The Retrofit Companies Blog

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! 

 

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Lighting Retrofit - Vs - Lighting Redesign

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As our company approaches its 25th business anniversary, we know this for sure: no two lighting projects are the same. So, when you're presented with several options for a lighting project, how can you know which is the best option for you - lighting retrofit or lighting redesign? In this post, we're going to step through three common approaches to lighting projects and discuss each in detail. First, let's talk a little bit about why all projects are so different.

YOUR BUSINESS IS YOURS. YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT.

You know that your business needs may be similar to another company of your same size in the same industry, but you also know that you've got differing needs. Here are some factors you should consider and questions you should be able to answer as you consider whether or not to upgrade your lighting: 

  • Do you know if you over or under lit?
  • Do specific areas of your process have different lighting needs?  For example, in manufacturing an inspection line and a warehouse/staging area would require different types or amounts of lighting. In an office setting you may have presentation spaces and work spaces where different tasks take place.
  • Are areas of your space unoccupied for long periods of time?  If you are not using any lighting controls currently, this would be a great place to consider implementing a controls system.
  • What does the future of your business look like? Do you have expansion plans or anticipate a change to your layout? 
  • Do you need a lighting system that is capable of growing with you?  By designing with a smart fixture that can do more than what we’ll tell it to do, you can always adjust the light level as your needs change. (This applies to most LED options.)
  • Because each business is different these are just some of the variables that are taken into consideration when planning or designing a lighting system.

WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?

Understanding your business needs is the first step in project planning. Your needs may be simple and direct and your business may not be changing, or you may be a company in the midst of growth and you envision many changes in the future to your business process. Three general options exist; we're calling them "Good," "Better," "Best."

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OPTION 1: GOOD 
REPLACE THE LAMPS

This option has a low up-front cost and results in minimal waste. Replacing lamps is generally a quick and simple solution, energy-efficient lamps are relatively easy to find. There is typically a good simple payback with reduction of wattage per lamp. With this simple scope of work, the rebate is also straightforward. In most cases rebates are per lamp, but this depends on the type.

This option will have a shorter over all system life than most fixture replacements; it will result in higher future maintenance costs. Replacing lamps will not necessarily address inconsistent light levels, improve performance, or reduce shadows that currently exist in your lighting. This option is not recommended for rugged or hazardous environments.

OPTION 2: BETTER
REPLACE FIXTURES 1-FOR-1

Nearly half of the projects evaluated will have a one-for-one fixture replacement solution. This solution is pretty likely to result in a successful project, and has been a pretty standard approach in the lighting industry for years. Again, the scope of work is pretty simple, and so is the rebate structure. Rebates are typically per fixture, and removing some fixtures can result in a higher rebate. Replacing fixtures in their existing locations also means a lower up-front cost to this project type because you do not have a cost associated to wiring fixtures to new locations.

With this sort of project, we have seen results where light levels went from 30 to 100 foot-candles in a gymnasium. Without controls, or ability to adjust light levels, a lot of energy is wasted to over-light this space when no events are happening in it. In addition to being over lit, keeping these unneeded fixtures will result in higher costs for energy and higher maintenance costs.

This solution may work just fine for half of projects as we noted, however; the best projects are given more consideration. Redesign planning is where a lighting design professional will outshine a standard electrical contractor.

OPTION 3: BEST 
LIGHTING REDESIGN

Lighting redesign is a collaborative process between a business owner or operator and a lighting professional. The process takes into consideration your business, how it functions, how spaces are used, and any financial and environmental goals that your business has in sight. The solution begins with a study, or deep dive into all these factors, and when research is completed a custom lighting system is designed. Certified lighting professionals work with you to ensure that the scope of the project will meet your needs, and all aspects of it will be planned out in a series of reports before a single piece of equipment is ordered. This is the most sophisticated route for a lighting project, an investment in your investment.

Some utilities offer reimbursement programs to reduce the cost of the investment in a lighting study, which is in addition to the rebate received for energy savings. While a project study may increase the payback time period, the overall results are a lowered long term cost of ownership factoring in maintenance savings and energy reductions. 

