The Retrofit Companies Blog

LED Tunable Lighting - 3 Types


LED Tunable LightLEDS Magazine

LED Lighting continues to offer consumers more than just energy efficiency, and with new types of tunable lighting technology becoming more readily available, there are a variety of additional benefits.

LED Luminaires, with the ability to deliver varying light color, have been on the market since early days of LED lighting, but the colors, controls and capabilities keep improving and their applications continue to grow. The US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states that these technologies are proving to have benefits beyond energy efficiency and may in fact improve environments and conditions in schools, hospitals, residential spaces and more.

Here we explore tunable lighting in general, the areas we are seeing this technology, and why you would want to consider putting tunable lighting in your business.


3 Categories of Color-Tunable Products


Dim to Warm

light scale



  • These are also referred to as "blackbody dimming" or "incandescent-like" dimming
  • These products mimic incandescent or halogen dimming performance. They usually range from 2700K-3000K at full output down to as low as 1800K. The light color becomes increasingly warmer as the products dims.
  • These products are often used in places where you want a whiter light in the day, but a warmer light in the evening: restaurants, hotel lobbies and guestrooms, ballrooms, theaters and residential spaces.
  • Because dimming is linked to color changing in this type, Dim to Warm products only use one control signal per group of fixtures/luminaires. These can be equipped with a wireless receiver for control by a wireless transmitter.
  • A potential issue with these products is that some users want to reduce light output without changing color, and in that case white-tunable may be a better choice.

TRC Lighting Case Studies

White Tunable

white tunable


  • These are also referred to as "tunable-white" or "kelvin-changing"
  • These products have two sets of phosphor-coated LED primaries; one with a warm-white color (around 2700K) and the second with a cool-white (between 5000k and 6500K).
  • By controlling the two different LED's (up or down), you can create a straight line that connects them on a "chromaticity diagram." This is called linear white tuning.
  • There are also luminaries that use three or more LEDs, which allows the capability to produce a wider range of color. These do not create a straight line, but follow the blackbody curve, much like the dim to warm version (called nonlinear white tuning). The colors created on the chromaticity diagram are not what you see.
  • White tuning is used for a range of reasons, including providing apparent cooling or warming to a room, providing a psychological effect, such as using cool-colored lights to make occupants feel cooler on a hot summers day, or to calm or invigorate students in a classroom. 
  • These products are often selected when a space undergoes a renovation or interior design remodel and the lighting needs to adjust to a new theme or color palette. White tuning is great in retails, and is also used to simulate daylight or match color of daylight in a windowed lobby, for example, or to assist with behavior control.
  • Potential issues include the fact that the control interface can be more complicated. Controlling two separate lights with the same switch, or two different switches, depending on preference, creates for more difficult wiring of the controls versus a fixed color LED.Consult a Lighting Professional

Full Color Tunable

full color tuningArchLighting

  • These are also known as "spectrally tunable" or "color changing"
  • Full color tunable products are just as they sound; full color and full tuning. These are the most versitile of the options, allowing you to completely change the space at any given time (from dim white to bright purple)
  • These products usually have three or more different LED primaries that can be individually varied in output to create a mixture of light that is white, a tint of white or a saturated hue.
  • The minimum for full-color tuning is three, but full color tunable systems have 4, 5, 6 or even 7 color systems for even more unique colors of individual LED’s.
  • You will find these in such applications such a theaters, theme parks, arcades or restaurants.
  • Full color tunable requires a more complex control interface, and must be powered separately from the luminaire.
  • Potential issues with full color tunable include initial and reprogramming of these controls are hard to handle in-house and require a professional. It is also easy to skew colors and oversaturate or undersaturate a space if not tuned correctly.

Cost of a Retrofit? Download Free ebook

What Are The Advantages of Tunable Lighting?




