The Retrofit Companies Blog

Another interview with Darin at Wausau Supplies : Exterior Lighting LED upgrade

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Darin is the Central Regional Manager for Wausau Supply, overseeing five Wausau Supply locations. As you may remember, Darin has provided us with great feedback on the previous lighting upgrade/energy projects that we have worked on in the past.

(In case you missed it, here is his last interview: )

Earlier this year, we completed his exterior lighting LED upgrade project, and he was nice enough to let us know how it went.

What problems or issues did you have with your exterior lighting, and what were you hoping to accomplish with this lighting upgrade project?

"The outside of our building had traditional metal-halide bulbs on the building and on light posts.

Very poor lighting and not cost effective at all…We were throwing money away!!

It also was very unsafe since we have employees coming in at all times of the morning and they could not see ice in front of them."


What solution did The Retrofit Companies bring to you to address these issues?

"TRC came out and analyzed the situation and came up with a great, cost effective option

LED lighting …strategically placed so we could get the most bang for our buck

Now when it is dark outside these lights come on and light up the place just like it was daylight outside!!

Very impressive! Satisfaction beyond our expectations!!"


Why did you chose The Retrofit Companies to be your partner on this project?

"We used TRC on several other projects and they did an awesome job for us. So when it was time to make the move to LED, it was a pretty easy decision, once they showed us what they could do to  solve our problem. The rebates were an added bonus…payback will be pretty quick compared to our old lighting."

Any other thoughts that you have on the project, your sales rep, or TRC in general?

"Working with good, honest people always helps to calm any concerns we might have!"



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Did this interview help you get some insight on what it's like to work with The Retrofit Companies? You can read more customer stories here, get our guide to help you ask the right questions when choosing a partner for your next lighting project, or just schedule a call with one of our lighting specialists!

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

read more case studies on TRC blog

Interview with Darin at Wausau Supplies : HID to T8 to LED


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About Darin & his work at Wausau Supply:

I’m currently Central Regional Manager for Wausau Supply, so I have five locations I watch over. I started in 2000 at Wausau Supply and came in as a day shift manager. I progressed to Operations manager, running just this location. After that I started the position they call District Manager, doing what I do now for the Central Region, watching over five locations.

Sounds busy! Are all of your locations in Minnesota?

It’s quite a bit of travel. The locations I oversee are in Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas.

I know you’ve worked with TRC in the past on projects at one of your facilities back in 2009, and again most recently in 2016 on a different lighting project – can you tell me about that?

The first project was in 2009, and that was to address the metal halide bulbs that we had. We saved a ton of money when we switched to T8’s, which was the most current technology at the time. We still have that system in the warehouse. It saved a lot of money and it’s still saving compared to what it would have been if we continued to use metal halide.

Then we were talking to TRC rep, LuAnn, and she was proposing LED lights for us. We decided to give them a try in the space for this most recent 2016 project, and they’re fabulous. The lighting is so much better. You can see all the way to the ground underneath the shelves even. Before the upgrade, the bottom shelf would be dark. With the LED lights we get all the way down there and can see things on the bottom.

How did you originally connect with The Retrofit Companies?

One of your sales people just stopped in. The rebates were really good back then, 2008 or 2007, and she stopped in and said, “Do you mind if I take a look in your warehouse to see what you have for lighting?” And we said yes. So they looked at it and said, “We could really save you a lot of money if you just let us give a proposal to you.” We sat and listened, and ended up rolling out that plan at five or six other locations.

We knew it was kind of dumb to have metal halides, even at that time, when there’s so much better technology out there.

For your most recent LED project, you decided to purchase the Investment Grade Audit reports from TRC. Did you take that plan to any other contractors to get comparison bids?

No, but since we have a pretty good relationship with TRC, every once in a while someone will randomly stop in and want to propose to us. Then I’ll send it on to LuAnn, and say, “LuAnn, shoot some holes in this proposal for me.” She’ll say, “Oh my gosh, they’re not even talking about this!” or “They don’t even know the lighting level.” The competition is just trying to undercut everybody, and a few years down the road you’re probably not going to be too happy with it.

With the investment grade audit you know what to expect. It does cost a little bit more, but then you do know what you’re getting and they ask for your input, too.

The next project we’ve already greenlighted is the exterior lighting. It’s all metal halide and long overdue. Your team looked through it, asked some questions and determined that we needed one more light on a building. So, they’re redesigning it a bit based on our conversation.

So, you’ve seen a difference between The Retrofit Companies and our competitors?

I feel more comfortable that TRC is doing a complete job. We don’t want the cheapest job, we want a complete job – something you’re going to stand behind, that you’re going to do it the way that we want it, and listen to us. We’ve found that to be true with The Retrofit Companies, so I haven’t really needed to competitively shop.

Back in 2009, the TRC rep presented an opportunity to save with your upgrade from metal halide (HID) to T8 fluorescent, and now you have this opportunity to improve again with LED technology. What are your goals for this project?

We’d like to save somewhere in that vicinity again. We’re doing it in small bites because the philosophy at the corporate level is that we’ve got a few locations much worse off (lighting efficiency-wise) than we are here. So, if we can do that LED project somewhere else as a proving ground it will help – for example in our Montana facility which is still all HID.

We’re doing these small bits at our facility, the lockroom and exterior, but maybe another facility will be lucky enough to get their entire warehouse in LED. We’ll be able to do that eventually, it makes sense to within the next few years.

With the recent lockroom project, going to LED lighting, were there any surprising results? You mentioned earlier about the light reaching the bottom of the racks, and that it never had before.

The lighting is even and it’s not harsh at all. It’s subtle, like a daylight feel. We were hoping it wasn’t going to be a drastic change where it wouldn’t give us headaches or like the fluorescents that would sometimes have a harsh glare. Everyone likes the light, it’s nice and even and bright throughout the whole space – not overly bright. Everyone has said they like it, no one has had any complaints. Usually, when you get some kind of a new lighting system someone’s going to think it’s too bright, it gives them a headache, or something, but I haven’t heard any complaints at all.


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In your job, I’m sure you worked with many different contractors on various types of projects, and you’ve now worked with TRC at least twice on projects over the years – is there anything you can say about your experience with TRC, how it might have changed, or how it might be different from your experience with other contractors?

