The Retrofit Companies Blog

Xcel Energy Efficiency Awards 2017

Thank you to Xcel Energy, once again, for including The Retrofit Companies in this year's Energy Efficiency Partner Award recipients! This is the 3rd year in a row that TRC has received this award. (See 2015 Award and 2016 Award)

Please read below for their press release and information on the recent awards event:


Greg Olson of Xcel Energy presents the Energy Efficiency Partner award to Wendy Fry and Jake Andrist on May 4th, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (MAY 11, 2017) – Xcel Energy recently recognized 39 Minnesota businesses for their outstanding efforts to help customers save energy and reduce their environmental impact. The awards, presented May 4 at Pinstripes in Edina, recognized the top contractors, equipment suppliers and engineers that contributed the greatest electricity and natural gas savings to Xcel Energy’s Minnesota conservation programs in 2016. These are the top 39 trade partners out of the 1,475 partners working with Xcel Energy.

The rebates submitted by these 39 companies saved customers 81 gigawatt-hours of electricity and 54,000 dekatherms of natural gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that’s the equivalent of powering 8,800 homes for a year.

Xcel Energy offers incentives, such as rebates and funding for energy efficiency studies and upgrades, to its business and residential customers to encourage them to make energy-efficient choices. Through the help of this group of partners, Xcel Energy distributed more than $5 million in energy efficiency rebates for the various projects completed, which is about 15 percent of the total amount of rebates paid in Minnesota by Xcel Energy last year.

The rebates dollars also helped fund capital projects and create jobs. The Minnesota Department of Commerce reports an 80 percent increase in energy efficiency businesses in Minnesota since 2000 and a 49 percent increase in energy efficiency jobs.

“Xcel Energy’s trade partners are valuable allies that really make these projects happen,” said Greg Olson, Xcel Energy trade relations manager. “They help us reach our aggressive energy conservation goals, save customers money and help them reduce their environmental impact.”

The 39 companies recognized were: Apadana ● Apollo Heating and Ventilating ● Campbell-Sevey Inc. ● Home Service Plus ● Coles Electric, Inc. ● Compressed Air Concepts LLC ● Corporate Mechanical ● Data Center Systems Inc. ● Egan Company ● Energy Management Collaborative ● Graybar – Minneapolis Branch ● Golden Valley Heating & Air ● HomeSmart ● Inflow ● Ingersoll Rand Minnesota ● JIT Energy Services ● John Henry Foster ● Johnson Controls Plymouth ● JT Electric Service Inc. ● Louis Degidio Inc. ● Master Mechanical ● Midwest Mechanical Solutions ● MSP Plumbing, Heating & Air ● Mulcahy Company Inc. ● NHA Heating and Air Conditioning ● Northern Air Corp. ● Noble Conservation Solutions ● Premier Lighting Inc. ● Pronto Heating & Air Conditioning ● Standard Heating & Air Conditioning ● State Supply ● Strebe Energy Services ● The Retrofit Companies ● The Snelling Company ● Trane St. Paul ● UHL Company ● Viking Electric Minneapolis ● Voss Lighting ● Yale Mechanical

For more information on Xcel Energy’s energy efficiency programs, visit


For additional information on rebates and programs contact us for a consult any time!

Talk to a Consultant About Rebates

Future of Lighting Controls (links)

future of lighting controls 2016.png

Controls have been a part of successful lighting projects for a long time; however, technology exists now to make using it easier and more affordable. We've shared several ways that use of controls can increase energy efficiency and we've previously discussed the future of lighting controls from our perspective. Here we have collected a set of links discussing an array of topics from the need for standards in education for lighting design professionals, to the pros and cons of wireless controls. 


"The lighting industry is undergoing massive change due to growing demand for intelligent LED lighting systems and controls. LED lighting, which promises high operating cost savings, is ideally paired with both wired and wireless intelligent lighting controls, which promise additional savings and flexibility. Accelerating demand for these technologies is transforming workspaces while reducing costs. It is also creating an education gap among service providers unfamiliar with aspects of the technology.

The electrical industry has responded with a series of initiatives, but to date, there has been no national certification signifying a high level of general expertise in lighting controls technology, application, design and commissioning. To address this need, NALMCO developed the Certified Lighting Controls Professional (CLCP) designation." [READ MORE]


"With wireless lighting control, you don’t need to rely on employees to turn lights on and off. Instead, you can take advantage of scheduling, timers, occupancy sensors and photosensors to deliver the optimal illumination level in all situations while minimizing wasted energy." [READ MORE]


"Energy usage can be cut by 40% by using the latest, more advanced HVAC and lighting controls.  Thus, operating costs for older buildings can be lowered by retrofitting equipment and controls. However, the cost of rewiring is often prohibitive. That’s where wireless sensor networks (WSNs) can help." [READ MORE]


"[D]istricts everywhere are being asked to do more with less, progressive administrators and technicians are coming together to find new ways to streamline work and automate processes. Automated lighting control systems... give facilities managers the flexibility to plan complex lighting schedules well in advance while reducing manual work and energy use."  [READ MORE]


"Lighting is fundamental to any retail store, whether that is for setting a scene and influencing how a brand is perceived, or even encouraging shoppers to make a particular purchase. However, if not managed correctly, it can be extremely expensive. In fact, lighting accounts for around 53% off all electricity consumption in a typical retail outlet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration." [READ MORE]


 "The opportunities for the lighting industry are immense. Luminaires, which essentially see every square inch of habitable space, are an obvious media in which to host the sensor and video technology that can turn the world into a virtual databank" [READ MORE]

If you are beginning your research, be sure you are getting the best information you can in order to make the best decision. Start by asking the right questions & get our guide:

11 Questions you should ask a lighting contractor

Xcel Energy Efficiency Awards 2016

Jeff Jackson of Xcel Energy presents Energy Efficiency Partner award to Wendy Fry and Jack Jenson on April 13, 2016 (See 2015 Award)


Thanks to Xcel Energy for including TRC in this year's group of esteemed Energy Efficiency Partner award recipients for 2016. Read below for their press release and information on the recent awards event:


MINNEAPOLIS – Xcel Energy recently recognized 36 Minnesota businesses for their outstanding efforts to help customers save energy and reduce their environmental impact. The awards, presented April 13 at Pinstripes in Edina, recognized contractors, equipment suppliers and engineers that contributed the greatest electricity and natural gas savings to Xcel Energy’s Minnesota conservation programs in 2015. 

The rebates submitted by these 36 companies saved customers 56 gigawatt-hours of electricity and 69,000 dekatherms of natural gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that’s the equivalent of powering 3,800 homes for a year.

Xcel Energy offers incentives, such as rebates and funding for energy efficiency studies and upgrades, to its business and residential customers to encourage them to make energy-efficient choices. Through the help of this group of partners, Xcel Energy distributed more than $5 million in energy efficiency rebates for the various projects completed, which is about 15 percent of the total amount of rebates paid in Minnesota by Xcel Energy last year.

The rebates dollars also helped fund capital projects and create jobs. The Minnesota Department of Commerce reports an 80 percent increase in energy efficiency businesses in Minnesota since 2000 and a 49 percent increase in energy efficiency jobs.

“Xcel Energy’s trade partners are valuable allies that really make these projects happen,” said Jeff Jackson, Xcel Energy trade relations manager. “They help us reach our aggressive energy conservation goals, save customers money and help them reduce their environmental impact.”


