How Difficult Is It to Upgrade to LED Lighting?

Posted by Jason Duncan on Oct 23, 2017 11:04:17 AM

Everyone wants the easy way. Right? Who wants to choose the hard way? Not many people. 

So when you are considering the idea of retrofitting your commercial building to LED lighting, what things should you consider? After all, the easiest thing to do in the world is to do nothing at all. But nothing good ever happened because someone did nothing–even though nothing was easy.


“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
 — Winston Churchill

Here are the steps you will have to go through to get your old lighting converted to LEDs:

Lighting Audit 

The lighting audit is the most critical part of an LED retrofit. If you don't know what you have, then you'll never know what you need. A professional lighting audit should be conducted by a lighting expert and the audit should never be free. Having an electrician go around with a pencil and clipboard won't cut it. Having your preferred lighting distributor send out a sales rep to count lights won't cut it either. Sure, those approaches may seem easier than engaging with a professional lighting contractor, but the lighting expert who conducts this audit is looking for more than just number of light bulbs in your building. He or she will be looking at lighting types, quantities, light output, lighting safety issues, etc. All you need to do is provide access, blueprints/drawings, and information on lighting burn hours. While this does require some time on the front end, it will be a huge benefit to you in the end by providing you a much more valuable and cost-effective project. 

Feasibility Study 

The good news on this is that if you spent the time on the audit with a lighting professional–not just a guy who counted light bulbs–this part will be much easier. The feasibility study should be conducted by experts in energy efficient lighting who will help craft a project to maximize light output while minimizing electricity consumption. The study will consider many different sources of lighting products to make sure that you are getting exactly what you need. You may have to answer a few questions by phone or email, but that's about it for this stage.

Scope Review 

Your facility manager will need to verify quantities, light types, and burn hours. In addition, he or she will help us zone in on the true maintenance savings that will be realized as a result of the project. You never want to overestimate savings of any kind. This scope review is important for many reasons, but it is mainly designed so that by the time you review the proposal for the project, all variables are now fixed and the numbers will be exact–not estimates! Obviously, the facility manager won't know 100% of the quantities and light types, but it is important that he or she review the audit findings so that there are no surprises. It is easier to skip this step and fix discrepancies later, but change orders will end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. 

Product Sourcing & Receiving 

Sourcing the correct products will take some time. It is not likely that all of the products specified for your project will be off-the-shelf. If they are, then you are probably not getting the most energy-efficient project you could. Normally, sourcing should take no more than 8-10 weeks. Once the product is ready to ship, you will need to prepare a location in your facility to receive the products. Of course, the space you will need is totally dependent upon the size of your project. You will also need space for product staging, old product for recycling, and tools for the installation crew. This can seem like a hassle at first, but consider that the time invested here will totally eliminate the ongoing maintenance and work orders for lighting replacements for the next 5-10 years!

Installation

The good things about LED retrofits is that they do not require any more preparation, licensing, insurance, or permits than your typical ongoing lighting maintenance that you've been performing for years. For the most part, an LED retrofit is replacing the existing luminaire with a new luminaire in the same fixture, using the same wiring. In the cases where an entire fixture swap is necessary, you still aren't going beyond the original fixture location or wiring for any additional wiring that might require a permit. (Obviously, codes are different everywhere, so check your local codes department to verify this.) The installation crew should be able to replace 99% of your interior fixtures at no more than 10 minutes per fixture. So, even when someone has to move from their workspace for the installer to work, it won't be for very long. And exterior fixtures typically require no more than 30-60 minutes each, depending upon access.


Conclusion

As you can see, conducting an LED retrofit is not totally painless. Anyone who tells you so is lying. But the truth is that an LED retrofit is not a big interference with your day-to-day operations. As an example, ELS has completed dozens of retrofits in hospitals over the past couple of years and rarely did installations ever take more than 90 days and we never had to shut down an area inside the hospital to do our work. 

Don't let the assumed complexities of an LED retrofit keep you from moving forward with a proposal. Even though there are some hard things to work through, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is in the end. As Dale Carnegie once said:

“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”

Topics: Commercial Lighting, LED Lighting