This latest project was all good, the install was very quick. They were attentive to what we were doing because they had to work around us, and did a great job keeping everything neat and organized. For example, the used fixtures were out of the way, not in our way, and your electrician did a favor for me. I asked him if he could take a couple of the old T8’s he was taking out and put a cord on there for us so we could use them as shop lights in our tool cage where we had some terrible lights. He said, “No problem,” and threw on two cords so we could also have new lights in that tool cage. I thought that was pretty cool, he didn’t even think about it at all, it was no problem.

Are there any other aspects of the installation or bid process that stood out to you?

This project was only an 8 light switch over, so it was a small project. The electrician came in at 8 a.m. and he was done by 3. All cleaned up and had our pallet of old fixtures ready to recycle, and they had someone from TRC come out and pick them up. At least I think they did, I have to check…

Well, if they haven’t yet, let us know and we’ll have someone come out for you!

Sure thing!

Have you been able to take advantage of utility rebates with your projects? Did TRC help with that?

Every project we’ve done has had rebates involved. The first one (2009 warehouse project) was pretty huge, about 30-40,000 dollar rebate and it really helped out. This last one, was a smaller project so a smaller amount, but the upcoming exterior project anticipates a fair amount of rebate. I probably wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t a rebate. We would probably wait because rebates seem to cycle in and out every few months so it would be dumb not to use a rebate.

How about sensors? What has been your experience with sensors on your lighting systems?

They have sensors on them now, they’re all sensored. That is something that should always be sold with a project. It saves us TONS of money because most of these companies (warehouses) aren’t flying around in all those aisles all night long. The sensors save us a lot. We had metal halides burning the whole time the warehouse was open, and now with sensors on the fixtures those lights might stay off 3 or 4 hours at a time. Consider all the hours saved in a year and that’s a lot of money.

Last question, do you have any advice for other companies that are just beginning to research energy-efficient lighting projects, or just starting out with hiring contractors for energy-efficient lighting project?

I would say, let them show you the numbers. The numbers don’t lie. Let them show you the proposal, show you what the project could save you if you switched over to new fixtures, the breakdown of how quickly it will payback. If the payback is within five to seven years it should be a no-brainer to anybody, whether you’re putting in carpeting or lighting. It would definitely be well worth an hour of your time, especially if you have metal halide lighting. What you’re going to save is going to be phenomenal. You’re going to be a hero within your company for doing it. =

Did this interview help you get some insight on what it's like to work with The Retrofit Companies? You can read more customer stories here, or go ahead and get our guide to help you ask the right questions when choosing a partner for your next lighting project!

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

read more case studies on TRC blog

Interview with Trent Lowe: Allied Parking LED Retrofit

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Recently, we shared a new case study about an LED retrofit project recently completed at Allied Parking's Gateway ramp located downtown Minneapolis. This facility is unique because the first floor is a layover terminal for MTC buses. Keep reading to find out why Trent felt that working with TRC was different than working with other contractors.

Hi, Trent! Can you give us an introduction? Who are you, how are you affiliated with Allied Parking?

I’m Trent Lowe, Area Manager for Allied Parking. We have four parking ramps downtown Minneapolis. I’m in charge of all day-to-day operations, and running business for those four properties. The job includes lots of different duties from overseeing capital improvement, to customer service, to budgeting planning.

I have been with Allied for 2 years, with these properties for six years.


Today we’re talking about the LED parking lot lighting at Gateway ramp, is this the first lighting project you’ve done?

This is the first project we’ve done with TRC.

This parking ramp is a little different than a typical parking ramp. The first floor is actually a bus layover facility. It’s part of Metro Transit, the governmental organization in Minneapolis that oversees busing or public transportation. When the bus drivers have time in between routes, they will park in this area, and the floors above this ground level are a standard parking ramp. The project we did with The Retrofit Companies addressed all of the lighting in that Metro Transit bus layover facility.

They were old lights, probably original to the ramp- about thirty years old. A few years ago we retrofitted the lighting in the top floors of the ramp to fluorescent T8. These lamps in the busing area were still high pressure sodium lamps, so it was on the radar for many years. We wanted to upgrade, but never did. We finally met up with Justin from The Retrofit Companies late summer 2015, and started talking about doing the LED project because of the prices of LED’s coming down. And the process went from there.


How did you connect with TRC?

Justin had worked with Ann, an associate who works with other Allied property locations. Ann put us in touch.


That’s great, we love word of mouth! Can you tell me about working with other vendors versus TRC? Was it different in any way?

I would definitely say the relationship with TRC was a consultant-type relationship. Justin was very helpful. Straightforward, and I trusted that he wasn’t just trying to sell me whatever product was going to give him the best profitability. He took the time to make sure we were comfortable, and that we were getting the best product for our purpose. That was great

The other big thing that I really thank him for was he helped us get connected with the city of Minneapolis initiative which had just started. Because of that we were able to take part in the pilot program for some cost reimbursement for the project, on top of the Xcel Energy rebate. I was not aware of that program from the city, and we would not have gotten it, if it weren’t for Justin and The Retrofit Companies. It was really cool that they helped us with that opportunity to offset more of the costs.


Before the project your parking garage lighting was HID or high pressure sodium… did you have specific goals for this project? What were you expecting as the outcome?

Our only goals were to get something more efficient and to improve lighting in the area because the lighting was very poor and also very inefficient compared to today’s standards. We had seen, especially over the last couple of years, that pricing on LED’s has dropped to make that sort of project more viable. We were definitely excited about the LED technology and that was the direction we were going, but we didn’t have any specific product or goal in mind other than improving efficiency and improving quality of light.


Any surprising results?

We’re surprised that it’s looking better than we were anticipating it would. Otherwise, no surprises really. We’re very impressed with how much it brightened up the facility. It’s a night and day difference, as you can probably see from the photos. It was even better than we expected, but other than that it was exactly what we were expecting.

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How was the installation experience? How were the TRC crews that put the new system in place for you?

They were great, I mean, they did the project much quicker than everyone was telling me. They said it would take over a week, and TRC crews were actually out of there in four full work days. The whole time they were working the bus area was still open; there were still buses going in and out of there. TRC had no issues working around them or staying out of their way. No one was calling to say, “Hey these guys are in the way,” or “This is a problem,” or anything like that. It went very smoothly. The install was effortless, better than expected as far as time line and issues.