The 36 companies recognized were:  Apollo Heating and Ventilating ● Cal-Tex Electric Inc. ● Home Service Plus ● Collins Electrical Construction Co. ● Compressed Air Concepts LLC ● Corval Group ● Dakota Supply Group St. Paul ● Data Center Systems Inc. ● Egan Mechanical ● Focus Lighting and Controls Inc. ● Golden Valley Heating & Air ● HomeSmart ● HumeraTech ● Inflow ● Ingersoll Rand Minnesota ● John Henry Foster ● Johnson Controls Plymouth ● Louis Degidio Inc. ● Midwest Mechanical Solutions ● Mulcahy Company Inc. ● NHA Heating and Air Conditioning ● Northern Air Corp. ● Premier Lighting Inc. ● Pronto Heating & Air Conditioning ● Schadegg Mechanical Inc. ● Schwantes Heating and Air Conditioning ● Snelling Company ● Standard Heating & Air Conditioning ● State Supply ● The Retrofit Cos. ● Trane St. Paul ● UHL Company ● Viking Electric Minneapolis ● Voss Lighting ● Warwick Industries ● Werner Electric Cottage Grove

 For more information on Xcel Energy’s energy efficiency programs, visit


For additional information on rebates and programs contact us for a consult any time!

Talk to a Consultant About Rebates

Is this the end of CFL?


Not long ago GE announced that they will be ceasing production of CFL lamps. "By next year, many of those bulbs will no longer qualify for the coveted ENERGY STAR rating, which introduced a new lighting specification..." Is this the end of CFL?

You can read their full announcement here for more insight about energy efficient lighting and why the change is being made. The Department of Energy (DOE) cites GE's change as an example of a shift in the industry and a reason supporting the importance of their rule making efforts.

For consumers looking for more answers, we recommend reading the DOE article directly. It answers the following questions:

  • How did DOE develop the proposal, and what is a proposed rule making?
  • Why is DOE issuing efficiency standards for light bulbs?
  • How will the proposed rule affect consumer choices?
  • What would this rule mean for the average American family?


The Future of Lighting Controls

Lighting controls range from fully automated control systems managed by computer programs, to less technological, manual methods. The most direct savings come from actual wattage reduction, but adding controls to your lighting retrofit project can dramatically impact energy savings. There are several proven  ways to successfully control a lighting system; we're going to share some thoughts today on the future of lighting controls. These considerations and innovations are things you should be aware of when considering a new or updated lighting system.


Control systems of the future will utilize multiple technologies to achieve savings. Lighting manufacturers, designers, and installers will pair photocells with motion controls, and employ dual-end trimming capability. These innovations will not only save energy and money, but they can extend the useful life of your lighting technology. The end goal of successful lighting design, aside from increased energy efficiency, is to get the light you need, where you need it, when you need it.The future also includes sustainability as a priority of successful design. One way to achieve that is to use technology pairings, like those mentioned above or others, to your advantage when designing a new system.


Because so much new technology is at our disposal, control systems have become increasingly end-user personalized. Some can even be controlled with your mobile phone. Lighting manufacturer Philips has embraced this trend with products Hue, Spacewise, and Simpleset. While some of these products still seem like novelties, they have become more prevalent, more affordable, and easier to put into use than ever. We expect to see these products more widely available from more manufacturers.


Finally, we know that legislation will continue to impact and increase the need for controls in new construction and existing facilities. The Energy Efficiency Building Improvement Act of 2015, California Title 24, and ASHRAE, are examples of legislation or rules that impact lighting efficiency. There are various standards existing for energy conservation ranging from federal to municipal rules. Some municipalities have their own lighting regulations. Bloomington, MN for example has strict restrictions on light pollution for outdoor projects and specific fixtures must specified to do a lighting project there. Control systems will become more and more prevalent as a result of legislation and as the desire to conserve resources remains a priority.


There are virtually endless ways to control lighting and many help to maximize energy savings. Most of the technologies are relatively easy to implement alongside your lighting upgrade to increase savings. Most of them can even be installed or carried out after a lighting project is completed. We foresee "control retrofitting" for existing energy-efficient systems for users that are looking for additional ways to increase savings and who want to gain more control over their lighting.


What does this all mean for the consumer of lighting products and those buying upgraded lighting systems? The two primary impacts we see are,

1) it has become increasingly difficult for lighting designers and other electricians, architects, or contractors to specify lighting projects, and

2) buying off the shelf will not work. Modern lighting technology can be configured in endless ways, literally hundreds of thousands of different light bulbs exist, and no one can know them all. Consumers should be wary of one-size-fits-all solutions, and look for knowledgeable lighting designers, or speak to multiple product representatives to educate them on available lighting solutions.

Finally, consumers must remember that everything comes with a cost. More features generally means a higher expense. You may not need all the bells and whistles, and the investment in lighting controls may be less than you think once you have a good design in place. Knowing your options before you purchase any type of lighting project or products will help you get the light you want for the job you're doing, now or in the future!

Need to know more about how to talk to lighting contractors in order to get the project or products you need? Get our guide, 11 Questions to Ask a Contractor.

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

Fluorescent to LED Bonus Rebate from OPU

Owatonna Public Utilities recently extended the length of this fluorescent to LED rebate program and it will now be available for OPU's commercial lighting customers until December 31, 2015. Visit Owatonna Public Utilities' website or view rebate details below:


"If you currently use fluorescent lighting in your building, now is the time to upgrade to energy-efficient LED fixtures or retrofit kits! 
Through December 31, we're offering a $10 bonus rebate per fixture, retrofit kit, or sensor for the following installations:
» Existing fluorescent fixture to LED fixture replacements.
» Existing fluorescent fixture to LED retrofit kit installations.
» Occupancy sensors installed to control new qualifying LED fixtures or retrofit kits.
Bonus rebates are over and above our standard fixture and sensor rebates.
Just download and complete the applicable Bonus Rebate Form along with our standard Business Lighting Rebate Form and submit them to me by December 31, 2015, to approve and reserve your rebates (Forms and Lighting Tables can be found on our website here). Also, for pole-mounted parking lot lighting, see our LED Parking Lot Lighting Bonus Form"


Looking for other resources about lighting projects and rebate programs, or need help getting started with this offer from OPU? You can schedule a call with one of our lighting consultants right now!

Consult a Lighting Pro

Lighting Project Custom Rebate

From Xcel Energy, this 50% Custom Lighting Bonus Rebate became available yesterday, July 1, 2015 and will be available for commercial lighting customers until December 4, 2015. Visit Xcel Energy's website or view rebate details below from their site:


"From July 1 through December 4, 2015, our Minnesota commercial electric customers can earn a 50% bonus rebate on qualifying Custom Lighting Efficiency projects.

  • Existing and New Projects: We will accept both previously-preapproved Custom Lighting projects and new projects that are preapproved between July 1 through December 4, 2015.

  • Completed Project Deadlines: Completed project applications must be received between July 1 and December 4, 2015.

  • Invoice Dates: We will accept invoices for projects dated prior to July 1, 2015, provided at least one invoice for the project is dated between July 1 and December 4, 2015.

  • Rebate Totals: The total incentive (rebate and bonus) cannot exceed 75% of the project cost or reduce the payback to less than nine months."

Looking for other resources about lighting projects and rebate programs? You can schedule a call with one of our lighting consultants right now!

Consult a Lighting Pro

Get Your LED Lighting Rebate Instantly!


Most lighting projects require in depth analysis and energy usage comparison reports in order to calculate a utility rebate. Xcel Energy commercial and industrial customers now have another, INSTANT option when working with a firm like The Retrofit Companies. If you are considering an lighting upgrade or looking for ways to increase your energy efficiency, this new LED Instant Rebate program from Xcel Energy might be a great solution for you. Here are 9 signs that you should consider LED lighting. Keep reading for more details about the LED instant rebate program for businesses.


Who Qualifies for Xcel Energy Instant Rebates?

Commercial and Industrial customers of Xcel Energy in Minnesota and Colorado can qualify for a lighting rebate. So far, pretty simple! If this is you, keep reading.


What are the Program Requirements? (To qualify, you must meet all of the criteria listed.)