Light regulates our circadian rhythm, effecting our emotional and physical being. As the sun come sup the light levels increase and become cooler, helping us become more awake and active, and as the sun goes down, light levels decrease and become warmer preparing us for sleep. Both the intensity and spectrum of light can be used to stimulate or suppress hormones such as melatonin, impacting our mood, alertness and health. The ability to control interior light to affect the attitude, happiness, effectiveness and productivity of a person or group is an amazing advancement in technology.




Tunable white is often used in schools giving teachers the adjusting light setting for given activities, with a remote or a switch on the wall. Many classroom studies suggest that the color and intensity of light can be modified to calm or invigorate students, or to focus their attention, and even provide a less stressful environment for students, while improving the overall learning environment.

Tunable Lighting in 3 TExas Classrooms

Many school districts are implementing this type of technology in special needs classrooms, replacing the need for the cloth curtain over the light fixture. TRC helped upgrade a small clasroom at McGuire Middle School (Lakeville, MN) to tunable lighting and we have received excellent feedback.


Tunable LED Elementary School Case Study & Videos



lighting controls in classroom

Lighting Controls Association

Tunable light is also being introduced in conference rooms to set the tone of the meeting, from intense to happy hour, in healthcare settings to help with the regulation of biological clocks, and retailers to better showcase colors that pop or better engage customers by adjusting lighting on demand.


You may also see tunable light popping up in Senior Living Facilities, such as this study conducted in Sacramento, CA. The study discusses the variety of products implemented throughout the facility and the variety of color temperatures utilized and their effects.


Senior Living TUnable Light Case STudy


Lighting Customer Testimonials


Small Business Rebate Program Deadline: Oct. 19!


cash backAre you a Small Business planning a lighting upgrade project this year? 

You may qualify for great rebates through One-Stop Efficiency Shop (Xcel Energy), But you will need to act fast! 





What You Need to Know: 2018 Rebate Checks

The Center for Energy and Environment's One Stop Efficiency Shop is warning small businesses of rebate deadlines approaching this fall. The One-Stop Efficiency Shop is a full-service rebate program available through Xcel Energy's Minnesota service territory to small businesses with a monthly electric demand of 400 kilowatts or less.

In order to receive a rebate check through this program in 2018, please make sure to:


  • Submit a signed program Participation Agreement to CEE by Friday, October 19 so the project can be recorded as scheduled for installation in this program year.
  • Complete work and submit invoices to CEE by Friday, November 2.


Rebate checks for jobs completed in 2018 will be issued this calendar year if work is completed and invoices submitted by November 2. Jobs completed after the deadline will be rebated in 2019.

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

Consult a Lighting ProfessionalReady to start your lighting project? Contact our Lighting Experts to take advantage of this program.






3 Types of Linear LED Tubes

3 LED tubes


We break down the 3 most common types of T8 and T5 LED tubes used in LED lighting retrofit projects and their various pros and cons.

Consult a Lighting Professional



Does your facility, such as a gymnasium, commercial or industrial building, have high ceilings?

Type A LED tube

Type A lamps are a good solution in many applications because of the increased ability to control the light via ballast factor.This is currently the only LED T8 lamp system that is capable of matching a T8 system operating on a high ballast factor.

Type A lamps are a fluorescent ballast compatible lamp with exceptions. These exceptions are expansive, in fact almost every manufacturer suggests consulting their list of compatibilities before installing LED T8 tubes. We have found that there are even scenarios where the LED lamp product is not compatible with ballasts from the same manufacturer.

 Additional benefits of Type A lamps are that they come in different wattages and beam angles, and lumen output for this type can be controlled by the existing ballast: Low Power (LP), Normal Power (NP), and High Power (HP). Most often, these lamps are installed as a simple “relamp” project, but it is important to consider the age of your ballasts when choosing this type. If you intend to change ballasts the week after you install these LED lamps, that may undermine the goals and objectives of your project. Whether or not type A is going to be the best solution for your project depends greatly on your maintenance story.




Type B lamps are seeing a lot of changes in the industry due to their many risks.

