The Retrofit Companies Blog

Rebate Cuts Proposed by Xcel Energy


led stock photoAre you planning a lighting upgrade project this year? 

Your rebates through Xcel Energy may be changing as soon as September, 2018. 




Will these changes impact me?

New rebate levels have been proposed in Minnesota to the Xcel Energy Commercial Lighting Efficiency Program. If approved, these changes may go into effect as early as September 1, 2018. If you are planning a lighting project this year, the new details of Xcel's rebate program may impact you.

More information on Xcel Energy's rebate programs can be found here; if you have questions or want to clarify how this will impact your project with TRC, be sure to contact your account manager or call us at 800-795-1230.



xcel rebate proposed changes
Rebate Categories with Proposed Changes:
  • LED troffers
  • LED exterior lighting
  • Lighting Controls
  • Shelf-stocking LED lamps
  • Fluorescents


Download Xcel Energy Rebate Changes






Lakeville School District - Lighting Case Study


Lakeville Schools (MN) and The Retrofit Companies, Inc. (TRC) recently partnered to discuss the district’s 2 and 10 year plans at Eastview Elementary School. Both of the strategic plans included goals of implementing energy saving lighting solutions across the entire district. Specifically, the 2 and 10 year plans included exterior lighting along with a parking lot that needed to be completely replaced. The goal was to complete these projects by the end of summer 2017 before the start of the school year. These projects were a combination of replacing old, damaged light poles, with new, and replacing all of the existing inefficient exterior lighting. This school would be the first of many completed during the first two years of their strategic plan. With a goal of improving light quality, increasing light levels, while creating a standard technology for the school district, Sara Guyette of Lakeville Schools and LuAnn Verduzco of TRC developed a plan to perform a study on the exterior lighting along with a district wide study to replace all interior and exterior existing metal-halide inefficient and unsafe fixtures. Partnering with TRC, Lakeville School District was able to make an educated decision to properly address their lighting concerns while implementing energy savings.


BEFORE: Parking lot with light pollution


The district lacked a focused energy-efficient plan that could be utilized across the board, and with multiple goals in their strategic plans, Sara and the Board saw the value in partnering with lighting design and energy efficiency experts at TRC to help them address their needs.


AFTER: Parking Lot with no light pollution


Lakeville partnered with TRC to conduct the district wide Investment Grade Audit to determine the full extent of their lighting needs. Photometric layouts were also provided to Lakeville Schools to ensure industry standard light levels would be installed and would meet their long term strategic goals. Through the study, Lakeville decided to move forward and requested competing bids using the equal scope of work, fixture specifications, and performance standards. TRC was awarded the work and recommended the proper solutions and design expertise for their parking lot and exterior lighting as the first phase of their district wide strategic plan.

Lakeville photometrics.pngEastview Elementary School Exterior Photometrics

Implementing the project presented certain challenges across the board, including construction deadlines and project management for all key partners involved in the total project. With a parking lot replacement, there is a strategic plan involved all the way from coordination of materials, the architect, the sub-contractors and the building engineers being available to provide access to the building when needed.  Some unforeseen circumstances came up during the project, but TRC and all other partners involved were able to work an alternate schedule to ensure the project was wrapped up before the start of the school year. Having confidence and trust in the vendors and contractors that you use for projects is vital to timely implementation and problem solving.


BEFORE: Basketball Court 


  • Replace and recycle all metal halide and other inefficient fixtures
  • Drastically improved light quality, distribution and levels
  • Decreased lighting energy costs by 44%
  • Annual energy savings of $2,500.00/yr.
  • Simple payback of 7.35 years
  • Cut maintenance costs, new fixtures have 5 yr warranty, minimum of 10 year life rating on new fixture components
  • New fixtures contain no mercury and are much better for the environment


AFTER: Basketball Court


  • Carbon Savings: greenhouse gas reduction metric tons equivalent to 22.7
  • Passenger cars not driven for one year: 4.4
  • Gallons of gasoline saved: 2,540.50
  • Acres of forest preserved from deforestation: 0.22
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled: 7.90


Schedule a call with our lighting consultant

What are the other benefits of upgraded lighting?


Since starting this blog, The Retrofit Companies has worked to share our lighting retrofit case studies and stories about lighting retrofit projects that address a range of topics beyond energy-savings and efficiency. However, we know your time is valuable, and you probably don't have an hour or two to find each one and read them all. So, this post summarizes a few topics that are very relevant in today's lighting project landscape. Each of these projects started saving money and energy as soon as the project was completed, but they also address other project goals. Keep reading to see six lighting design and retrofit projects that summarize a few priorities, aside from efficiency and financial savings, that clients have brought to us when we discussed their project goals.

1 FUNCTION: "We need a lighting system that just works better."

It doesn't happen all the time, but sometimes clients come to us looking for a lighting solution to make their lighting system work better for them, overall. In this case study, the facility needed a sustainable, controllable, maintenance-saving lighting system. The existing system in their large production area was all on or all off, no controllability at all. It was also using outdated T12 fluorescent technology. The solution was a combo T8 and LED design with dimming and sensors on the control system. CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE

2 ONE PIECE AT A TIME: "It's better for us if we don't retrofit EVERYTHING NOW."

Sometimes, a client doesn't have the budget to do an entire project all at once, but they know that a strategic plan of attack can still have dramatic results. When 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 expenses. CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE


This one is a little more difficult to summarize in under a hundred words, so if this applies to you we recommend clicking through, and also downloading the ebook about investment grade audits. Here's the 10,000 foot view: a lighting redesign project was put together, but one digit in a part number was off, and the project came out a failure. Using the SAME fixture, with correct optics a second time, yielded positive results. Now imagine if this were your project and you were in a position to compare multiple fixtures, from multiple vendors. How could you be sure you're getting the results you want and need? CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE

4 WE ARE EFFICIENT: "We already have T8 fixtures, why upgrade?"

Not every project results in dramatically improved lighting, and impressive before and after photos. You may even have a relatively efficient T8 fluorescent system in place now; however, improvements in LED and controls systems can yield impressive results in other ways. In this warehouse's energy efficient redesign project, the customer reduced the number of fixtures in use, decreased maintenance, improved controls with sensors, and of course, they are saving almost $5k in annual lighting costs. CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE

5 SAFETY, MAINTENANCE & AESTHETICS: Thoughtful design results keep on giving!

Here a client came to us with an idea in mind, he even had a fixture chosen and several goals to achieve. Read this one to see how a custom design improved energy-efficiency AND improved the look of the fixtures, reduced maintenance expenses, and improved safety on site. Remember that great planning and utilizing the correct LED optics in your new design vs simply retrofitting one-for-one with an efficient fixture can bring your project to the next level and meet a range of goals! CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE

6 SOLUTION FOR MULtIPLE LOCATIONS: Again with the importance of planning? Yes.

This last one has some really impressive before & after photos, but the importance of noting this is to showcase one last time how planning ahead will yield the best results. We interview a client about their decision to beta test a solution for multiple locations nationwide, and hear from the lighting rep on the project about some aspects of planning. CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE

If you're on the decision-making road to energy efficient lighting projects and planning, we recommend arming yourself with as much info as you can so you can ask smart questions. 

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

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

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?  

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

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!

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