  • Lamps must be Energy Star-qualified LED screw-in lamps
  • LED Retrofit kits must be on the Energy Star qualified products list
  • Installation must be interior, one-for-one replacement
  • Purchased and rebated lamps must be installed within 30 days of purchase date
  • Non-Energy Start lamps or kits can be submitted through custom program (non-instant rebate)
  • Exterior lamps can be submitted through custom program (non-instant rebate)
Additionally with this instant rebate, qualified screw-in lamps can replace any existing type of lamp, including incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen. New lamps can be placed in existing buildings or installed in new construction.


What are the benefits of replacing incandescent and halogen lighting with LED using this program?

LED can reduce energy usage by up to 80%, and save up to $135 over each bulb’s life span. LED technology also can last up to 25 times longer than other lighting types, and because it emits almost no heat while operating it can reduce cooling costs. For more facts you can read Xcel’s blog post about Energy Star lighting technology.  


How much is the rebate?

The incentive for this Instant Rebate Program currently ranges from $5 to $15 per lamp/kit when LED replacements are installed. This range is for LED screw-in type lamps or qualifying retrofit kits, and your rebate comes directly off the price of the lamps. You don’t have to wait for a check after the project is complete! The current rebate structure is seen below; however, these amounts are subject to change.


How do you get started?

Another simple answer- Call our office at 800-795-1230 or schedule a call with one of our lighting consultants and ask about Xcel Energy’s Instant Rebate

Schedule a call with our lighting consultant

The Retrofit Companies Receives 2015 Efficiency Partner Award from Xcel Energy!

Jack Jenson, TRC Lighting & Energy Design Consultant is seen here with Jeff Jackson of Xcel Energy and Zane Kramer, TRC’s Lighting Support Director, accepting the 2015 Energy Efficiency Partner award at an event held in April 2015. 

MINNEAPOLIS – Xcel Energy recently recognized 36 Minnesota businesses for their outstanding efforts to help customers save energy. The awards, presented April 9 at Pinstripes in Edina, recognized contractors, equipment suppliers and engineers that contributed the greatest electricity and natural gas savings to Xcel Energy’s Minnesota conservation programs in 2014.   These 36 companies saved customers 56 gigawatt-hours of electricity and 83,000 dekatherms of natural gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that’s the equivalent of powering 5,900 homes for a year.  Xcel Energy offers incentives, such as rebates and funding for energy efficiency studies and upgrades, to its business and municipal customers to encourage them to make energy-efficient choices. Through the help of this group of partners, Xcel Energy distributed $5,960,000 in energy efficiency rebates for the various projects completed. (full story here...)


Wondering what sort of projects make us “efficiency partners?” Check out these LED lighting project case studies.
 LED Retrofit in a School
LED Lighting in a Factory

Case Study: Hallway Lighting Retrofit

led hallway retrofit case study

Not every lighting retrofit project we do takes on an entire facility all at once. Sometimes, clients decide to address major areas of concern first, or because their budgets necessitate it, they simply do several smaller projects over time. Whether the project is exterior parking lot lights, a gymnasium, or simply common areas like hallways, every reduction in usage can help. This case study shows how one school converted T8 fixtures to a slimmer, lower maintenance cost LED fixture to achieve better aesthetics, more energy savings, and reduced maintenance.

Deciding to take control of their maintenance costs by upgrading their hallways was a pretty simple decision for this school. An area with aging fixtures and astronomical replacement costs was a great target to start saving. The major problem? Fixture lenses were brittle, easily broken, and no longer manufactured meaning they cost a ton to replace.

Projects like this prove you don’t have to bite off more than you can chew by retrofitting your entire facility at once. Selecting high-traffic corridors with high maintenance costs or long burn hours can make a significant savings impact. Take a look how this institution is using LED updates to control costs, mitigate maintenance expenses, AND save energy! Their new fixtures are even network ready if the building moves toward a facility-wide control system.


  • Inefficient T8 fixtures retired & recycled
  • 114 unnecessary fixtures removed from use!
  • New lighting layout for maximum efficiency
  • Decreased kW& kWh by 60% overall
  • Project rebate over $1700
  • Annual savings over $1100 / nearly $100 a month!
  • New system connects to building controls
  • Cut maintenace costs, new fixtures have 5 yr warranty!
  • New fixtures contain no hazardous materials


  • Sustainable, Energy Saving LED
  • 2 inch fixture profile
  • Rated 100K hours, L70
  • Dimming and Network ready
  • Even Light Distribution, >80CRI


low profile led fixture 


Total greenhouse gas reduction 9.1 Metric Tons equivalent to:

  • Passenger cars not driven for one year 1.9
  • Gallons of gasoline saved 1020.7
  • Acres of forest preserved from deforestation 0.07
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled 3.25
Are there any areas in your facility that could benefit from a lighting upgrade? Get our 7 point checklist and find out now!
Get your 7 point check list today!

9 Signs You Should Invest in LED Lighting

signs you should invest in led

Deciding to invest in energy-efficiency is a decision that every company or business must come by on their own. Oftentimes, an investment in energy-efficiency will yield more than a return on investment. Let’s look at 9 signs that could be telling you it’s time to consider investing in LED Lighting:


1) You pay too much in utility costs every month. We have said it over and over, but cutting the watts you use can cut the amount it costs you to light your facility. This being said, your utility bill will always reflect your usage and if you start saving energy today by updating your lighting system you’ll be saving already when utility costs inevitably rise.


2) Your business is looking for instant ways to reduce overhead. It’s not quite as simple as flipping a switch, you have to plan your project, but every day after that when you turn on the lights and get to work you’ll be saving energy!


3) Your maintenance budget is out of whack. Does your facility have dozens of different bulb-types throughout? Do you have parking lot, auditorium, or atrium areas that are difficult to reach without a lift, increasing your maintenance spending every time one lamp needs to be replaced? Maybe your maintenance staff spends an inordinate amount of time attending to burned out lamps or failing ballasts. You can streamline the products used in your facility, schedule regular re-lamps, and dramatically improve your maintenance budget with a lighting upgrade.


4) If you’re honest, your lighting looks ugly or outdated. Mis-matched bulbs in the same room, or fixture, making those handful of yellowish lights look bad when the rest are bright white. Maybe your parking lot or exterior lighting uses high pressure sodium lamps. Those are the lamps that give off orangish light. Both of these scenarios mean you could be more efficient.


5) Someone from a lighting/electrical/utility company stopped by and said they could save you money. These statements aren’t always a scam, and sometimes a simple visual inspection by a lighting professional can let them know you have room to improve, efficiency-wise. Not sure how to tell what’s-what? You can read our guide: “11 Questions to Ask an Electrical Contractor” and be sure you're asking all the right questions!


6) Your local utility company is offering a rebate for LED lighting upgrades. The utility company wants you to save energy. No kidding. This blog post touches on some of the reasons:


7) You don’t want to touch your lighting system again for 10 years. We’re not saying you’ll absolutely never have to touch your lighting system, and we’re not saying it’s 100% maintenance-free, but we ARE saying that a lot of quality LED products – bulbs and fixtures – are coming to market with warranties of five or even 10 years. That says something about the anticipated longevity of these products. How much would you save if you didn’t have to replace a bulb or fixture for 5 years or longer?


8) Your business process changes frequently and you need a nimble system. Are you a property manager with a lot of turn-over, or a manufacturing facility that has to re-organize your space with some frequency? Good lighting design can promote job safety and help reduce inefficiencies in your production. And property managers, quality lighting design and efficiency can help you lease your spaces and keep tenants longer.


9) You’re building a new facility. This is a perfect time to evaluate your business needs and consider investing in energy-efficiency from the top down. Lighting can be a simple and cost effective way to trim your environmental impact, and ‘going LED’ might be the solution that makes the most sense for you and your business by keeping your overhead costs lower from the start.


Have you invested in LED lighting? What was the biggest impact it had on your business?



Get a Free E-Book "How much does a retrofit cost?"