Did other vendors approach you with this same project in mind? Tell me about your experience with other vendors on similar projects.

In 2010 or 2011 we retrofitted our facilities to T8 fluorescent, and we had good experiences with other contractors. We did have several people approach us - it seems like lots of lighting companies are always coming in wanting to do projects – so, we did have several bidders with different options for this bus garage project that The Retrofit Companies just completed.


What aspects of the TRC project or bid process made it stand out?

Definitely the personal attention and the feeling from Justin that he was more of a consultant role and was really trying to help us rather than just sell us the products. It was very helpful and established some trust. Also, that he was able to come up with the program from City of Minneapolis. That was huge. A lot of these other firms can get us similar products and the pricing is similar, but TRC did the homework and got us the extra cost sharing program funds that we otherwise wouldn’t have known about. That was very helpful, as well.


Last question: Do you have advice for other companies that are considering a lighting project?

Talk to TRC. (ha-ha)


We’ll take that! But what about advice for people who are just starting their research on energy-efficient lighting projects and contractors or partners to do the work?

The people you’re working with and the working relationship that you have is very important. That can make the project. Obviously, there can be hurdles that are unforeseen and things can go wrong, but the quality of the people that are addressing those issues with you, your partners or contractors in that project, are what’s going to make a project ultimately successful or not - regardless of the variables you can plan for. Make sure you’re working with quality people that you can count on.


Really good advice! Thanks for your time, Trent. Do you have anything to add?

Just to say that we had a very positive experience on the whole project. It went great and it was a pleasure for us.


Thanks again!


Did this interview help you get some insight on what it's like to work with The Retrofit Companies? You can read more customer stories here, or go ahead and get our guide to help you ask the right questions when choosing a partner for your next lighting project!

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

Why Invest in a Lighting Study? (Video Interview)

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Sweet Harvest facility manager, Brian Pleschcourt talks about his experience with an aging and inefficient lighting system, and tells us how the Lighting Redesign Study process worked for his facility.  Read the interview now.

Why did Sweet Harvest decide to replace the lighting in your facility? What were the issues you faced and what were some of your company's goals for the lighting project?

"We knew it was time to replace the lighting in the facility because we had a lot of older existing fixtures with lamp failures and also with ballast issues. We had a general yellowish tint to the building. We wanted to improve the lighting and the quality of lighting for our employees' productivity and safety. Also, to support our green initiatives toward saving energy."

What solutions were evident in the study that you may not have been able to realize without that first planning step of an Investment Grade Audit?

"We saw with the motion sensors and controls on the lighting that we could save more energy. Sweet Harvest foods has a commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and we take that very seriously. We were able to take out the length of the project - as far as payback - a little longer knowing we were making good decisions, environmentally sound decisions. [These were] decisions that would save us money in the long run."

In your opinion, what were the benefits of the lighting study process?

"One of the benefits to the lighting study was that we were able to look at new technologies in the existing building. That [part of the study] allowed us to reduce the amount of fixtures in the layout, lighting exactly to what our needs were going to be. There's no guess work. Everything is calculated and engineered."


Watch the video! 


If you're thinking it's time to invest in a lighting study, get our free e-book today & learn more:

get a smart start to your lighting project

The Surprising Impact of Lighting Redesign


Before their lighting redesign and retrofit, this arena building was underlit and had major shadows.

Rick A Shay Ranch is a horse lover’s sanctuary nestled at the end of a wooded drive in Chisago City, Minnesota. Owner operator Pam Foshay started her ranch nearly 20 years ago, and describes her history with horses as spanning several decades including a notable list of credentials. On the ranch Pam offers lessons, boarding, and training in a range of styles from basic handling and trail riding to dressage and games. The training is physical and mental for all involved. From her description, most of her clients are children and young adults with whom she loves to share her vast experience and cites that best parts of her job are the long relationships she is able to have with riders. She says some of them started with her when they were under ten years old. She has watched them grow, volunteer, and develop their dedication to the hard work of caring for the animals into impressive points of interest when applying for colleges and jobs. Many of them are now in their 20’s and still spend time at Rick A Shay Ranch.

Pam’s primary arena was constructed in the late 1990’s, and at the time, the lights installed were previously used. Some of the primary issues with the old lighting, aside from being inefficient and expensive to operate, included cones of light and many shadows within the arena area. She knew it was time for an upgrade, so she began working with The Retrofit Companies to have a new lighting system designed and installed.

Consultants from The Retrofit Companies designed a system where interior and exterior metal halide and incandescent fixtures were replaced with new LED fixtures. Inside, the 17 existing metal halide fixtures that used over 450 watts each were replaced with 12 new LED fixtures that consume only 102 watts per fixture. With the system redesign five fixtures were removed, and lighting performance is improved. Photometric studies prior to installation allow us to see projected outcomes and determine if a fixture will perform in the manner expected. On the exterior of the building, new LED fixtures with dusk-to-dawn sensors now light the side of the building and the doorways automatically as needed, making early chores easier for her and late departures safer for her clients.


After the project was completed, inside was almost as bright at the outside!

We asked Pam about the other improvements she and her riders have experienced since the project was completed, and were surprised by some of her answers. She told us that people comment on the improved look and that the better lighting is important to the young riders as they learn new skills. Regarding the performance of the system she says, “It’s two times brighter, and no glare. We turn them on, and zing, they’re on!” She noted that it’s nice and bright, and during the winter it’s always a sunny day inside. “It’s inviting, let’s put it that way.” We know that improved lighting does have an impact on people, and has been proven to increase productivity so we asked about the horses. One of the most interesting aspects of the project we think, was Pam’s answer to this inquiry. She says the horses can see better in the new light. They are able to better use all of the arena space since shadows are reduced and they’re more relaxed; in turn this relaxes the riders for a more enjoyable learning experience.


Pam’s new lighting system is anticipated to reduce her annual lighting costs by an astonishing 84%. The LED retrofit qualified for a utility rebate of $4,100, and offers a simple payback of one year and nine months. These remarkable results aren’t exclusive to large projects, or giant warehouse spaces, even smaller businesses can see dramatic improvements with lighting redesign and upgrade projects.

Curious about lighting redesign and project planning? Get our ebook!

Why invest in a lighting study?