Type B led tube

We are still seeing issues with the direct wire single-ended lamps, which require the ballast to be removed and the socket wired directly to line voltage. Risks include the possibility of lamp failure, sparks and even fires. These single-ended lamps may have been previously chosen to reduce maintenance time, but they pose such a large safety risk that the industry is shifting towards the double-ended lamp.

Double-ended Type B lamps mitigate many of the safety concerns because there is no longer a way for the electrical current to travel across the lampholder. This includes a situation where you install a fluorescent lamp . You also no longer have to install an unshunted socket due to the dual-end nature of the new lamps.

Some of the main downfalls of the new version of these lamps are that they are very limited in lumen output options (generally two light levels) and that there currently are no known lamps on the market that can reach high output light levels required in the applications mentioned above.

Another common downfall of Type B LED lamps is the "flicker" factor. This is an issue that used to be prevalent with T12 and was basically eliminated by T8 solutions. It has now come back with the Type B tubes, but it is not prevalent in Type A or Type C solutions. There are a couple of manufacturers that have come out with a flicker-free type B solution, but options are limited. The flicker is unnoticeable to many, but with some segments of the population it can be very debilitating (causing headaches, nausea, etc). 

TRC Lighting Case Studies



Type C's are really the only “true LED system” among the T8 lamp options. 

Type C led tubeType C Lamps are an LED lamp with a fixture mounted driver, with drivers now available with three different standard outputs as well as programmable for more/less output depending on required light levels. The Type C lamp is similar to an LED fixture in that you have a light engine and a separate driver.

Type C's typically offer the longest life, and dimming capability that the others do not. The reason they’re not chosen as often is due to their higher price point. Total cost of owning a lighting system should be evaluated when considering whether these are your best investment. The type C lamp has just recently achieved controllability using different Mili-amp Drivers. The drivers are more expensive, but in some instances the will achieve a higher lamp life rating 60,000 versus 50,000 hours.

Type C lamps have their benefits, but as with Type B, most of the market offerings do not capture the high lumen output category. The other issue we have discovered with Type C is that virtually none of the systems are cross-compatible across manufacturers. This means that you could potentially be stuck with the manufacturer and product line that they have installed in the facility. You would most likely not be able to find a lamp or a driver from a different manufacturer that works with your existing system down the road if that system is discontinued, or the manufacturer goes out of business, in many cases resulting in a completely new system investment.

Consult a Lighting Professional

While linear LED lamps are popular now, that does not mean that it is the only option, or always the best option when upgrading to LED. You should consult a lighting professional to ensure that you are aware of all of the pros and cons for all options available to ensure you are meeting all of your project goals. 


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






Parking Garage LED Lighting Retrofit Case Study

LED Retrofit Parking Garage.png 

This parking garage lighting project's dramatic improvement in lighting came along with $23,634 in utility rebate incentives, plus a Green Business Cost Sharing program from the city of Minneapolis when this client upgraded the aging, inefficient high pressure sodium lighting. They now have better light quality in their facility, increased safety for their patrons, and they are saving money and resources at the same time! Keep reading to see more specifics about how Allied Parking upgraded to LED lighting in the MTC facility at their Gateway ramp downtown Minneapolis.


Before Retrofit Parking Garage HID to LED.png

Facility Statistics: The Benefits of a Lighting Upgrade

Common lighting issues in parking garages include dark, shadowy areas and poor light quality. By replacing the existing High Pressure Sodium lighting with energy efficient LED that consume only 45 watts each, this facility is taking advantage of major energy savings. At the end of this project the client was saving 143 watts per fixture, reducing energy usage by 76%!

Cost Savings: Does is really add up?

Before completing this LED lighting retrofit project, TRC performed a full facility audit. This means all of the existing fixtures were counted, along with their rate of energy consumption and hours of operation, and a cost of operating was established. The new, more energy-efficient system was also proposed in the same way. The difference in energy usage totaled $14,430 in annual lighting cost savings. 

Kw and kWh were both reduced by 76% annually with this LED retrofit. The client qualified for $23K in energy-efficiency rebates from their local utility company, and an additional cost sharing program amount was awarded to them by the city of Minneapolis' Green Business Cost Sharing Program

Carbon Savings: What does it mean? 