Residential Electricity Prices To Rise - Consider Energy-Efficiency!

residential energy costs


The Energy Information Administration recently published their short-term energy outlook report. According to their projections, 2014 will see a total 3.4% rise in the cost of electricity for residential use, an upswing from 2013, making the US average $0.125 per kilowatt hour. For reference, Minnesota's Xcel Energy commercial customer average was $0.0946 per kilowatt hour and for industrial customers $0.0713 per kwh. Rates in the mid-west are among the lowest energy rates in the nation, but they are still on the rise.

Talking about these numbers in terms of amounts that equal just about a dime, doesn't seem like too much to be concerned about. Less than a half-cent increase per kwh in the last year, that is half a penny, barely computes in our minds as much of an impact at all. However, for business and residential customers it is very important to remember that keeping energy rates down is in part impacted by our ability to use energy efficiently. Those little numbers, when you're talking about hundreds or thousands of units (kwh) can add up pretty quickly.

So, how can you alleviate the ever-increasing cost of electricity?

The answer continues to be "Energy Efficiency." Many utility companies, and most of the utilities that TRC works with, offer rebates to customers who increase their energy-efficiency. There are many roads to get there, but tried-and-tested are energy-efficient lighting upgrade projects. Immediate results, reduction in overhead, and most often dramatic energy savings. 

If you're considering ways to plan now for future savings, check out this helpful retrofit planning guide!

 Get a Free E-Book "How much does a retrofit cost?"  


You've Identified Some Efficiency Deficits - Now What?

energy deficits in lighting

You've identified some efficiency deficits in your lighting system when you completed the "Common Lighting Problems" checklist. Now what solutions are available to you? Let's review some of the common ways your energy-efficiency is being compromised and a few steps you can take to fix the problem.

Problem 1: Your Lighting Technology is Behind the Times

Whether you have discontinued T12 lamps operating in your facility, are using incandescent lamps, or you notice many different colors of light when looking up at the lights overhead, there is a good chance your lighting technology is behind the times. This aging technology is almost certainly costing you more money than it needs to.

Consider addressing the biggest offenders in your facility first by finding areas that waste the most energy:

+ Do you have any affected areas that operate 24/7 or that are on a majority of the time? These are prime retrofit targets. Upgrading outdated, inefficient lighting that is always on can make a definite impact on your bottom line.

+ Look for areas that are easy to retrofit like any accessible area with inefficient screw-in lamps. Replacing incandescents with LED's, or even CFL's can make a dramatic reduction when done en masse.

+ Do you have strange, mis-matched colors of lighting in your facility? This is commonly seen in HID applications like the orange-hued sodium lights common in parking ramps or metal halide lamps in warehouses and gymnasiums. Aside from being energy hogs and taking a long time to fire up, these lamps degrade over time giving less light, but still using their maximum amount of energy. Replacing them is a no-brainer and many utility companies will offer rebates when you install energy-saving solutions instead.

Problem 2: Things Aren't Working Correctly

It seems like something is always slightly wrong with your lighting. Maybe lights stay on when they don't need to be, your lamps are flickering, or they warm up slowly before coming on to full brightness. These are signals that you could be saving more energy with better lighting and cutting your maintenance costs. Not to mention, your facility is going to look a lot nicer without burned out or flickering lamps. 

Solutions here are three-fold:

+ If your lights are on when they don't need to be, you have serious savings potential. There's more to this than just turning lights off when not in use. There are many ways to reduce light output and energy consumption that makes sense for the way you work. Some easy solutions for you to save could be daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors, or high-end tuning.

+ Flickering lamps can be caused by a few things, the simplest fix is just to be sure that the lamp is firmly in place. A loose connection can cause flickering. On a more serious note, you may be seeing flickering as a result of voltage fluctuation. This can cause lamps to burn more or less brightly than intended, and can cause more frequent burn-outs. If you suspect this issue, contact an electrician.

+ We mentioned earlier that lamps that warm up slowly to full brightness could be HID lamps, or they could be some older CFL technology. Either way, more efficient lighting options exist today and you don't have to spend time waiting around for quality light. 

Problem 3: Maintenance is a Real Hassle

Replacing lamps and ballasts or repairing a failing lighting system seems like it's become a full time job for you, or for the maintenance crew at your facility. Perhaps you have a bulb or two that failed ages ago and still haven't been replaced because they are so difficult to access. This includes areas with very high ceilings, outdoor fixtures, exterior signage, auditoriums, churches and other environments where specialty equipment - more than a ladder - might be needed to change a lamp. 

Let's look at some immediate benefits that a lighting upgrade can have on these situations:

+ If you are frequently replacing many lamps and ballasts and maintenance is a regular routine, it might benefit you to consider a group relamp. When lamps are all replaced at one time and you have a good idea of their usage and  the next group relamp date can be easily calculated. Changing all the lamps at once, at the end of their useful life, for example three years after a lighting retrofit, can again dramatically decrease the regular maintenance costs associated with reactionary spot relamping, or replacing lamps as they fail.

+ If the lamps you are replacing are hard to reach, consider using lighting technology with a very long life. For example, did you know that LED lamp life for certain applications is as great as 100,000 hours? That's more than 11 years of diminished maintenance costs! Another quick LED fact is that they work great in cold environments. Imagine how nice it would be not to have to be outside in the winter performing maintenance on your failing exterior lights.

These are just a few ways you can begin so compensate for energy deficits and work toward a more efficient lighting system in your facility. Have you already completed any of these projects? Tell us about them.

You might also be interested in our article about 5 ways to control lighting for maximum energy savings!

HOW TO// Get a Minnesota Rebate for Exterior Lighting Projects

MN utility rebates exterior

A big part of what we do at The Retrofit Companies includes more than just sourcing quality products and giving clients highly regarded electricians to install the work. We also work closely with utility companies who want to PAY YOU to become more energy efficient! Okay, they may not pay for the entire project, but many of our clients do get utility rebates for their projects.The intention of this blog post is to tell you about some really nice rebates for LED parking lot lighting that are available now, until the end of 2014. In this case, a bonus rebate is also available for projects received before March 31, 2014. Here are the utility rebate requirements:
    • Business Customers of Austin Utilities, Owatonna Public Utilities and Rochester Public Utilities
    • Any parking lot pole-mounted fixtures (not mounted to a building)
    • LED Fixtures qualified by DLC
    • New construction is not available
If you are considering a parking lot lighting upgrade to LED, contact one of our reps today and let us help you qualify for these rebates (and if your project is received before 3/31/14, you could qualify for a bonus rebate).
If you are an Xcel Energy Company customer in Minnesota, you may qualify for exterior lighting rebates similar to those above from CEE. Right now (February 2014) rebate rates are $200/kW and $.10/kWh saved!
Finding out if your facility qualifies for these rebates is as simple as making one call, so schedule your call now!


Schedule a call with our lighting consultant


My T12 Lights Still Work- why should I replace them?

t12 lamps

Since 2005, starting with T12 magnetic ballasts, T12 lighting technologies have been slowly phased out. On July 14, 2012 the manufacturing of T12 lamps ceased for distribution. Along with the final phase out date came the end of some of the sweet-spot utility rebates that were being offered to utility customers who upgraded from inefficient T12 lighting to something better, like T8 or T5 lamps and ballasts.

Today with this T12 ban in effect, and other inefficient lighting types continuing to be phased out, you may wonder, "Why does a T12 fluorescent retrofit still pay off for my business?" You think, "I'll just keep using these lamps until they are at the end of their useful life and then replace them when I absolutely have to."

In short, even though you may have missed the first and most generous utility rebates for upgrading your lighting, we have entered an era of ultra-efficient and extremely long-life technology - LED. LED technology in lighting is more affordable than ever and between energy savings and rebates from utilities for companies making an investment in lighting, most companies that upgrade their lighting see a dramatic benefit and almost instant savings.

Whether T8, T5 or LED is best for you, upgrading your lighting from T12 to another more efficient lighting technology sooner rather than later means your bottom line gets the immediate benefit of reduced overhead.