Exterior LED Lighting Upgrade

This hotel had inefficient metal halide and incandescent lamps lighting the exterior of their building, with many burned out lamps. The result was a poor quality light that demanded a fair amount of attention and money to maintain. Business managers decided to take action and develop a plan for their exterior LED lighting upgrade with help from The Retrofit Companies.

Before the installation of new lamps and fixtures, TRC project developers came on site to do an 'audit' or count of every type of lamp, wattage, and placement for each that existed in the hotel's exterior lighting system. With this model and insight of the client's goals, the project developer selects new, energy-efficient lighting options to build a new system. Reports are generated to show existing versus proposed lighting systems that calculate energy-savings, environmental impact, and anticipated utility cost reductions - even rebates. Keep reading to see the specifics for this project!



  • Inefficient Metal Halide and Incandescent fixtures retired & recycled
  • Improved light quality
  • Annual savings over $2699
  • Dramatically reduced maintenance costs with long life technology
  • New fixtures contain no mercury
  • LED works great in cold weather


  • Annual lighting cost for exterior lighting reduced by 76%
  • Utility Rebate for this project was $3393
  • kW & kWh reduction = 24%


Total greenhouse gas reduction Metric Tons equivalent to: 19.5

  • Passenger cars not driven for one year 3.8
  • Gallons of gasoline saved 2180
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled 6.78



Interested in more lighting case study examples? We have shared many!

Read more lighting case studies


Xcel Energy LED Retrofit Rebates Expanded


Beginning July 1, 2016 Excel Energy is expanding their LED lighting rebate offerings for retrofit projects and new construction. Significant to this update is the inclusion of another type of 4 foot LED linear tube rebate for retrofit projects valued at $6 per lamp. Benefits for other tube type LED retrofits range from $2 to $10 per tube based on type.

The entire rebate structure for retrofits and new construction projects is available online for you here. This utility rebate program is available to Minnesota business customers of Xcel Energy.

Other rebate types for LED upgrades included in this program:

  • Exterior lighting such as parking garages, wall packs, parking lot, canopy lights and area lights.
  • Refrigeration lighting for freezers and refrigerators in convenience and grocery stores
  • Interior lighting including troffers, linear tubes, screw-ins, hibay and low bay lighting, and exit signs


Why upgrade to LEDs?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs offer the potential for cutting general lighting energy use nearly in half by 2030, saving energy dollars and carbon emissions in the process. Additionally, they offer several advantages over conventional lighting:

  • A long life span, typically up to 50,000 hours or more, which can greatly reduce replacement and maintenance costs
  • They create a bright, shadow-free environment that can improve the safety and comfort of your employees and customers
  • Durability and reliability, they’re less prone to breakage and contain no mercury  
    Read the LED Information Sheet here.


If you're ready to learn more about how to get a rebate for your lighting project, please contact one of our lighting design experts today!

Consult a Lighting Pro

Pros and Cons of T8 LED REPLACEMENTS (Links)


A couple weeks ago we shared a video showing how a T8 LED replacement bulb can catch fire if it is incorrectly installed. Because we have committed to being a vendor neutral company we thought a good approach to understanding this technology, and to help guide your decision making, would be to provide the perspective from many different angles, including a look at how things have changed since the onset of this technology. Here's a link round up of some of the best articles we could find.

"Many believe that the LED tube industry has not matured to a trustworthy level, but manufacturers have improved thermal management, and installations now range from Fortune 100 companies to leading health care institutions to leading higher-education institutions." Read more

This article was published a couple years ago, but "8 Reasons To Consider LED Replacement Bulbs..." still holds strong. Efficiencies, realiability, and product selection have only improved in that time!

When you're ready to make the change, we recommend working with a lighting design professional; however, you may still be interested in how to chooseT12 and T8 LED replacements. EarthLED covers five important considerations in this article.


Should You Replace Your T8 Fluorescent Lamps with T8 LED Tubes?


We like this article because it digs into details, outlines hands-on testing of a couple popular LED T8 lamps, and discusses the strong points and pitfalls of them.

When choosing between LED and Fluorescent T8 configurations, it may be helpful to consider the ten problems with fluorescent lighting outlined here!

Here's a simple tutorial, How to Install a T8 LED Replacement...and if you haven't seen our video, this is how NOT to install it!

There are safety concerns with T8 LED fluorescent lighting, this article discusses some of the original pitfalls of the technology. We believe that advances in LED technology has been dramatic since that time; however, concerns still ring true today in some respects. "From our perspective, many of the retrofit LED lamps in the market are unsafe. The retrofit tube model with integrated driver just doesn’t work in a secure or reliable way." Be sure you know your system is compatible!

Find out if you're a good candidtate for a retrofit by learning about some common lighting problems:Do You Have Lighting Problems?


Retrofit Case Study: Interior and Exterior Lighting Upgrades


This church and school decided it was time to update the look of their facility and invest in energy-efficiency by implementing this full facility lighting upgrade and retrofit. The areas addressed in this project ranged from office and classrooms, to a gymnasium/auditorium, and a sanctuary space that required a dynamic lighting control system.

While some fixtures were in fine condition, others needed to be replaced. One major project requirement was to be sure that all the lighting was appropriate for the spaces, since this building had such varied spaces and uses. TRC lighting consultants built a custom lighting system for each area to maximize energy savings. Another goals for this project was to streamline technology, remove all inefficient lighting like T12 fluorescent and aging CFL lamps, and to replace those with more efficient T8 fluorescent and LED options. The result is that the client does not need to stock as many varieties of lamps now, because more fixtures are using the same lamp type, or a long life technology (LED) was installed.

Take a look how this institution is using LED updates to control costs, mitigate maintenance expenses, AND save energy! 


Environmental Impact (Carbon Savings)

  • Total Greenhouse Gas Reduction, 40.2 Metric Tons
  • 7.9 Passenger cars not driven for one year
  • 4,507.8 Gallons of gasoline saved 
  • 0.4 Acres of forest preserved from deforestation
  • 14.01 Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled

The new exterior fixtures are more subdued, they blend into the surroundings and they protect the night sky by directing light only to the ground and not upward as the old globes did. The structure of the new fixtures also prevent light pollution by avoiding any upward directional light.