Based on kWh reduction from our facility lighting audit and using a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, we can determine carbon savings of 110.6 tons of CO2 for this energy efficiency project. This is equivalent to keeping 21.7 cars off the road for a year, 12,395  gallons of gasoline saved, or 38.5 tons of waste recycled instead of land filled!


After Retrofit Parking Garage HID to LED.png

Find out how you can start saving energy & money today.

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Lighting Retrofit - Vs - Lighting Redesign



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.


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.


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."



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.


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.


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?

Linear LED & Other T8 LED Resources


There's a giant world of information about LED linear tube options, energy efficient lighting, and how to get the most from your retrofit project, but do you really have the time to seek it all out? If you're like most any professional we've met, the answer is no. You need concise, accurate information in order to make informed business decisions. To save you a few clicks, today we're sharing a rundown of all our information about T8 LED tubes to date - from "What is a Linear LED T8?" to some recall products we've noted, and a video of how simple installation mis-steps result in product failures. Keep reading for a distilled list of high points!


1) Are you considering a lighting upgrade by replacing your T8 fluorescent lamps with T8 LED linear tubes for energy efficiency? This is a wonderful leap in the lighting world, affording lighting designers, facility managers, and other contractors the ability to essentially retrofit existing fluorescent fixtures with LED linear tube options. It can be seen to have benefits and cost savings over a major redesign and new lighting system overhaul; however, there are many considerations to be aware of as you begin planning your lighting project if you only intend to replace fluorescent tubes with LED tubes.Unfortunately, it’s never as simple as just changing a light bulb. Keep reading to learn some of the pitfalls and concerns to keep in mind as you learn about LED T8 lamps. [READ MORE]


2) There are 3 general types of T8 LED tubes used in LED lighting retrofit projects. In this post we evaluate each of these LED linear tube options, sharing best uses, and some pros and cons.


3) Deeply consider how you would like to approach your lighting upgrade investment, are you simply looking for greater energy efficiency, or do you want to improve lighting, reduce maintenance expenses, and step in to the future with a well-designed system?


4) 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.


5) 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.


6) T8 LED Lamp recalls from Cree and from Sylvania.


Looking for additional insight? Our professional lighting consultants are available! Schedule now:

Consult a Lighting Pro

Understanding LED Linear T8 tubes

In our previous two blog posts, we discussed LED linear tube options for your LED lighting retrofit. First we gave an introduction and discussed some safety concerns, and then outlined the three types of LED tubes. Keep reading to learn a final set of variables to consider when selecting LED tubes, and next steps to get your project going on the right foot!

Know what you are trying to accomplish when selecting LED tubes

Even when you have the correct combination of linear LED tubes and existing ballast or wiring configuration, simply grabbing an LED tube and installing it may change lighting levels drastically, undoing the original success of a well-designed lighting solution. Safety and compatibility requirements aside, there are two additional primary factors to consider when selecting LED T8 linear lamps to help maintain good lighting design that may already exist in your space. The first is lumen output and the second is the beam angle of the lamp.

When LED tube wattage is too high, the result is an over lit space. This may mean you have more light than you need, and that’s not the end of the world; however, that result means energy is being wasted. You are dismissing potential energy and utility-cost savings. You don’t have the optimum lighting design for your application.
Beam angle is critical. A traditional fluorescent lamp casts light 360 degrees around the linear tube, but T8 LED is available in a range of beam spread from 160 to 325 degrees. Simply put, this beam spread can dramatically affect how a space looks when lit with linear LED. There are specific applications for beam angle, and using the incorrect beam angle could achieve undesired results. For example, a 160-degree beam angle will stripe a fixture and also change the optics of the fixture, once again undoing a well-designed project. A 325-degree beam angle lamp will not "stripe" a fixture and will utilize the optics of the fixture much like a fluorescent bulb.