Learn more about LED lighting myths and utility rebates!

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Are You Making Thanksgiving Energy Efficient This Year?

Maybe you didn't know it, but there are quite a few opinions out there on how to save energy and be more efficient on this holiday associated with maximum consumption. We've put together this roundup of posts about Thanksgiving and Energy Efficiency and we hope you think it's interesting.


"...did you know that cooking accounts for 4.5% of total energy use in U.S. homes?  And that figure doesn't include the energy associated with refrigeration, hot water heating, and dishwashing. Added together, that mean that as much as 15% of the energy in the average American home is used in the kitchen.

This holiday season, we wanted to share some easy ways to reduce unnecessary energy use while still enjoying all of your family’s favorite dishes."


Here are 9 great ideas about efficiency on Thanksgiving, some that start before and can last all year! "Wasting energy on Thanksgiving? Don't be a turkey. Follow these tips to make sure you're not using more energy than you need."


Here are a few thoughts on energy efficient cooking, including tips on leftovers!


This one covers the gamut from choosing a 'green' turkey and energy efficient thawing principals to cookware and alternative turkey cooking options!


"The preparation and aftermath of a holiday meal can be much more water and energy intensive than your average daily meal. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Impress your friends and family with your water and energy efficient practices around the kitchen."


And Finally, if you're looking for ways to be more energy efficient all year long!

Do you have any tips for an energy efficient Thanksgiving to share?

Myths about LED Lighting and LED Light Bulbs

The continuing advancement of technology keeps every industry on their toes. The lighting industry is no different. The search for a more efficient and economical bulb is a never ending task. If you have recently looked into a lighting upgrade there’s a good chance you have heard about LEDs. They are the latest and greatest in lighting technology and are a viable option for almost any application in any climate. Let’s explore some of the myths you’ve heard about LEDs and find out what is actually true about this lighting option.

Not familiar with LED lighting? Here’s a refresher.


MYTH 1: LEDs Sound Good, But They Are Too Expensive

The multiple Pros of LED Lighting are often overshadowed by a single Con. LEDs are expensive! It is hard to justify retrofitting to LEDs when there are other efficient, less expensive options. If you are able to look past the price, the benefits of an LED upgrade supersede all alternatives.

      • The Light Emitting Diode itself is the most efficient lighting technology yet.
      • The LEDs effectively emit light in specific directions instead of scattering it to all spaces, reducing light pollution.
      • Incandescent lamps waste up to 90% of their energy as heat. LEDs waste very little energy.
      • In certain conditions a single bulb can last over 20 years. This cuts labor hours of maintenance, costs of replacement bulbs, and of course the savings on the utility bill over that time will make up for the initial cost.

There are some other ways to limit the damage to your wallet. Some utility companies offer rebates as an incentive to upgrade to LEDs. Visit and see if your energy provider is currently offering rebates on LEDs. There are other incentives offered for commercial properties who are upgrading to LED fixtures as well. Rebates for well designed projects that save a lot of energy can add up quickly and take thousands of dollars off the cost of a light retrofit project.  Ask your lighting professional if project or equipment rebates for lighting are available in your area.

In summary: LED technology can be expensive, but shopping smart and looking for rebates means savings keep stacking up over time. Get excited about investing in LED lighting.

2017 Update:  With an increased market saturation, improvements in manufacturing, and overproduction of LED products, the price points are more approachable than ever for this energy-efficient lighting option! 

MYTH 2: An LED is an LED is an LED…

As LEDs have become the new standard for energy efficient lighting, there are more and more options when it comes to choosing a brand or product that works for you. Some customers think, “It does the same job so brand doesn’t matter.” Price and convenience should not be deciding factors when choosing LEDs. Do your research.  A lighting upgrade is an investment. What you spend on quality LED fixtures will come back to you in the long run. If you would buy another product that will last up to 20 years, would you really choose the cheapest available option? Buy from a reputable company that offers guarantees with their product. Here is a brand comparison between an LED bulb that would replace an incandescent, you will be surprised to see that the national brand has a better warranty AND a better price!


LED A - National Brand

LED B - Generic Company





6 years

2 years


Energy Star Rating



In summary: Upgrading to a cheap LED can sometimes be a step backward. The household names in lighting are leading the way in LEDs. Recognizable brands invest in the research, manufacturing, and testing to ensure you receive the highest quality product. Also, as you can see, their manufacturing capacity allows them to offer quality products at lower prices. Not all companies can offer the credentials, warranties, and most bang-for-your-buck of a National Brand.


MYTH 3: I’ve Heard They Last Forever

Another common talking point with LEDs is that they last forever. This is technically not the case. Unless an actual component in the LED fails, they will provide light “forever.” While LEDs do not burn out like fluorescent lamps and other bulbs they will however degrade and dim over time. The diode itself will begin to emit less and less light as the years pass. Still, LED lamps can last over 25,000 hours. This is over 20 times longer than an incandescent bulb and 5 times longer than most Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL).

Protect your LED Investment. Tips for maximum life:

      • Do Not Overheat The diodes and components of an LED bulb are very hot. As you have probably noticed, LED bulbs are covered with heat sinks to displace this heat. Never put LEDs in fully enclosed fixtures or warmer areas. Overheating is the most common reason for LED failure and the most preventable.
      • Use LED compatible dimmers Not all dimmers are universal. Avoid headaches and early failures by using the correct dimmers. Ask your supplier which dimmers work with your LED product.
      • Choose the Proper Application LEDs are so customizable that there are specialty bulbs and fixtures for almost every application. Know if your LED bulb will perform in your current climate, environment, or space beforehand.

In Summary: While LED technology has an amazing long life, it does need to be mindfully employed to give you the benefits it offers. Be sure to use the correct lighting product for your application, whether it be an elevator, bathroom, parking lot or factory, the best solution is the one designed to do the job.


MYTH 4: I don’t like CFLs so I won’t like LEDs

It wasn’t too long ago that Compact Fluorescent Lamps were the next best thing for lighting. While they are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, some attributes of CFLs were not universally liked. Let’s examine some common complaints and see what LEDs have done differently:

      • I hate the color of bulbs that aren’t incandescent. Old habits die hard. We have been using incandescent bulbs for almost 100 years. Most customers are accustomed to that color of light and are not fond of the ‘white light’ of CFLs. LEDs allow us to correct this by manipulating the color of each diode in order to match the light of an incandescent. To get the type of light you want, be sure to reference the Color Temperature, measured in degrees Kelvin, of the product before you buy it. A lower number, like 2700K is closer to incandescent than the brighter, bluer color temperature of 5000K.
      • CFL’s have hazardous mercury in them. Like linear fluorescent lamps, CFLs also contain small amounts of mercury. There is no exposure risk with LEDs because they do not contain mercury or other hazardous materials.
      • They don’t get bright enough in the cold weather and it seems like they take a long time to warm up when I turn them on. CFLs are extremely sensitive to climate. They are not ideal for the elements or changes in temperature. LEDs light up instantly and performance is rarely limited by climate.
      • The CFLs always burn out quickly, especially in my fan – LEDs are more durable, last longer, and are not affected by vibrations or movement.

In Summary: Don’t assume you will not like LED bulbs based on your past experience with CFLs. The reasons customers do not care for CFLs have been addressed and improved upon. LEDs are now a legitimate option for replacing incandescent bulbs.


Interested in learning more about energy-efficient lighting?

See how a small LED Retrofit saved $3500 annually!

Lighting a Building Exterior: Secure, Efficient & Well Designed



There are many things to consider when lighting the inside of your facility, but your nighttime exterior lights should be an equal concern. Do you have enough light for people to safely navigate around your walkways and parking areas at night? Are you positive you aren’t over-lighting, wasting energy and polluting the night sky with extra light? There is a fine line to stride when it comes to designing the best exterior lighting system for your building. When you mindfully design an exterior lighting system, these components come into balance and it is relatively easy to achieve a night time environment that saves energy, offers quality light and does not waste energy or spill light into unwanted areas.

