As our company approaches its 25th business anniversary, we know this for sure: no two lighting projects are the same. So, when you're presented with several options for a lighting project, how can you know which is the best option for you - lighting retrofit or lighting redesign? In this post, we're going to step through three common approaches to lighting projects and discuss each in detail. First, let's talk a little bit about why all projects are so different.
YOUR BUSINESS IS YOURS. YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT.
You know that your business needs may be similar to another company of your same size in the same industry, but you also know that you've got differing needs. Here are some factors you should consider and questions you should be able to answer as you consider whether or not to upgrade your lighting:
- Do you know if you over or under lit?
- Do specific areas of your process have different lighting needs? For example, in manufacturing an inspection line and a warehouse/staging area would require different types or amounts of lighting. In an office setting you may have presentation spaces and work spaces where different tasks take place.
- Are areas of your space unoccupied for long periods of time? If you are not using any lighting controls currently, this would be a great place to consider implementing a controls system.
- What does the future of your business look like? Do you have expansion plans or anticipate a change to your layout?
- Do you need a lighting system that is capable of growing with you? By designing with a smart fixture that can do more than what we’ll tell it to do, you can always adjust the light level as your needs change. (This applies to most LED options.)
- Because each business is different these are just some of the variables that are taken into consideration when planning or designing a lighting system.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
Understanding your business needs is the first step in project planning. Your needs may be simple and direct and your business may not be changing, or you may be a company in the midst of growth and you envision many changes in the future to your business process. Three general options exist; we're calling them "Good," "Better," "Best."
OPTION 1: GOOD
REPLACE THE LAMPS
This option has a low up-front cost and results in minimal waste. Replacing lamps is generally a quick and simple solution, energy-efficient lamps are relatively easy to find. There is typically a good simple payback with reduction of wattage per lamp. With this simple scope of work, the rebate is also straightforward. In most cases rebates are per lamp, but this depends on the type.
This option will have a shorter over all system life than most fixture replacements; it will result in higher future maintenance costs. Replacing lamps will not necessarily address inconsistent light levels, improve performance, or reduce shadows that currently exist in your lighting. This option is not recommended for rugged or hazardous environments.
OPTION 2: BETTER
REPLACE FIXTURES 1-FOR-1
Nearly half of the projects evaluated will have a one-for-one fixture replacement solution. This solution is pretty likely to result in a successful project, and has been a pretty standard approach in the lighting industry for years. Again, the scope of work is pretty simple, and so is the rebate structure. Rebates are typically per fixture, and removing some fixtures can result in a higher rebate. Replacing fixtures in their existing locations also means a lower up-front cost to this project type because you do not have a cost associated to wiring fixtures to new locations.
With this sort of project, we have seen results where light levels went from 30 to 100 foot-candles in a gymnasium. Without controls, or ability to adjust light levels, a lot of energy is wasted to over-light this space when no events are happening in it. In addition to being over lit, keeping these unneeded fixtures will result in higher costs for energy and higher maintenance costs.
This solution may work just fine for half of projects as we noted, however; the best projects are given more consideration. Redesign planning is where a lighting design professional will outshine a standard electrical contractor.
OPTION 3: BEST
Lighting redesign is a collaborative process between a business owner or operator and a lighting professional. The process takes into consideration your business, how it functions, how spaces are used, and any financial and environmental goals that your business has in sight. The solution begins with a study, or deep dive into all these factors, and when research is completed a custom lighting system is designed. Certified lighting professionals work with you to ensure that the scope of the project will meet your needs, and all aspects of it will be planned out in a series of reports before a single piece of equipment is ordered. This is the most sophisticated route for a lighting project, an investment in your investment.
Some utilities offer reimbursement programs to reduce the cost of the investment in a lighting study, which is in addition to the rebate received for energy savings. While a project study may increase the payback time period, the overall results are a lowered long term cost of ownership factoring in maintenance savings and energy reductions.
Why should you consider a redesign if a one-for-one fixture replacement would be just fine? Once again, this comes down to the level of sophistication that is inherent in LED lighting. There are as many solutions as there are businesses, and sorting through all of those is nearly impossible unless you plan with the help of a lighting partner. You can have a good project, or with a little more insight you can have a great one. Partnership with a great lighting professional will allow you to get the most out of your lighting project investment by starting off with the best plan possible.
Curious about the redesign process? Learn about Investment Grade Audits now - get our free ebook!