  • Inefficient T12 & CFL fixtures retrofitted
  • All old lamps removed & responsibly recycled
  • Color temperatures unified in each area for a better look
  • New lighting layout for maximum efficiency in sanctuary
  • Decreased kW& kWh by ~60% overall
  • Project rebate over $13,00
  • Annual savings over $6,600 / nearly $550 a month!
  • New LED system in sanctuary is programmable
  • Cut maintenance costs with long life technology
  • Modern LED exterior fixtures protect night sky

 We urge you to read about more lighting project case studies, or get our e-book "How Much Does a Retrofit Cost?"

 Read more lighting case studies

Hazards of LED T8 Lamps Video


We believe that a lighting system should be functional and efficient. This is the obvious and most intended goal for retrofit projects we do, and we know many options are available. Knowing you have so many choices, we always share the future risks and maintenance scenarios to help our clients make informed decisions for the best long term results.

One common retrofit includes integrated LED lamps to eliminate the need for a ballast. This might be the right solution for your facility, but this video illustrates the future care and education required of each individual tasked with maintaining a lighting system. There is a large potential for injury for an uninformed individual maintaining these systems. LED T8 hazards exist, and a simple oversight can cause serious damage.

Watch here to see how two common mistakes are made in maintaining integrated LED T8 fixtures.


 For more information on energy-efficient lighting design and starting your project off right, start by asking the important questions:

11 Questions you should ask a lighting contractor

VIDEO of LED Motion Sensor Test in Warehouse


The video here shows the fixtures in action that we discussed in this warehouse lighting redesign case study. This space was redesigned to include energy-efficient LED fixtures on a system of motion sensors that control the on/off of fixtures as people and equipment, like the forklift seen in the video, move through the spaces. Take a look to see the both the rapid movement and slow movement tests.


 For more information on energy-efficient lighting design and starting your project off right, read our e-book to determine if an investment grade audit or lighting design study makes sense for you:

E-book: Why should you invest in a lighting study?

Case Study: Test Fixtures & Exterior Lighting

We're sharing another LED retrofit case study story today. For this exterior lighting project, the client is a company with facilities located nationwide. Their savings goals take into consideration the entire network of facilities, but we can see in this single project area how much of an impact that an HID to LED retrofit can make, visually and in energy savings. Another unique aspect of this story is that because this is a multi-unit business, the client wanted to work toward a unified lighting solution to be used across all their locations. This project began with a lighting project design, and was confirmed effective after a real world test install. I spoke with TRC's lighting project and design consultant to learn more.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the Beta test that you did? 
TRC Lighting Consultant: We started this process in 2013 and installed a pair of 90 watt test fixtures in the west side of the lot. They performed well but the customer decided they wanted a more dramatic increase in light levels and the 136 watt fixture was used. It was the fixture we used in the final project, seen in the photos.

Did TRC do any models or photometric layouts before hanging the test fixtures?
TRC Lighting Consultant: 
We went through several photometric layouts using the client's CAD files from original construction. TRC sometimes builds a photometric model, but we can use other CAD files, if the client has them. Through this process we achieved a well distributed light level in the model and selected the first fixture to try in our real world test.

How many fixtures were in the test?  
TRC Lighting Consultant: The initial mini-test was the two 90 watt fixtures. Once we decided that the 136 watt fixtures gave the desired outcome [more light], 58 of those fixtures were installed in their corporate location as the beta test for all company locations.

How long did the fixtures stay up?
TRC Lighting Consultant: They are there for the duration. These fixtures will remain in place as they are satisfied with the outcome.

Did you test more than one fixture type?
TRC Lighting Consultant:  We used just one fixture type, but experimented with lower wattage and optimized to what you see here.

Will TRC install these same fixtures at all the client's locations now? 
TRC Lighting Consultant:  That this is the best lighting solution for the client and their needs, is the hope and dream confirmed by this test. When they are ready to upgrade the other locations will depend on rebate structures and utility rate plans, and how those factors influence the overall project viability. TRC builds the project models with the fixture we know will work best for them, and after taking all the financial factors into consideration, the client will decide which project locations make the most financial sense for their business.

I also briefly spoke to the client, we asked why were they motivated to do this project & what has been the response to this dramatic change? The client said they knew an update was needed, but the beta test convinced them what a noticable diffference they would see by upgrading the lighting system. The guest's responses were also very strong, "I feel safer, WOW!"

Below are some sets of before & after photos and project details, notice the rebate the client recevied for this project:





  • Replaced 400 Watt Metal Halide Area Lights with 135 watt LED fixtures with custom optics package.
  • Existing lighting had multiple hot and cold spots.
  • The new lighting offered superior distribution giving users of the parking lot a sense of confidence and security. 
  • The fixtures installed also offer L95 Light levels at 100,000 hours.
  • New system eliminates any maintenance costs for 10 years.
  • 70% reduction in energy usage and utility costs.
  • Project qualified for over almost $13k in utility rebates.



If you are interested in more information about outdoor lighting safety & savings, keep reading.

 Outdoor Lighting, LED Retrofit Case Study

Instant 400 watt reduction with led retrofit

This recent lighting retrofit case study comes from a larger project completed by The Retrofit Companies. We thought this was not only a visually impactful set of before & after photos, but energy use was reduced over 400 watts for each fixture replaced!

The existing system (Before) was constructed for this atrium area, totalling 8 fixtures. Each fixture contained one 400 watt metal halide lamp. As you can see, those lamps had degraded and the light quality was suffering. We see the furthest left fixture with a new LED retrofit giving a bright white light, and the next two fixtures casting a blue-greenish light. A very noticeable difference. And even though the light quality in these HID (metal halide) lamps had decreased over time, they still used 454 watts per fixture.



Below we see the finished area, entirely retrofitted with LED fixtures. The light cast onto the ceiling of this atrium is bright white and evenly dispersed. Now each fixture uses only 45 watts, and has an expected life of 50,000 hours. Since these fixtures are operating 24/7, that means that they should remain maintenance-free for over five and a half years!


If you liked this, read more project case studies!

Read more lighting case studies

Lighting Redesign Using LED Technology

A lot of the time, we judge lighting projects on the very dramatic before and after photos we see. That's certainly a very interesting and immediate way to judge success of a project, does it look better afterward? Well, not all projects look dramatically different before and after, even in the case of this lighting redesign. However, the results for this project are dramatic and easily measured. Keep reading and find out how this facility is saving almost $5k in lighting costs and more than $1k in anticipated maintenance expenses every year.