Why should you consider a redesign if a one-for-one fixture replacement would be just fine? Once again, this comes down to the level of sophistication that is inherent in LED lighting. There are as many solutions as there are businesses, and sorting through all of those is nearly impossible unless you plan with the help of a lighting partner. You can have a good project, or with a little more insight you can have a great one. Partnership with a great lighting professional will allow you to get the most out of your lighting project investment by starting off with the best plan possible.

 

Curious about the redesign process? Learn about Investment Grade Audits now - get our free ebook!

Why invest in a lighting study?

The Surprising Impact of Lighting Redesign

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

What are the other benefits of upgraded lighting?

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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

3 RELIABLE DESIGN: A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR THOSE COMPARING "SIMILAR" proposals

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

Auto Sales Lot LED Lighting Retrofit

UPDATED APRIL 2017

Many lighting projects focus on the inside of a facility, but there are many businesses that require high-quality, energy-efficient lighting for their exteriors. Auto sales lots are a great example of a business that needs exceptional exterior lighting. Their "sales floor" is their entire parking lot, there lighting shows off there product, and customers can see what is on display at all hours. Incentives are also getting better to upgrade exterior lighting, even though the energy-usage is lower during peak hours.

Let's take a closer look at a specific TRC project for a car lot:

This client took initiative to educate himself about the kind of fixture and results that he wanted for the auto lot at his business. He needed an evenly lit lot to make the cars look great when people come by to shop. He wanted to make sure that all potential customers are presented with a memorable first impression during off hours. The secondary goal was to achieve fewer shadowy areas so the lot is safer at night. An LED lighting retrofit and energy efficient redesign is an obvious savings solution. Let's take a closer look::

Goals for this Auto Sales Lot redesign and retrofit:

  • to improve energy efficiency

  • to improve the overall 'look' of the fixtures 

  • to reduce maintenance expenses

  • to improve light quality, achieve even lighting, and increase perception of safety

Let's see how a custom lighting design by TRC stacked up against a 'cookie cutter' option where fixtures are just replaced with energy-efficient options instead of a redesign. We compare photometrics and see the competitor’s one-for-one replacement retrofit project was 4.6 average foot candles with a whopping max of 50. The result is all the red ‘hot spots’ you see in the graphic below (left). This solution saved energy, so it looked good on paper, but it wasn’t the best design. Most importantly, it did not achieve the client’s goals.

 
 

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TRC's thoughtful system redesign (on the right of the graphic above) achieved the client’s goals and allowed even more savings to be captured. This redesigned system reduced the number of total fixtures, removing 48 unnecessary ones. The new design used custom optics packages on those fixtures to achieve a highly efficient, evenly lit lot with 5.6 average foot candles, and a maximum of 10.4. No hot spots, even light, and tons of energy savings. The client achieved maximum efficiency while decreasing their kW and kWh by 85% overall, and met their project goals!

By replacing their HID fixtures with energy-efficient LED fixtures, this parking lot retrofit is saving the client over $3,800 monthly in lighting costs, over $45,000 annually! Immediately after project completion, these savings began. By simply reducing the amount of energy used, they were able to reduce utility costs.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

CARBON SAVINGS: Total greenhouse gas reduction Metric Tons equivalent to: 316.6

  • Passenger cars not driven for one year 62
  • Gallons of gasoline saved 35,490
  • Acres of forest preserved from deforestation 3.1
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled 110

Given the nature of their retrofit, because they were replacing an outmoded technology with very energy-efficient lighting technology and because they redesigned the lighting system, this facility qualified for a rebate from their utility company to help offset some of the retrofit project cost. They received $53,000 in rebate incentives.

If you are considering a lighting retrofit, energy-savings is definitely on the forefront of your mind, but have you considered the other ways that this efficiency in lighting could help reduce overhead? Many retrofit projects help reduce maintenance costs by standardizing equipment, especially in areas where special equipment, such as a lift, is required just to replace a bulb.•

 Read more lighting case studies

Retrofit Case Study: Interior and Exterior Lighting Upgrades

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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! 

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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.

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 PROJECT GOALS & SUCCESSES

  • 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

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