; display products that will grab the attention of your customers; and set a brand look and feel unique to you.

  • What are your objectives? Are you looking to lower your utility bill every month and save energy? Are you looking to save in maintenance costs? Are you looking to update the look of a room? Are aesthetics important in this space? Are you trying to solve a problem such as glare, contrast, or color variations?
    Knowing what your objectives are is really half the battle; this will help guide you in your selection. A lighting upgrade can provide your building and business with many benefits, knowing which objectives are priority will better determine which lighting package will suit your needs. 

  • What are my current maintenance capabilities? Who replaces my existing lighting/lamps? Do we have a current maintenance schedule?Identifying your current maintenance capabilities can also assist in determining which solution will be best for your business. LEDs, for example, can be maintenance-free for up to 10 years, allowing your staff to concentrate on what they do best.

If you are having difficulty with this step, don’t fret—Step 3- Identifying a Lighting Professional will assist you in this process.  

 Step 2: Identify your Budget

  • How important is price? What is your budget?
    Upgrading your lighting can save you up to 1/3 of your energy cost and can provide up front benefits through utility rebates, but you should determine a general budget to pay for the lighting, design, installation, and any electrical upgrades that may need to be done. Replacing your lighting can be more cost-effective than you might think. Many of today’s lighting upgrades utilize your current technology—saving you both time and money, and can be installed same day. 

 Step 3: Identifying a Lighting Professional

  • What should I expect from my lighting expert?
    It’s really important to find a consultant/company that has expertise in the lighting industry. Their expertise will not only be able to assess your current lighting and design, but also help identify your goals and budget. Experienced lighting professionals will also be able to not only to identify several quality products that suit your needs, but also offer the following services:
    • Lighting and Energy Consultation
    • Lighting Energy Analysis
    • Lighting Design
    • Photometric Analysis
    • Code Requirements
    • Warranty Assistance
    • Return on Investment (ROI) Calculations
    • Controls
    • Utility Rebate Solutions/ Other Incentives
    • Financing Options
  • What products can you buy?
    We recommend when looking for a qualified lighting partner, to identify one that can provide you with different types and manufacturers that can suit your style or performance needs. Not being tied to one manufacturer will allow your lighting professional to identify the best light that will fit your budget. 
  • How can I include Lighting Controls into my facility?
    Lighting controls can reduce excess utility charges or usage. Occupancy sensors will turn off your lights in unoccupied rooms increasing your lamp life and saving energy otherwise wasted. Daylight sensors can reduce the output of a light source based on the amount of natural light in the room. Photovoltaic controls used for site lighting, can send power to your fixture when the sun goes down without the use of mechanical timers that require maintenance. Vacancy sensors will turn the light off after it has manually been turned on.

  • What types of incentives are available for my project?
    Most lighting professionals know how to navigate the world of utility rebates. They don't always have the right partnerships, experience or negiating power, however, to obtain custom rebates in instances that prescriptive rebates are not available for that specified techonolgy.

    Additionally, your lighting professional should have a knowledge of other incentives, especially if you are located in an area where utility rebates are not available. A lighting professional with expertise in the industry will be able to offer knowledge in lucrative tax incentives like the EPAct 179D Tax Deduction (now on hiatus until its renewal) and other federal and state incentives.
    [More on these incentives in another post.]

 Step 4: Select your Lighting Package

  • What are my options?
    A good lighting professional will typically offer you three options: Good, Better, and Best. These options should be focused on your established goals and priorities for the space in question.

  • What should I look for?
    Each lighting option should provide not only your product cost but your project cost (with installation, etc.) Here is some other things you should look for: 
    • Lighting Schedule
    • Fixture/Lamp Specs
    • Light Levels/Photometrics- to ensure performance; is this solution going to give you the light that you need?
    • Warranty & Maintenance
    • Maintenance Savings Potential
    • Energy Savings
    • Utility Rebate/Incentive Amount
    • Payback Period and calculated Return on Investment (ROI)
    • Lighting Controls (as needed)
  • Which one should I select?
    After reviewing all three sets of options, you should select the option that will best satisfy your goals established in Step 1. If your budget was very important, then you will look at each solution’s upfront cost (both product and installation), payback period, and annual savings.  If operation is important, you will review each proposal for operational hours, warranties, and energy savings; validating the life of the product versus cost. If you are a retailer, you will concentrate on light levels, color rendering index (CRI), and lumens per watt; focusing on performance of the product in its application.

    Look for the solution that offers the right light level/aesthetics, highlights products or provides adequate task lighting (as applicable), provides annual energy and maintenance savings, has a product warranty, and is eligible for an incentive to offset the upfront cost.

 Step 5: Verification

After you’ve selected your lighting package and had it installed here are a few questions to verify you’ve achieved your goals. If you’ve selected the right partner, this step is probably not necessary as they will verify for you, or you’ll have a design that works perfectly for your building application. However, this step is good to know all the same.

  • Are you satisfied with your lighting upgrade? Are there shadows? Flickering? Do the lighting controls/sensors work?
    You want well-illuminated spaces with all of your lamps/fixtures operating at specified performance.

  • Are you achieving the desired energy savings?
    Reviewing your utility bills after installation versus pre-install. 


About EDSS
Energy Design Service Systems (EDSS) provides Lighting Design, Supply, and Installation for clients across the nation. We work across industry lines to identify the right product to meet your unique goals and objectives. We offer all of our clients the following solutions:

  • Lighting Analysis
  • Photometric Studies
  • Lighting Design
  • Energy Analysis
  • Lighting Controls Solutions
  • Lighting Supply
  • Payback Calculations and Consultation
  • Financing
  • Installation
  • Utility Rebate Services
  • Tax and other Incentives (including EPAct 179D Tax Deduction)

Clients that choose EDSS appreciate turnkey solutions-- from the initial consultation to a post-install inspection to ensure that the selected lighting solution meets your desired objectives.



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Topics: Lighting, Lighting Analysis, Utility Rebates, LEDs, Commercial Lighting, ROI, Lighting supply, Interior Lighting, Energy Efficiency, Retrofit, Lighting Controls, Daylighting, Construction Budget, Photometrics, Lighting Selection, Lighting Professional, EPAct, energy efficienct lighting, Controls, Lighting consultant, EDSS, Lighting package, Turnkey Lighting Solutions, Retrofits