If you are ready to make a change to energy-efficient LED, and a linear T8 LED seems like the best solution for you, it’s important to understand the variables you will face when confronted with this sizable purchase.

Next Steps for a Successful Lighting Project

  • Look for a neutral vendor, one pushing a single product line or manufacturer should be avoided. Choose someone that can explain the differences between products and price points so you can choose the solution that best fits your needs.

  • Ensure you have partnered with a lighting designer that has seen a variety of these lamps perform. One challenge that we face with this constantly improving technology is that photometric data on the lamps can’t be paired with IES fixture files in some instances.

  • Ask for case studies in industries similar to yours, or ask to see some products in action. It can be very helpful to see these lamps in person.

  • Ask for a test in your space. You may want to hire a reputable lighting partner to install a test area to be sure the results are what you want, and meet your lighting project goals.

  • Consider whether or not you need to increase light levels. Ask whether lighting controls would make sense for your business and lighting project goals. Both of these can impact how much energy a lighting project could save for your organization.

  • Always consult the utility company’s rebate guide to get the system with the most rebate incentive, a higher priced system may result in a lower NET project cost based on rebates. Without understanding these rebate structures, you may be leaving money on the table.


Deeply consider how you would like to approach your lighting upgrade investment, are you simply looking for greater energy efficiency, or do you want to improve lighting, reduce maintenance expenses, and step in to the future with a well-designed system? If you would like to know more about the benefits of a lighting retrofit beyond energy savings, we recommend our article outlining 6 other reasons to retrofit beyond money and energy savings.

If you're ready to get started with your energy efficient lighting upgrade, contact our constultants today!

Consult a Lighting Pro


T8 LED Lighting Retrofit Introduction & Safety


Are you considering a lighting upgrade and have you investigated replacing your T8 fluorescent lamps with T8 LED linear tubes for energy efficiency? This is a wonderful leap in the lighting world, affording lighting designers, facility managers, and other contractors the ability to essentially retrofit existing fluorescent fixtures with LED linear tube options. It can be seen to have benefits and cost savings over a major redesign and new lighting system overhaul; however, there are many considerations to be aware of as you begin planning your lighting project if you only intend to replace fluorescent tubes with LED tubes. Unfortunately, it’s never as simple as just changing a light bulb. Keep reading to learn some of the pitfalls and concerns to keep in mind as you learn about LED T8 lamps.

Be careful when selecting LED T8 replacement tubes

True lighting designers design spaces to be illuminated so they meet industry light level standards and the needs of the people who occupy a space allowing them to effectively do their work. After all, the lighting required in a retail setting or a classroom will be dramatically different than what is expected in a manufacturing facility or operating room.

In the days of fluorescent lighting great design was achieved with the correct combination of lamps, ballasts, and reflectors to gain maximum lighting for as little wattage input as possible using photometric design. This meant that these spaces were as energy-efficient as possible while maintaining adequate light levels for the activity taking place in them. Since the advent of LED technology, specifically Linear LED Tubes, many facilities are looking to make the leap into even greater efficiency by replacing their existing fluorescent tubes with linear LED tubes. See some recommended light levels for specific industries and types of tasks here.

Without replacing the fixtures, linear LED lamps allow facilities to effectively retrofit their fluorescent technology to something more efficient with relative ease. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, unfortunately there are many variables among the available LED tube products and selecting the wrong one to update your existing fixture could lead to a poor outcome ranging from being over lit or ruining your existing lighting design, to dramatic malfunctions that end up being an outright dangerous fire hazard.

In our next Linear T8 LED blog post, we will discuss three types of LED tubes, the scenarios where you might find them, and the potential outcome of incorrect energy efficient lighting retrofit procedure. While we know this technology to be effective, safe, energy-efficient, and that it looks great when properly installed, it is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Are you ready to learn more about planning for your LED lighting retrofit project? Read "How Much Does A Retrofit Cost?"

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

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?