LED Lighting before and after

This warehouse facility originally housed 153 T8 High Bay fixtures, utilizing 32 watt and 25 watt lamps in 4 and 6 lamp configurations. The maintenance team was responsible for nearly 800 individual lamps. Visible in the before photo above, you can see the space was fairly well lit, but there were some shadows on the ceiling. In the after photo, you can see that new lighting in the same warehouse seems slightly brighter. The stunning thing about this comparison is that a total of 82 individual fixtures were removed from the design to decrease energy usage while still delivering a high quality light to allow tasks to be safely completed in this space! Additionally, a new controls system was installed to better manage how and when these lights are in use.


  • 6L T8 32 watt and 25 watt fixture configurations were retired & recycled
  • 82 unnecessary fixtures removed from use!
  • New LED lighting design improves efficiency and light quality
  • Decreased kWh 79% overall - incredible!!
  • Project rebate $6,500
  • Annual savings over $4,758
  • New LED fixtures with programmable sensors to reduce burn hours
  • New fixtures have High Bay or Aisle optics for best light distribution
  • Estimated savings of $1,300 in annual maintenance expenses, new fixtures have 5 yr warranty!
  • New fixtures contain no mercury
  • New system integrates a control system with motion sensors! See the video.


CARBON SAVINGS: Total greenhouse gas reduction Metric Tons equivalent to: 30

  • Passenger cars not driven for one year 5.9
  • Gallons of gasoline saved 3,358.1
  • Acres of forest preserved from deforestation 0.3 
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled 10.44

Lighting Redesign Before and After Photos

In this second set of before and after photos, we see a similar result. The change is not too drastic, but we see light filling the room a little more and the ceiling is brighter in the After photo. Warehouse lighting varies from facility to facility, so you shouldn't sign on for any cookie-cutter project; look for solutions that fit the work you do. To achieve the goals set forward by this organization, TRC completed an investment grade audit prior to the project. Thanks for reading this lighting retrofit case study and redesign summary. To find more information about Investment Grade Audits, you can read our blog post on that, or download the ebook!

E-book: Why should you invest in a lighting study?  

Product Recall : SubstiTUBE® IS T8 LED Lamps


Fortunately, we don't have too many instances of product recall, but TRC will now be sharing these product updates here when we receive them. If you use this product in an LED retrofit we recommend inspecting your lamps to see if they have been recalled. 

From the Sylvania website:

A voluntary recall has been announced by OSRAM SYLVANIA for certain  SubstiTUBE® IS T8 LED lamps (Model Numbers 73312-1 and 73315-1 only). These lamps may overheat and melt, causing a potential burn hazard. Please stop using this product immediately.

No other SubstiTUBE IS products are affected by this recall.

The model number will appear on both the lamp label and the carton label.

For assistance from the TRC team, please call us directly at 800-795-1230 or contact us online.


Learn About TRC's Vendor Neutral Product Offerings

Function Over Finance: Lighting Project Priorities Are Shifting


The Retrofit Companies has been in the lighting industry for more than 20 years, and we have witnessed many changes in technology, trends, and the goals our clients wish to achieve through their lighting projects. The most recent trend has been a shift away from the idea that clients buy lighting projects based only on energy savings needed to achieve financial savings. Payback and return on investment have become less important in modern lighting upgrade projects, while building sustainable, controllable, maintenance-saving lighting systems have become factors which weigh just as heavily in the decision making process as finances. 

Technological advances in lighting is a primary reason for this shift. The malleable nature of LED technology and the ease with which controllability can be achieved now that prices for both of these technologies are attainable throughout the market has made the largest impact. Lighting designers and clients can now affordably meet their goals of building sustainable, controllable, maintenance-saving lighting systems.

In this project case study a smaller business with a large industrial/manufacturing space suffered from inefficient technology and almost no controllability. The largest area of this space was lit with T12 and metal halide and had no control function aside from a single breaker switch – all on or all off.


With their retrofit project, this facility upgraded technologies to T8 and LED, and added sensors for additional control. They were able to meet their maintenance, sustainability, and controlability goals successfully.


In this case, the simple payback is over 8 years, but the monthly energy savings is an anticipated $200+ for this small business and they are able to light only areas that are being used. This savings does not include maintenance savings for the inevitable expense of repairing an aging system and purchasing the discontinued T12 products required to keep it in working order if they had not completed this lighting upgrade.


  • Inefficient T12 fixtures retired & recycled
  • 40 unnecessary fixtures removed from use!
  • New lighting layout for maximum efficiency
  • Decreased kWh 69% overall
  • Project rebate $2,213
  • Annual savings over $2829 / nearly $235 a month!
  • New system offers sensors and upgraded controls
  • Cut maintenance costs, new fixtures have 5 yr warranty!
  • New fixtures contain no mercury


  • Sustainable, Energy Saving LED
  • Rated 50K hours, L70
  • Dimming
  • Even Light Distribution, >80CRI 


Total greenhouse gas reduction Metric Tons equivalent to: 27.3

  • Passenger cars not driven for one year 5.3
  • Gallons of gasoline saved 3,057.4
  • Acres of forest preserved from deforestation 0.27 
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled 9.5

With this example, we can see a how this approach to building lighting projects that save more than money-via-energy-savings is an evolution in our industry and is an approach that can be applied to lighting projects in most industries. However, the environmental and financial savings are still significant, as evidenced in the project summary above. We advise anyone considering a lighting project or upgrade to look beyond the financial savings potential and also consider other intangible savings opportunities that arise when smart design is implemented. Click below for more case studies on our blog.

 Read more lighting case studies

How a Single Variable Can Ruin a Lighting Project

In this comparison we're going to look at one promising lighting project, designed with energy-efficient LED fixtures to replace aging and costly CFL fixtures. However, the initial outcome of the project was horrible, and didn't give nearly the results the client was looking for when they decided to do a lighting upgrade. The premise of this story is that it's important to do your homework for every project, to look at photometrics, understand the products that are being specified in your project, and know how they will perform in real life. This knowledge is paramount to project success. Let's examine the project and how the tiniest change in a fixture almost ruined it.

