When Are Lighting Retrofits a No-Brainer?


Credit: GELI
Orion Apollo LED High Bays installed in a 24/7 manufacturing facility outside of Milwaukee, WI. The retrofit project emphasized maximizing light output and delivery for productivity and safety.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the September/October 2015 edition of Business Energy.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2012, the commercial sector—commercial and institutional buildings and public streets and highways—consumed about 274 billion kWh for lighting. This was about 21% of commercial sector electricity used.

Facility managers and owner/operators should consider a lighting retrofit when a sound economic case can be made, notes Chris Bailey LC, LEED AP BD+C, DDI, MIES, director of the Lighting Solutions Center for Hubbell Lighting.

Given that a significant portion of energy consumption is in lighting, replacing inefficient fixtures in a lighting retrofit offers a good opportunity to save on energy and maintenance, points out Jeff Spencer, director of product management and market development for Juno Lighting.

“Typical payback scenarios include the basic operating costs associated with lighting, such as energy and maintenance,” says Bailey, but he suggests that there is more to consider. “For some, this may be a bit shortsighted. Industrial facilities may experience disruptions in productivity and place maintenance staff at some level of assumed risk when maintaining and servicing lighting equipment.”

He continues, “Due to limited accessibility, some facilities knowingly or unknowingly operate lighting systems well below recommended illuminance levels on account of lamp burnout, lumen depreciation, and dirt depreciation factors. Unfortunately, as in many applications, poor maintenance of industrial lighting systems can result in unintended consequences to worker productivity and health.”

Additionally, serious consideration should be given to the environment where the lighting system will operate, Bailey says. “One size does not fit all. Candidate products should be commensurate with the operating ambient temperature and general conditions of the space, which may range from basic to very complex,” he adds.

Light quality is extremely important to retailers, notes Bailey. “The latest generation of LED lighting technology offers a much broader and more balanced spectral distribution than conventional fluorescent technology,” he says. “If applied correctly, LED luminaries may result in a greater level of lighting quality, and potentially positively influence the customer experience and store sales.”

Still, the benefits may be difficult to quantity, Bailey says. As a result, many facility owners and operators will overlook such factors, looking exclusively at energy and maintenance. They should “seriously consider the full impact of upgrading or retrofitting lighting systems,” says Bailey. “There are several total costs of ownership analysis tools available from Hubbell Lighting and others.”

Often overlooked in prospective lighting retrofit projects is the fact that the lighting system, for a majority of facilities, is being depreciated along with the building over several years, he says. “Because commercial real estate is considered an asset rather than an expense, the IRS requires owners to decrease its value every year by a small amount to simulate its gradual loss of value as it deteriorates. This process is called depreciation. While most commercial buildings have a 39-year life, some speed up the process and claim the depreciation in less time.”

In a retrofit where the majority of the original luminaires are maintained and electrical components are upgraded, the depreciated value of the discarded components will need to be accounted for at the time of replacement, Bailey points out. “If the lighting system will be changed out completely, then the entire depreciated value of the original lighting system will need to be accounted for,” he adds.

Lighting companies such as Hubbell Lighting offer a vast range of lighting and lighting control solutions for commercial, industrial and residential applications, as well as competitive financing, which in many cases can provide immediate positive cash flow, says Bailey.

“One program of note is our createchange platform,” he adds. “Coupled with our flexible funding program called Cash Flow Positive, the programs give customers the resources they need to maximize energy savings and ensure project success.”

For seven years, the iconic Georgia-Pacific building that’s seen in Atlanta’s skyline had gone dark due to a lighting system that was energy-inefficient. Hubbell Lighting Solution’s Beacon products were chosen to replace the building’s wasteful 1,000- and 400-W metal halide bulbs. The retrofit incorporated 60 Alpha LED floodlights, including 8 ALU-36NB-90W-6×6, 22 ALU-60NB-136W-6×6, 27 ALU-72NB-220W-2×2, and 3 ALU-72NB-170W-5×5.

As a result of the lighting retrofit, Beacon Products was able to reduce the installed wattage from 64,800 to 10,162, offering a 75% energy consumption reduction. The retrofit has helped move the Georgia-Pacific building closer to its goal of reducing energy consumption 20% by 2020.

Beacon Product’s Alpha LED Floods can be pole-mounted, wall-mounted, or base-plate mounted, and are designed to eliminate light spill and light trespass for lighting commercial facilities in residential and urban settings. The Alpha product can be specified for aiming either below horizontal or above horizontal. The six standard NEMA beam spread options allow the light to be placed where desired.

When it comes to doing retrofits, “the ‘no-brainers’ are anything with a high ceiling, cumbersome to get to in order to replace the lamp,” says Spencer. “It’s an easy decision just to retrofit with an LED, and then it’s going to be years before you have to worry about it.” BE_bug_web


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