Avoiding Light Pollution

One modern lighting concern when it comes to exterior lighting applications is light pollution. Light pollution factors include Glare, Light Trespass and Reflected Light. When a lighting designer chooses the correct fixtures for each area of your outdoor lighting, with the correct amount of light specified, these three factors are negated. Here’s an easy definition of each:

Glare is a visual sensation caused by excessive and uncontrolled brightness. It can be disabling or simply uncomfortable. It is subjective, and sensitivity to glare can vary widely. Source

Light trespass occurs when spill light is cast where it is not wanted. Light trespass is somewhat subjective because it is difficult to define when, where, and how much light is unwanted. An example of light trespass is when spill light from a streetlight or floodlight enters a window and illuminates an indoor area. Proper aiming of the floodlight and shielding would significantly reduce the light trespass. Source

Reflected light happens where extra light is cast off of surfaces and directed into areas where it is not required, but it can also be light that reflects off of surfaces you intend to light, such as sidewalks and parking lots. Some amount of reflected light is unavoidable, but to cut down on reflected light and “Sky Glow” be sure that light levels are appropriate and that areas are not over-lit.

Night Time Safety Concerns

Safety is a big reason for lighting your building exterior at night. Of course, people need to be able to travel on foot or by vehicles safely around your facility at night, but this can also include dusky hours early or late in the day in areas that are particularly shadowy. Walkways, parking areas, loading docks and entry spaces should all be lit for the safety of people working, walking or driving in these areas.

Many buildings also have wall fixtures on the sides of buildings wash light over and around windows. These lights reduce shadowy areas and increase a feeling of security, while giving light to areas where security cameras may be pointed. These safety measures lead us to the next point: Recommended Light Levels. Recommended levels are also primarily based on safety and security functions and can help reduce crime and instances of vandalism.

Light Levels for Exterior Lighting Applications

IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America) recommended light levels for most exterior lighting applications ranges from a minimum .2 foot candles in low traffic outdoor parking areas, up to 2 foot candles for buildings and large open areas. A minimum of 5 foot candles is recommended in pedestrian areas and entrances. Keep in mind that these figures are recommendations, and that state and local standards can be found in local building codes, which should be consulted when designing a lighting system. The goal with these recommended levels is to use as much light as needed without over-lighting which results in wasted energy and light pollution.

Light Quality for Exterior Lighting Applications

While light level recommendations should be carefully regarded, the quality of light you need for exterior applications should not be overlooked. What does “Light Quality” mean exactly? A quick explanation compares two types of light that are probably familiar to you. First, imagine the common orange light (high pressure sodium technology) that you have seen in parking lots and street lights for many years. This orange colored light seemingly washes out the ability to distinctly identify other colors; making objects and people under this type of light seem grayish. Now think of places you may have recently been with fluorescent or LED lighting, maybe a parking ramp, and compare how the colors of the cars were more distinct – you could likely identify navy blue or dark green from black vehicles. You probably felt like the light was brighter in the fluorescent or LED lit environment.

In fact, it’s entirely possible that these two scenarios could be lit with exactly the same amount of foot candles and there’s nearly a 100% chance that the high pressure sodium (orange) was using multiple times more energy than the fluorescent or LED lights. The difference is light quality, the CRI (Color Rendering Index) of the lamps used in the fixtures. The high pressure sodium lighting has a very low CRI, but can use hundreds of watts of energy. Fluorescent and LED lighting both have higher CRI’s than High Pressure Sodium, and the most up-to-date iterations are energy-efficient. It’s also important to note that with LED technology, the spread of light has been precisely engineered to reduce areas of high and low light to give a very even area of light coverage. The conclusion here is that “higher watts” does not necessarily equal more light or better light quality.

Reducing Maintenance Costs with Modern Lighting Technology

By renovating your lighting technology, you save energy and thusly, you save money. However, another important retrofitting savings factor for outdoor (or any difficult to reach area) is the savings achieved through reduction in maintenance costs. There are three ways you can recognize maintenance savings:

  • By streamlining technology and having just 2 or 3 different lighting technologies (bulbs and ballasts) throughout your facility, you do not need to keep as much replacement material in stock.
  • Your new lighting technology for exterior applications, LED especially, will have a long lamp life that reduces the amount of maintenance hours required to upkeep your exterior lighting. Some LED products have anticipated life of 50,000 hours and up. Even some fluorescent lamps advertise ‘extra-long life’ nearing 40,000 hours of burn time.
  • As lamps get older, their light output decreases, but they still use the same amount of energy. When all your lamps are upgraded or retrofitted at the same time, it is a good idea to plan on a group relamp. This means instead of replacing lamps as they burn out (spot relamp); you choose to relamp the entire system at the 70-80% rated lamp life. By adopting this procedure you ensure regular intervals of maintenance are planned in your budget, and you give yourself the opportunity to make planned improvements or upgrades to your lighting system at the point of greatest return.

How to Save Energy, Get the Light you need and conserve the night sky

Design your outdoor lighting for maximum efficiency and night sky conservation by choosing the right fixtures and the right system layout. Most lighting contractors will be able to provide you with solutions to meet these needs and a model that shows anticipated light levels. If a comparison between your existing and proposed new lighting systems is available, you will likely be surprised to find out how many inefficiencies and potentially light-polluting issues can be resolved with energy-saving fixtures that are built to reduce glare and light trespass. Consider these elements, plus improved safety and maintenance savings when you are ready to make changes to your exterior lighting system. The decision between upgrading and not upgrading gets easier the more you know!

get a smart start to your lighting project

Energy Efficiency, Electronics Recycling & Solar Flares in the News

“As of now, only ‘forward thinking’ companies consider energy efficiency a strategy for growth. We need to promote this further. There is opportunity here because this is the third resource we have instead of building more power plants.” How banks are extending loans to firms for energy efficiency projects.


The most important energy saving technology is not technology, but behavioral changes made by individuals. Would peer pressure make you more energy efficient?


Executive Recycling Owner Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Fraud. 


Are you protecting your sensitive data? How do you know if your recycler is responsibly handling it? 


Why an Easy Energy-Efficiency Bill Is So Hard, claim “No sense of urgency, curse of lowest common denominator”


Myths and facts about Energy Efficiency


“All LED Lighting Is Bluish White” // Lighting Myth or Fact?


Researchers in Hong Kong have discovered that ground-up circuit boards can be used to absorb toxic heavy metals found in water!


“When a solar event takes place, the sun shoots out a huge ball of energy. If it comes in contact with the earth’s magnetic field, it produces a current that is really long – 100s of kilometers long and affects things like utility grids, copper-based telecommunications, pipelines, railways.” What does this have to do with energy management? 


Get our Guide: "Where in the World is Your E-waste Going?"

How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 4

retrofit cost part 4

In our last blog post "How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 3" we discussed five points like Sustainability, Environmental, Financial and Business goals concerning your specific business objectives.

Today's article discusses various topics that can impact the final price of your lighting retrofit project.


Your facility, your existing lighting system, your needs, and your project goals are all factors in the cost of a lighting retrofit; a few more tangible factors also come into play. Our best advice to anyone comparing multiple lighting project quotes from multiple vendors is to be sure you are comparing apples to apples, in all aspects of the project: Service, Product and Extras. Here are the most easily identifiable variables you should be aware of when you consider the cost of a lighting retrofit or upgrade.

What products are to be installed? Which brands of lamps, ballasts and fixtures are being used in your project? Are the names national brands or a fly-by-night manufacturer using untested, sub-par materials? Be sure you understand the quality of the products you are buying, the warranty that is issued with them and that they are fully tested for dependability and safety. Additionally, if your lighting application is very specific or rare (explosion proof, underwater, etc.) the fixtures required will likely be more expensive. Some lighting types lend themselves to energy-efficient, cost-conscious options, but highly specialized products are an exception.  Keep in mind that quality, tested products from respected brands will likely cost a premium, but an experienced lighting contractor will also know that those products work reliably and that is why they spec them.