Here's the before photo of the project area, a gymnasium. The existing CFL high bay lighting system was 66 total fixtures, each containing eight lamps, four ballasts, and using 42 watts per lamp. Fixtures are designed on a fairly dense grid, and the light quality appears to be pretty good, but we know these fixtures are burning a ton of energy. This system also required more regular maintenance than an LED system would require; aside from the energy savings, maintenance savings was a big consideration for doing this project. Even though this isn't a very old system and was engineered to be efficient, no consideration was given to the cost of future maintenance.  With lamp prices exceeding $15 and ballast prices in the $20s, we know how much it must have cost to maintain.  


A new lighting system was designed using LED fixtures. Successfully, half of the fixtures were removed, light levels were increased in the new lighting design, and this customer was set to save $6,700 in lighting costs annually. Looking at this second photo, you can probably tell something was wrong with this installation, but whatThe correct fixture was installed, after all. The answer is the LED optics, the way the light is directed from the fixture, was incorrect. The system was designed to put a specific amount of light onto the floor, without considering vertical footcandles. These incorrect optics led to a scalloped effect on the wall. You can see in the next photo, the incorrect optics are casting these cave-like shadows, and make the room look awfully under lit. Keep in mind, this fixture is the same fixture specified, technically: it reduces energy usage by 65%, has a long life to reduce maintenance costs, and is an "LED hi-bay" fixture. After some research and working with project developers, it was determined that a low bay optic would provide must more uniform lighting all the way up the wall.


The point of sharing this story is to say that the success of any lighting project is in the details. In the final photo below, you can see the project area with the same fixture used in the second photo, but now with the correct optics. It's the project envisioned from the start, with successful results. 

Imagine in this scenario, the same project is being presented by two different lighting contractors. The quotes presented to the customer both promise dramatic energy savings and reduced maintenance costs that match the project goals. Imagine further that you were purchasing this lighting project, and that each quote you received is equal in cost. How would you know which project to purchase? Looking at the results photos for incorrect optics and the final after photo here, which would you want? This is an issue that can happen any time two energy-efficient lighting designs are presented by different contractors. In this example, the only variable in the final results is one digit in a fixture code. The fixture manufacturer, layout, installation, and project area are all the same. 


We're sharing this project with you to highlight the extreme importance of comparing apples-to-apples when you compare lighting projects. Here are our top three tips to be sure you are making good comparisons:

1) Compare the total number of fixtures being installed on the proposal to the number of existing fixtures. Are these numbers the same on each quote?
2) Ask for photometrics for your project. This will tell you the existing and anticipated foot candles in your project area. Which proposal's photometric layout meets your project goals?
3) Investigate and compare the cut sheets for the proposed fixtures to be installed. Are you really comparing the same variables? (wattage, lumens, and fixture life)

Read more by downloading "11 Questions You Should Ask a Lighting Contractor" or our ebook, "How Much Does a Retrofit Cost?" for more insight on project planning for your lighting upgrade.

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

How much does a retrofit cost?

Product Recall : Cree® LED T8 replacement lamps


Fortunately, we don't have too many instances of product recall, but TRC will now be sharing these product updates here when we receive them. If you use this product in an LED retrofit we recommend inspecting your lamps to see if they have been recalled. 

If your Cree LED T8 replacement lamps were purchased between August 2014 and April 2015 or you believe they may be failing, please review full recall information here.

You may contact the manufacturer here:

Cree customer service toll-free at (888) 338-7883 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, email at or online at and click on “Recalls” or go to for more information.


For assistance from the TRC team, please call us directly at 800-795-1230 or contact us online.


Learn About TRC's Vendor Neutral Product Offerings

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?"

Lighting Before and After // Manufacturing Facility

Northern Iron & Machine, a state-of-the-art manufacturing, casting, machining, and finishing company located on St. Paul, Minnesota’s east side, is updating the inefficient lighting in their 107 year old facility this year with The Retrofit Companies [TRC] as their lighting expert.

Due to the nature of their business, Northern Iron & Machine required a fixture that would handle a more than 100 degree Fahrenheit ambient temperature. They wanted to redesign their lighting system with a long-term solution for optimum efficiency and minimal maintenance. The Electrical Maintenance Supervisor at Northern Iron, Tom Zarnke, had spent several years testing many lighting technologies and fixture configurations on his own, looking for the perfect lighting solution. He thought he had it until TRC lighting specialist, Allison Akre, presented him with an LED solution that met all of the project requirements, and included integrated lighting controls.

hid low bay fixture retrofit

LED Aisle Retrofit


In these low bay areas, the facility had inconsistent color temperature and shadows as seen in the before photo above. Traditional T8 or T5 vapor tight fixtures would suffer in the facility's 100-degree environment, and open fixtures would get dirty too quickly, requiring too much maintenance.

In the after photo, shadows are lessened, the color of the lighting is consistent, and the new LED vapor tight fixtures stay clean, cool, and consume just 50 watts each.

400 Watt Metal Halide Retrofit




In these high bay areas, the facility had 30-plus-year-old HID fixtures. Many were severely degraded, giving minimal light while other were completely failed and gave no light. These HID fixtures also consumed 454 watts per fixture. The new LED fixtures in the After photo offer integrated controls, daylight sensors for daylight harvesting, dimming capabilities, and they consume just 190 watts each.


  • The project is estimated to be complete by mid-April 2014.
  • Projected kWh reduction is 79%
  • kW savings 70%
  • The new lighting solution will save nearly 80% in utility costs annually

With TRC’s design capabilities, Akre was able to secure $12,500 in study fee reimbursement from Xcel Energy. That reimbursement, in conjunction with the project rebate of $31,000 (also from Xcel Energy) means Northern Iron & Machine qualified for a total of $43,500 in incentives.


Interested in more information about lighting retrofits and planning your project? Get our e-book now!


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


Wireless LED Controls, Recycling Grant Program & the Impact of Irresponsible Recycling


This manufacturer offers a wirelessly controlled LED system that looks pretty cool. “Another useful function of smart lights is security. Instead of leaving a few lights on for the entirety of your vacation, in the hopes of fooling a very unobservant criminal, you can control them from the beach…” If you’re interested in a commercial version, let us know!


T12 lamps and ballasts are no longer manufactured. So, “why do more than 500 million T12 lamps remain in commercial buildings, according to the Department of Energy (DOE, 2010), and why is approximately nearly one in three linear fluorescent lamps sold a T12 (reported by National Electrical Manufacturer Association member sales data for Q3, 2011)?”


