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What to Know Before Starting an LED Conversion or Retrofit

May 06, 2016 | Justin Stouch

For building and facility owners and property managers looking to increase the value of commercial properties, it’s important to consider different options that will hold value over time, decrease costs associated with maintenance, and conserve on energy. One tool to accomplish these goals is an LED retrofit. The lighting setup in any commercial property (large or small) can have significant impacts on a lot of factors.

LED Retrofit: General Tips, Lessons Learned, and Avoiding Problems

Any lighting project has three primary aspects to consider:

  • Energy Reduction
  • Maintenance Cost Reduction
  • Lighting Performance

Each of these aspects needs to be addressed in order for a project to be developed properly. It’s incredibly important to have a baseline understanding of the existing lighting conditions so that your objectives can be met. LED lighting is not a commodity, and different products from different manufacturers will perform differently in various applications. Your supplier should develop a comprehensive scope of work that addresses your energy, maintenance, and performance objectives while considering budget and timeframe constraints.

The most difficult adjustment to make is understanding that all lighting is not the same; who makes the product and where they purchase it from is important. This mentality has caused a wide range of issues across multiple product applications (office lighting, parking lot lighting, warehouse lighting, etc).

Because of the demand for LED lighting, the market has been flooded with poor quality product. So what to look for instead? You should expect a certain level of expertise when dealing with your supplier, and you should be informed why one option is being considered over another. Any product performance claims should be supported by independent testing results that have been standardized in the industry, and a manufacturer should be able to tell you how a given specification was generated. We have seen products with “warranties” that were worth less than the paper they were printed on, so it is important that a certain level of due diligence is applied when considering various LED lighting products.

Helpful Hints for Completing an LED Conversion:

Ask your supplier why they are proposing a particular product over another. Are you speaking directly with a “manufacturer” or manufacturer’s rep that is only providing one option? That can be a bad sign. Every manufacturer will claim their product is the latest and the greatest, but the reality is that “greatest” is relevant to individual projects and their unique requirements, so any general claim on “the latest and greatest” should be viewed with caution. Work with a supplier that does not have a financial motive to provide one product over another, and instead works with you to develop a project based on desired outcomes. If energy costs are your biggest concern, you may want the most energy efficient product. If maintenance costs are your biggest concern, go with the longer warranty and rated life. Every project is unique, so work with a supplier that can match your needs to the correct products.

To demonstrate the impacts that LED lighting can bring to a property, see the case study below showing how transitioning a commercial property to LED lighting resulted in savings and increased value.

Case Study: LEDs are an energy efficient lighting solution for shopping centers

Gray’s Ferry Shopping Center is a commercial and retail property located in the heart of Philadelphia. It is managed by Korman Commercial Properties, who expressed an interest in improving the quality of their exterior building and parking lot lighting. 1000W High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps, common choices for parking lot lighting, were replaced with 279W LED light fixtures. Take a look at the “Before” and “After” pictures below to see the difference:

LED retrofi

As you can see, the overall lighting quality has been vastly improved. The parking lot is brighter, safer, and more welcoming for consumers in general. But lighting quality is not the only improvement; this retrofit was also an energy efficient lighting solution. Korman Commercial Properties also benefitted from the following improvements:

  • A 74% decrease in energy requirements
  • More than $3,000 saved on annual maintenance costs
  • 144,130 lbs reduction in greenhouse gases
  • A projected return-on-investment (ROI) of only 36 months

About the Author
Justin Stouch is the Director of Operations at Stouch Lighting, a Pennsylvania-based LED lighting consultant and distributor. You can read more LED conversion case studies here.

Photo Credit: JeepersMedia via Compfight cc

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