What Lighting Technology is being used for your retrofit or upgrade? Some types might include: Fluorescent T8, Fluorescent T5, LED, Induction, or others. Be aware that the type of lighting you choose, or require, can profoundly impact the success and the cost of your lighting project. Newer technology like LED is more expensive and more efficient, generally, than older technologies like linear fluorescents like T8 or T5 lamps. Some of the newest LED technology may not be as tried and market tested as linear fluorescent or induction technology, but based on your needs and goals, your lighting contractor will find a solution to make your project a success. (Also note that LED third party testing entities exist to protect consumers, and offer certifications on qualifying LED products that pass their tests for lamp life, performance and efficiency.)

What is the location and length of your project? These are both labor factors to take into account for your lighting project. Will the electricians doing the work have to travel to you? If so, there is a chance your project price includes drive time, per diem and lodging expenses.

Recycling Costs (have they been included in your quote?)  All of the items that are taken out of your existing lighting system should be responsibly disposed of after the completion of your job. These items include: universal waste lamps, ballasts, fixture housings, wiring, packaging, transportation to the recycling facility and actual recycling fees. (learn more about Universal Waste Recycling [link to other blog post])

Are you paying an engineer or lighting designer for a Lighting Study? Every quality project needs to be designed, more or less, from the ground up by taking an inventory (auditing) the existing lighting system, along with hours of operation and utility costs and calculating those factors against a proposed, new, energy-efficient lighting system based on your needs and goals. Depending on the size of your facility and how intricate your system is, this study can cost thousands of dollars. Be sure you are spending your money wisely. If you are hiring an engineer or architect to build this study, there is a chance your one-time fee will be sizeable and non-reimbursable. If you hire a lighting company to do this study, find out if this fee is reimbursable. Ask if the cost of the study will be applied to the total cost of your lighting project, if the project is signed with the firm that completes your lighting study. Knowing this information before you engage in a lighting project is crucial. Understanding this single, powerful point could save you thousands of dollars.

Rebates & Incentives for your lighting project (Are you getting a utility rebate for your project?) Finally, one of the most exciting aspects of any lighting project is the potential for utility rebates or incentives. These funds, commonly provided through money contributed to a utility’s Conservation Improvement Program by fees on every monthly utility invoice, are re-distributed as incentives for individuals and businesses that invest in energy-efficient or energy saving equipment. Essentially, utility companies want to reward smart energy consumers that make steps to improve efficiencies. Lighting project incentives are usually based on watts saved by replacing your existing lighting system with a new, energy-efficient one. Two kinds of rebates exist: Prescriptive and Custom. Prescriptive rebate amounts are based on pre-determined scenarios. [Replace Existing Fixture A with New Fixture Y and you will receive X dollars rebate].  Custom Rebates are just that, custom. Often lighting designers will submit retrofit project plans, with watts saved, to the utility company and try to achieve a greater rebate. This method is also used for facilities and lighting types that may not be exceedingly common. All utilities require a fair amount of paperwork and documentation to issue these rebates. The amount available in rebate funds is usually maxed out each year, so applying early for your project dollars is important. Additionally, most utilities max out individual rebate amounts at a certain percentage of total project cost.  In a nutshell: Rebate dollars are limited, You must submit proper Prescriptive or Custom rebate paperwork to achieve maximum savings, and you must provide appropriate documentation to have money issued to your project. A reputable lighting contractor is able to assist their clients with all of these items, and many times you only need to provide them with a couple of your previous utility invoices and access to your facility for a lighting study so they can get started.

Interested in reading the other parts of this series? Here's parts 1, 2 and 3.

Looking for more information about energy-efficient lighting projects? Read our article "11 Questions to ask a Lighting Contractor" before you start your lighting project!

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor 

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How Much Does a Retrofit Cost? Part 3

what does a retrofit cost part 3

In our last blog post "How Much Does a Retrofit Cost? Part 2" we discussed the second cost factor in a lighting retrofit project: Your Existing Lighting System and Operational Requirements. The variables here include the condition of your current fixtures, the quality of light you experience now, future upgrade plans other then retrofitting your lighting system.

Today's article discusses five major points of cost factor #3 that can impact the final price of your lighting retrofit project.


Your goals should be the project priority, whether you were approached by a lighting consultant, were given a directive to do a lighting project from up the ladder, or researched energy-efficiency and learned that upgraded lighting can be a simple, immediate way to reduce operating costs and have a positive environmental impact. If your scenario is similar to these, or something completely different, you have goals in mind for a successful lighting project. We will discuss come common goals that our customers have looked to achieve by implementing energy-efficient lighting. Each is an important factor in the success of a lighting project. Consider which are most important to you.

Are you looking to make an investment in your facility? Property management companies or building owners can increase the value of their buildings, potentially increasing lease revenues, by improving the facility’s lighting system.

Do you have to meet corporate Sustainability or Environmental Goals? An obvious byproduct of using less energy is the preservation of natural resources (coal, oil, etc.) that are used to create electricity. One way to reduce the amount of energy your facility uses is to reduce the overall wattage of its lighting system.

Are you financial goals long term or short term? Consider whether ROI or Payback data make the most sense for how your company does business. A reputable lighting contractor should be able to show you how your project makes financial sense for you.

The US Small Business Administration says, “Depending on the type of business you operate, lighting accounts for 20% to 50% of electricity consumption. This means that significant cost savings can be achieved with energy-efficiency improvements, and due to continually improving equipment, lighting usually provides the highest return-on-investment of major upgrades”

Maintenance savings can reduce the overall perceived cost of a lighting project, especially for large buildings without a full time maintenance staff that must hire out all the work to a maintenance firm. If your building has high cost maintenance areas that require special lifts or scaffolding to reach, or if changing bulbs is a full time job, many lighting contractors should be able to account for those expenses before a lighting project and subsequent savings upon completion of an energy-efficient, long life lighting system.

Achieving reduced overhead (lowered monthly, ongoing utility expenses) through energy savings is a primary goal for many lighting projects. The actual kilowatt or kilowatt hour savings, including savings achieved by employing control systems like sensors, day lighting, dimming, time clocks, and more will be crucial information included on any project quote you receive. Whether or not reduced overhead is your primary goal, it is a major benefit of upgrading your lighting system.  These savings could help off-set the cost of the project, as well. 

You cannot escape the cost of lighting, it is an unavoidable expense of operating your business so consider if you can afford to remain inefficient. With future utility cost projections showing increasing prices, look for ways to minimize the impact of this expensive overhead cost. Specifically, imagine cutting your utility bill now AND paying less-than-you-would-be later. Can you afford to remain inefficient?

Check back next Monday for part 4 which discusses remaining cost factors that can impact the cost of your lighting project.


Looking for more information about energy-efficient lighting projects? Read our article "11 Questions to ask a Lighting Contractor" before you start your lighting project!

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor


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How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 2

What is the cost of a lighting project

In our last blog post "How Much Does a Retrofit Cost? Part 1" we discussed the first cost factor in a lighting retrofit project: Your Facility. Factors of your facility that influence the price of a lighting project include: the size of your facility, the current electrical service installed, hours of operation or occupation, and general accessibility to the existing lighting system.

Today's article discusses the three important points of cost factor #2 that can impact the final price of your lighting retrofit project.


The second factor in building your new lighting system is your existing lighting system and your operational requirements. What does this mean? Let’s go through the three main points about your current lighting system that can impact the cost of a lighting retrofit. You will see how the condition of your current fixtures, the amount of light you want and your future business processes can impact the cost of your lighting project.