Twin Cities group Community POWER has a recycling collection grant program! “The Community POWER Grant Program funds waste reduction projects. Neighborhood organizations, schools, churches, senior citizen groups, youth organizations, and civic groups are invited to apply for funds for projects that will reach individuals who are not currently involved in waste reduction practices.”


The human impact of irresponsible recycling is sadly given a face in this photo essay.  “Injuries like burns, untreated wounds, lung problems, eye damage, and back problems go hand in hand with chronic nausea, anorexia, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems. Almost everyone suffers from insomnia. Smoke and invisible toxins (especially cadmium) harm the careless workers because they often don't know about the risks and walk around in flimsy footwear like flip-flops. Most of them die from cancer while in their 20s.”


Maybe you’ve never considered how a city-wide lighting retrofit could affect the artistic integrity of a place; we thought this story about why “Hollywood will never look the same” was compelling.  “Every night exterior LA-shot film previous to this change is rendered a sort of anthropological artifact, an historical document of obsolete urban infrastructure.”


Americans generated the most e-waste of all countries last year, at 66 pounds per person!  In total “generating 9.4 million metric tons of e-waste, followed by China with 7.3 million metric tons.” 


Learn how to find a responsible electronics recycling company

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!

Need more answers? Our staff is available for consultations:

Schedule a call with our lighting consultant


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.


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Even Shaky Cell Phone Photos Tell a Story About This Lighting Retrofit

LED Round Panel Retrofit

A picture is worth a thousand words, so these shaky cell phone photos are definitely worth the four or five hundred it takes to tell you about the lighting work TRC completed at this facility, a professional agency in southern Minnesota.

As you can see from the photos above this business recently retrofitted their lighting. You can see that in the photo on the left, the lighting is not only slightly outdated, but things look sort of green and dim (before). In the photo on the right, things are looking brighter and the color seems more natural (after). Look at the areas below the white "Before & After" tag line for a closer inspection. You can see how the desks and file cabinets on the left are tinged green, and on the right they appear to be brown and beige. This is a result of improved color rendering offered by LED lighting. The "before" lighting is Metal Halide lamps, which are known for their off colors as they age.

Of course, the better color rendering and improved look of the space is just one reason for this retrofit, another reason is dramatic savings. So, what about savings? Before their lighting project, the agency was using Metal Halide lamps, each fixture consuming over 250 watts and costing just over $4,200 annually to operate. The agency knew that this energy-efficiency project was going to pay off.

Here’s how we did it.

After meeting with the decision makers at this agency, TRC’s lighting consultant learned:

1) that the agency wanted to save money on their energy bills
2) they wanted to replace their lighting fixtures for an updated look
3) and to also have a better quality of light

After taking time to complete a lighting audit, the TRC consultant found a solution for the agency that would meet all of their criteria, and returned to the agency to present a full lighting redesign using the seriously energy-saving, circular LED panels you see in the “after” image.

These LED panels use just a fraction of the more than 250 watts consumed by the old metal halide fixtures. They take only 45 watts per fixture and by redesigning the lighting layout, the lighting consultant was able to reduce the number of overall fixtures required to successfully achieve the second and third criteria that the agency presented as their requirement for a successful project.

Here’s what this retrofit meant to the agency’s bottom line:
  • Estimated reduction of lighting costs by $3,700 annually

  • Utility rebate for this project was just over $2,400

  • Total greenhouse gas reduction (Metric Tons of CO2) is 25 tons

  • Which is equivalent to saving 2,800 gallons of gasoline

  • Or 8.71 Tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled

Want to know more about LED options for your retrofit project? Just ask us!  Schedule a Consult Today!

LED Lighting History & Facts: An Abbreviated Wiki

Chances are you aren’t living in the dark, so you’ve seen and read all about LED lighting technology, how quickly it is changing the face of lighting, and you have likely noticed how expensive this solid state lighting can be. We wanted to share a short blog entry about the history of Light Emitting Diodes and some of the more pertinent technology facts that were consolidated from Wiki sources. We aren’t physicists, but we still think lighting can be interesting. Especially, when the technology is this cool.


By 1994, technology of the light emitting diode had progressed beyond red and orange-colored lights and the “high brightness” or blue LED was developed, which lead quickly to the development of the white LED we see today. The efficiency and light output of LED lighting has risen exponentially, approximately doubling every 36 months since the 1960’s. 
In 1927, Russian inventor Losev discovers LED’s, but has no practical use for them. Over the course of a few decades, no huge headway is made, but in 1962 the General Electric Company refines the first visible LED which is red in color. Just shortly after this, LED is put into its first practical applications and was used as indicator lighting in laboratory machinery and electronics. Price was a major prohibitive factor for LED lighting even then, so it was not widely used.

LED technology boasts long lamp life, very low wattages and operational costs, and is used widely in many applications. In 2013, expect to see solid state lighting artistically incorporated into interior design and sculptural elements in places such as hotels and common areas of high end business offices. But more so, look for increased usage of LED technology in exterior applications, such as parking lots, parking ramps and street lights. The light quality of LED brings safety and efficiency to these applications. The improvements in linear LED technology means you can look to this lighting type for solutions to replace common lensed troffers and parabolic lighting often found in offices and retail locations.

As an added bonus, many in the industry believe the trend will be to make pricing for LED products more attainable, financially. This is the result of the leveling off of that exponential growth discussed in the previous section. It is believed a certain point of diminishing returns is near and that that reliable LED technology, coupled with efficiency requirements will lead the market to create products that work well, are energy efficient and no longer as cost prohibitive. Many utility companies do offer rebates for customers upgrading to LED lighting.



  • LED lighting technology is known to work better in cooler temperatures

  • The diodes rarely fail suddenly, or ‘burn out’ in the conventional way we know incandescent lights to do. Instead LED’s gradually loose light overtime and become less bright.

  • LED’s give more lumens (light) per watt than incandescent lights

  • LED lamps can turn off and on in an instant, and are not affected by “cycling” or frequent off/on like fluorescent technology, which is known to loose life as a result of cycling.

  • LED gives off less UV and infrared (heat) than other light sources, making it safer in archival applications such as museums.

  • LED is solid state technology meaning it is more difficult to damage via external shock, unlike incandescents or compact fluorescents which can break in situations with a lot of vibration.


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