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

Alliant Energy Lighting Rebate Info

How do I get a lighting rebate from Alliant Energy?
 photo credit

Did you know that commercial lighting rebates and incentives are available from most utility companies? In this blog post we highlight the Alliant Energy lighting rebate Commercial Lighting Program – it's one of the largest utility providers in the state of Iowa. Keep reading for more insight.

We have been fortunate to work with clients throughout the United States to become more energy efficient by providing smart lighting upgrades. Many of the projects we work on also allow clients to take advantage of rebate programs offered by their local utility providers. For more information about incentive programs, you can read a previous article here that answers questions such as, "how do I get a lighting rebate?" and "why do utilities offer rebates?"

Here are the commercial lighting rebate categories currently offered by Alliant Energy*:

• Small Business Energy Solutions. Turnkey lighting solution exclusively for small business that includes design and installation. Alliant Energy pays up to 75% of the total project cost.

• Compact Fluorescent Bulbs. Think of how many bulbs are in your office, break-room and even storage area. If any of those are incandescent bulbs, switch to CFLs.

• LED Bulbs & Fixtures. LED bulbs last two to five times longer than CFLs and 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent lighting.

• LED Replacements. Increases in efficiency and lower prices make LEDs an attractive choice for replacing linear fluorescent fixtures.

• Lighting Controls. By adding lighting controls to your facility you increase the flexibility of your lighting plan.

• Fluorescent, High Bay, HID, Delamping. Fluorescent tube lighting is a great way to light up large spaces, plus energy-efficient T8 lamps are up to 40% more efficient than T12 lamps.

• Pin-type Compact Fluorescent Fixtures. The pin-type compact fluorescent fixtures have all the efficiency of the standard CFL fixtures and result in savings on your utility bill.

• Replacement LED traffic lights. LED traffic lights use approximately 90% less energy than incandescent lights and because they last so long, maintenance costs are reduced by 75%.***

The rebates listed above are currently being offered in 2015, and the year end is approaching fast. However, if you haven’t taken advantage of these incentives this year and you’re making plans to do a lighting upgrade in 2016, there’s good news – most programs (especially those that have been successful during the previous year) usually continue into the following year, and often even with higher incentives!

Stay tuned for updates about the commercial lighting rebates from the Alliant Energy and other utility companies in 2016. For more information today, you can read real customer stories about successful projects


Talk to a Consultant About Rebates

Lighting insight, Utility Rebates & More

As summer closes out and the fall season gets into full swing, it is a good time to begin planning for 2016. Surely there are projects looming in your facility, whether you're looking to establish a better understanding of your energy efficiency options, or you've decided to dedicate Q4 of 2015 to researching a lighting upgrade, we've got some links here to get you started.


Speaking of planning a lighting upgrade, have you ever considered "The Cost of Doing Nothing?" This simple and impactful video makes project savings so easy to understand.


For a deeper dive, you can read our four part series "How much does a retrofit project cost?" Here's part one.


Looking to see what sort of utility rebate programs are available in your area? Iowa has 60 programs and Minnesota has over 150! We like this straight forward resource from DSIRE.


Your T12 Lamps still work, so why should you replace them?


Don't want to read a bunch of articles? You'd rather just talk to a professional about your energy-efficiency options? Tell us what time works for you; we're here!


 Schedule a call with our lighting consultant



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

Fluorescent to LED Bonus Rebate from OPU

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


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


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

Consult a Lighting Pro

Lighting Project Custom Rebate

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Consult a Lighting Pro

What does it mean to be "Vendor Neutral?"



Vendor neutrality is a concept that might not be top-of-mind, but is something to consider when you're in the thick of planning any large project. It's especially important to be mindful of this when you are presented with equipment or product options from multiple manufacturers and multiple vendors that you need to compare to make a smart purchase. So, what are the characteristics and benefits of vendor neutrality?