What is the condition of your current light fixtures? Will you retrofit them (replace only lamps and ballasts, while keeping the same light fixture in place) or will you replace the entire fixture for a complete upgrade? Maybe your building is relatively new, or maybe it’s an historical setting that needs to be preserved. Perhaps the fixture is outdated, dirty, and worn, or the technology you are upgrading to requires a new style of fixture. These scenarios begin to address part of the decision between Retrofitting and Upgrading. So, consider the condition of your existing lighting fixtures at the start of a lighting project to determine if your costs will fall into the retrofit or complete upgrade category. 

Does your current lighting system give you enough quality light for the tasks at hand? How much light do you need? Are you over-lighting or under-lighting for your application? Industry standards exist for recommended amount of foot candles for all types of specific lighting applications, ranging from surgical suites to parking ramps. For example, you may not need ten foot candles of light in your parking ramp, when the specified range is 1-5 foot candles based on the application. Keep in mind that you may not need more light; you may need a better quality of light.

In the near future, are you planning to upgrade, remodel or change processes in the space you plan to do your retrofit? Upgrading your lighting fixtures could be a complete waste if in the near future your facility will be going through a complete overhaul. Perhaps a change in manufacturing processes or tasks performed in a space will be changing. This could impact your operational requirements for a lighting project. Feasibly you could plan your project in stages to recoup the most from your energy-efficiency investment. The most benefit may be achieved by planning a full lighting re-design, giving you the exact lighting system that is best for your facility, your operational requirements and your goals. Be sure the current uses of the space and any future uses are considered when planning to re-light and upgrade or retrofit your building.

Check back next Monday for FACTOR 3: YOUR GOALS where we will discuss five important considerations that can impact the success and the cost of your lighting retrofit project.

Looking for more information about energy-efficient lighting projects? Read our article before you talk to contractors!

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor


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How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 1

how much does a retrofit cost

How much does a lighting retrofit project cost? Or “How much is my lighting project going to cost?” is the question we hear first and most often, and it is truly the most difficult to answer of all the things our clients ask when we propose projects. Sometimes lighting professionals and energy-efficient lighting project designers can tell you the costs of fixtures, lamps, labor, and a whole host of other items that go into a lighting retrofit project; however, it is really very difficult to give an ‘average price’ or a ballpark price because the factors vary so widely from project to project. So, today we’re going to tell you all the cost factors that go into building your lighting project from the ground up. We are going to give you all the nitty gritty details and examples that can heavily affect not only the cost of your lighting retrofit, but the overall success of your project. We want to tell you how to go in armed with knowledge when you are ready to take on a lighting upgrade or retrofit project. Our first bit of advice is to read this article before you sign on any lighting project quote. Here is part one of our four part series:


Your building size, structure, hours of operation, your existing electrical service and even your industry can impact the cost of a lighting project. A reputable contractor isn’t going to give you a cookie cutter “One Size Fits All,” energy efficient fixture as the answer to the complex equation that is your lighting project. When you engage with the person that will be doing the lighting survey (auditing) your facility, be prepared to answer a lot of questions about your building and your existing lighting system. In order to put together the best project, they will spend a fair amount of time taking into consideration your entire facility, how it is currently working and how you need it to work in the future

How big is your building, or the area you want to include in the project? Oftentimes bigger spaces require more fixtures for more light, or those will taller ceilings will need to beef up fixtures; however, the greater the project cost, the greater the potential for savings opportunities.

What is your current electrical service? 120 volt system? 277 volts or 480?  This will affect the fixture configuration and in some cases the lighting technology available for your application.

What are your hours of operation?  How much energy you use on average can dramatically affect your rebate, energy costs and payback calculations.

Are you a candidate for daylight harvesting? Do you have many windows? What about sky lights? Perhaps it is dark outside or you have no windows.

General accessibility to the light fixtures will impact the cost of your project. Factors here include more than ceiling height and ceiling type. Project planners must also consider any equipment in the way of accessing the light fixtures such as: machinery, desks, furniture, displays, racking, or any items that may be stationary or immovable during the project.  Additionally, there may be objects that are light spread barriers, meaning to achieve your lighting needs, fixtures would be added. Another part of the general accessibility also includes the current schedule at your facility. How often are your spaces occupied? Are you open 24/7? Do you have special security clearance needs?

What is the working environment in your facility? The needs of a health care facility (open 24/7, with patients present) are going to vary from the needs of a retail store (open regular business hours, empty when closed). Even more dramatically different can be the environments in various manufacturing facilities, with a spectrum from food production, to light manufacturing to heavy industrial operations like a foundry, which is hot, dirty and can be very dangerous for anyone not trained to work in one. 


Keep Reading: FACTOR 2: YOUR LIGHTING SYSTEM & OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS where we will discuss the three primary factors of your current lighting system that can affect the cost of a new, energy-efficient lighting system.


If you are considering a lighting project, also read our article about the questions you should ask every lighting contractor.

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor

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An Electrical Contractor With a Good Reputation?

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Would peer pressure make you more energy efficient?

A Denver Post article asks, “Would you be more likely to cut your energy bill to save a few dollars or to get a gift card and a chance to win an iPod? Would you be more willing to shut off the air conditioner if you will save money or because your neighbors do it?” Would peer pressure make you more energy efficient? Alex Laskey, co-founder of Opower, has done the work to suggest that yes, it would.

In this Ted Talk, Laskey talks about “The Largest Behavioral Science Experiment in the World.” As one of the partners who developed the report used by utility companies to give home owners those energy-efficiency comparisons, his argument persuades the audience that the most important energy saving technology is not technology, but behavioral changes made by individuals. Great food for thought. This eight minute video is eloquent and informative.

Started in 2010, some Minnesota utility customers started receiving these energy report cards. Initial results discussed in this article were in support of Laskey’s argument. 

Energy use has dropped 2 percent to 3 percent because of the program, and most people have been happy with it. "The vast majority say, 'I'm using more energy than my neighbors. What can I do about it?''' About 2 percent have "opted out," with some saying it's "too Big Brotherish," said Bruce Sayler, who manages government relations for Connexus Energy.

Connexus is an electric cooperative that serves several north metro communities and was the first utility in Minnesota to experiment with the program. "We decided to continue the program for the next several years because of the great results," he said.

In 2013, the program continues to succeed in proving that people do care about "keeping up with the Jonses."

As of the third quarter in 2012, “MyMeter” program gave homeowners online access to their utility usage, even offering text and email notifications to users who had set up energy thresholds on their accounts as they approached the goals or limits they set for themselves. Program market planning specialist at Minnesota’s Otter Tail Power says of the nearly three year old program, “Overall we’ve heard very little back from customers, but we do know that they are taking steps to save energy as indicated by the energy savings previously reported.”

Citizens in action

Just last month, in May 2013, Julia Eagles on “More for the Mission” a blog on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website, writes about her experience with creating a more energy-efficient home and utilizing the comparison reports provided by her utility company.

“As you can see from the Home Energy Report we received from CenterPoint Energy in January, we’re using slightly less energy than our most efficient neighbors, but we still used more this year than we did last year at this time, which may be due to chillier winter. I love that utilities have started providing these reports to customers, and the ways it helps make energy usage more tangible and visible.

I share this personal experience and example of my own home, because it’s been a real learning experience.”

June 2013 report

Back in Colorado, panelists at Boulder Earth Conference agree the program works, but wonder how to sustain the important message.

Gabler, director of demand-side management and renewable programs for Xcel Energy Inc. says, "We've achieved up to a 2 percent savings with those reports - but what happens when the reports stop? Will customers revert back?"

Still, "that 2 percent across the entire energy industry is a lot," LeBlanc, president of the Boulder Energy Group and a senior adviser at eSource Companies LLC, said, but agreed that the "keeping up with the Joneses" aspect of the Opower reports could make "social norms a bigger motivator than the numbers. When they see they're using more than their neighbors - but when we tell them they're doing better, they tend to use more. We've got to stop doing that!"

Xcel Energy customers can get a closer look at the program resources online at:

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