The primary benefit of a vendor that is product or manufacturer neutral is that they are able to use the technology best suited to your needs at any time. They are not limited by a specific product provider or set brands in order to shoehorn a solution into your lighting retrofit project. As a result of this latitude, you, the consumer are engaged in business with a firm that is adaptable, well-rounded, and that has flexibility across the almost limitless lighting scenarios that can exist.The requirements of your energy-efficiency project may be completely unique in the world and working with a company that isn't restricted by agreements to only buy from specific product manufacturers is a tremendous benefit to you. Steve mentions this in a previous blog about the history of retrofitting. This isn't a new idea, certainly, but it is important to remember even today.

TRC Sales and Marketing VP, Wendy Fry shares her insight, telling us how vendor neutrality applies to energy-efficient lighting projects,

"Comparing Apples to Apples has just gotten extremely difficult. Gone are the days where a 6-lamp T8 High Bay could be swapped out with 1 of thousands of other options and considered 'the same.' With the creation of LED fixtures, optics and design have given buyers a need to bid specific products built to perform in their environment. If you’re choosing between two projects with '50-watt LED Wall Pack as the only comparison factor, you might be really disappointed in the results of said project.

When considering a purchase from a supplier carrying a few select lines of fixtures, you’re bound to get saddled-up with whatever fixture is the closest match to your needs…that they sell. When choosing a partner in lighting, go with an accredited designer. Then, make sure they are free to choose the solution that will best fit your application. When considering LED, plan to get involved and choose an expert that isn’t bound by what’s on the shelf in a warehouse. Customize."  

When you are planning your lighting system, be sure to ask any electrical contractor you consider working with if they have any product or manufacturer limitations. For our guide on other questions you should ask, download our paper, "11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor."

11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor

Why Invest in a Lighting Audit?

Energy-efficiency is a direct path to savings and makes a positive impact to the bottom line for many businesses, but you may be wondering "What's the point in investing in a lighting study," or investment grade audit? We believe there is a singular and simple reason why an Investment Grade Audit is the best way to help prepare for your lighting project investment.

Whether you purchase your study from TRC, another energy service company, electrical contractor, retrofitter, engineer, or architect, our theory is really simple: You shouldn't have to become a lighting expert to expertly buy a complicated lighting project.

More often than not, you want to invest in a lighting upgrade because it makes sense for your business to do so. However, you may not have considered why an investment grade lighting study is the best way to begin. It's the first decision you can make that will allow every consecutive decision to take off in the right direction and result in a successful lighting project.

With an investment grade audit you have an RFP you can submit to several vendors. Inviting several firms in to your business to bid the work you want done will inevitably result in an equal number of very different bids left for you to compare. An Investment Grade Audit arms you with a standardized bid document where fixture counts, operating hours, equipment specs, and every other possible project variable -aside from vendor- are the same, making your job slightly easier. With all the "lighting expert" variables accounted for and all the critical data already collected, you can be sure the project proposals provided by multiple vendors allows you to compare "Apples to Apples."

Your job at that point is to choose a vendor based on price, reliability, availability, experience, corporate buying preferences, or whatever credentials make the most sense for your business. Investing in a lighting study means you've taken the first step toward due diligence. You have reduced the likelihood that you could have been presented with a good looking project based on sub-par data.

To help you in decision making when trying to choose the right partner for your investment grade audit, here are the categories of reports included in an Investment Grade Audit from The Retrofit Companies: 

  • In-depth details on your existing lighting system
  • Existing energy cost benchmarking
  • In-depth details on the proposed (new) lighting system
  • Proposed system operating costs & annual savings
  • Line by line cost-benefit analysis
  • Operational and Maintenance savings comparisons
  • Fixture cut sheets for proposed equipment
  • Photometric layouts for existing and proposed
  • Rebate studies & submittal forms


For full explanations of the reports listed above and for more information about Investment Grade Audits, download our e-book here:


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

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?"

You've Identified Some Efficiency Deficits - Now What?

energy deficits in lighting

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

Problem 1: Your Lighting Technology is Behind the Times

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

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

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

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

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

Problem 2: Things Aren't Working Correctly

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

Solutions here are three-fold:

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

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

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

Problem 3: Maintenance is a Real Hassle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?"


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

MN utility rebates exterior

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


Schedule a call with our lighting consultant


How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 4

retrofit cost part 4

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor 

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How Much Does a Retrofit Cost? Part 3

what does a retrofit cost part 3

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor


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How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 2

What is the cost of a lighting project

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor


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How Much Does A Retrofit Cost? Part 1

how much does a retrofit cost

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Read the article: 11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor

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July Links: Ideal Office Lighting, Energy Benchmarking & More

Minneapolis did it and now “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an ordinance that would require the city’s largest buildings to benchmark their energy use, and authorize the city to disclose the energy efficiency for these buildings publicly.”


How do you know if your office lighting is ideal? GE Looks at 6 Factors Impacting Your Building—and Business


New Johnson Controls research shows that energy efficiency interest rose 116 percent globally since 2010, with those who set goals making the greatest strides in reducing energy use.


Could sand be the secret to the future of LED lighting technology? This story suggests it could be!


Good news for Cheese Lovers: LED lighting produces more milk! "Crazy True Stories About LED Lighting" 


The Top Ten Underused Technologies for Saving Energy. See which ones you aren't using.


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


How do I know if I'm a good "retrofit" candidate?

An Electrical Contractor With a Good Reputation?

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It can be difficult to find an electrical contractor with a good reputation. So, check out what TRC customers have said about their experience with us. Then finally give us a call about that project that's been lingering on your to-do list.
Electrical Contractors that help you work smarter

How can I reduce operating costs at work?

It’s a common question and a concern for every business as modern times dictate we do more with less to achieve better results. In manufacturing, schools, retail businesses and other industries, the question, “How can I reduce operating costs at work?” and “What are the ways I can save money for my company?” are very, very common.  

There are many solutions out there to achieve savings at work, to help your company run more efficiently in these lean times. But one solution can be simple, direct, measurable and achievable. Today we are going to outline the ways a lighting retrofit can help advance your career and better your business.  


It’s a fact that every business has lights turned on during business hours, and that light costs money. Retrofitting directly impacts your bottom line. Economic and environmental savings are measurable.  With a successful lighting upgrade you will be able to:

  • Reduce energy costs by reducing the number of watts used per lighting fixture
  • Reduce maintenance costs with longer life lamps such as T8 and LED technology
  • Streamline purchasing by reducing the types and quantities of lamps in your building
  • Build property value by updating the lighting system


Perhaps a part of your company’s success is directly related to its image and customer perception. Making a good first impression starts from the top down. For example, if the lighting is bad in a retail store, things are going to feel wrong. Most people won’t directly attribute this to the lighting, but by providing better light the products on the shelves and in displays will look inherently better. This could result in increased sales. We all know looks are everything. Here’s what improved lighting will get you:

  • Better color recognition, helps displays or products pop and gain attention
  • Upgraded lighting fixtures look clean and modern, or can be integrated more fully into building design
  • Areas with too little or too much light can be corrected for maximum effect
  • Interior and exterior lighting can affect the way clients or visitors perceive your building
  • Better light can mean better safety, security and building recognition


As a part of making operations leaner, lots of employees these days are asked to wear many hats at work. If you can offer up a solution to help your company operate more efficiently or give insight to streamline future growth, do you think it could advance your career or help make your company more profitable? Here are a few reasons that suggesting a lighting improvement could help you be seen as an innovator:

  • This type of project can help attain larger company goals of sustainability and ‘being greener’
  • Suggesting a simple energy-efficiency measure for consideration could get you recognition
  • Quality lighting can positively impact productivity and is proven to have a measurable impact
  • Plan to ‘build for the future’ and reduce circuit load to allow for future expansion and additions
  • Design lighting projects can be planned in phases to help bridge gaps in innovation (HID to T5 to LED)
  • Add  occupancy or vacancy sensors and other wireless controls that can incorporate later into bigger building automation plans

What other ways have you tried or suggested to help improve efficiency at your company?


Outdoor Lighting, LED Retrofit Case Study






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