What is a Lighting Retrofit?

What is a Lighting Retrofit?

Lighting technology is constantly improving, but does that mean you need to buy entirely new fixtures every time more efficient technology hits the market? Not necessarily, thanks to retrofitting. Retrofitting is a popular and cost-effective alternative to upgrading to a more energy efficient and higher quality lighting system. Read on to learn more about retrofitting and how it can help you.

Retrofit Definition

The term “retrofitting” refers to the process of adding new features or technology to an existing system. Usually retrofitting is implemented in order to improve effectiveness without completely replacing the old system. When it comes to Lighting, the general purpose of retrofitting to a newer technology is to improve the energy efficiency and performance of existing light fixtures. It involves things such as: switching over to an LED Retrofit Kit, switching lamps, or replacing the ballast in a fluorescent fixture.

Should You Upgrade Your Lighting?

Howard Lighting FSR84232ASEMV000000I 2 Lamp 32W 8' Fluorescent Retrofit Strip

Howard Lighting 8 Foot Fluorescent Retrofit Kit

There are many reasons that might play a role in deciding if you want a Lighting upgrade for your business or facility. Here are a few questions that you might want to ask yourself if you’re thinking about making an upgrade.

  • Are you considering reducing your energy usage?
  • Do you want to reduce operating costs while also maintaining or possibly increasing your quality of light?
  • Are you willing to invest in new lighting to increase your building’s value?
  • Are you interested in qualifying for energy saving incentives from the government or your local utility?
  • Is “going green” a priority for you or your business?

Replace or Retrofit?

Maxlite RR61927W 19W Dimmable 6

Maxlite RR61927W 19W Dimmable 6″ Downlight Retrofit Kit

If you’ve decided that you do want to upgrade your existing lighting, there’s one very important question that you have to ask yourself: Do you want to replace the existing lighting, or do you want to retrofit?

This is a question that has to be answered on a case-by-case basis. You’ll need to ask questions like: does installing LED Retrofit Kits give me the same utility rebate that I would get if I bought a whole new fixture? Replacing the fixtures with new LED lights might cost more upfront. However, the rebates, incentives, and energy usage may make that a more viable option. While we can’t tell you whether you should retrofit or replace for your lighting upgrade, we can provide you with the resources needed to help you make the right decision.

Some Lighting Project Mistakes to Avoid

1) Picking the Wrong Retrofit Kit:

This one is actually more common than you may think. Purchasing a retrofit kit that doesn’t fit into the original fixture can be a major headache. Make certain that you read the product details, spec sheets, and/or talk to a lighting expert before taking the plunge. There’s nothing worse than ordering 50 of the wrong LED Retrofit Kits and being forced to return them, costing you time and money.

2) Newer Isn’t Always Better:

During the initial planning stages of a replacement or retrofit project, the more research you do the better. You really can’t overdo it. If you’re switching Fluorescents over to LED’s you NEED to know the differences between the two lighting technologies. Wattages are going to be different and mean different things because of the difference in energy usage. Also having some knowledge about important specs like CRI or Color Temperature is extremely important. It doesn’t make sense to replace your old lighting with newer lights that are too dim, too bright, or too warm in color. You can always check out our guide, “Everything You Need to Know About LED Lights” to get caught up.  

4) Don’t be Surprised by Code Compliance Costs:

When fixtures are changed, contractors are required to bring the new installations up to current code. Getting the installation up to code can potentially be a costly task in some cases. New sizing requirements may mean more manual labor is required to support the fixture, which in turn can quickly become a costly project oversight.

5) Don’t Underestimate the Job Completion Time

There are some aspects of lighting projects that can throw off job completion estimates, especially in older locations where fixtures may be difficult to access because of the cables or architecture of the building. The longer the job takes, the more expensive the project may become.  

How to Calculate Benefits

Of course in the end, the ultimate reason most people retrofit their lighting systems is to save money. Therefore you need to be able to calculate the energy benefits of one decision over the other. That’s why calculating ROI, or return on investment, is extremely important when it comes to being able to make informed project decisions. Check out our blog post “How Energy Rebates and Incentives Work” to learn more about how you can calculate ROI and payback on different lighting types by using our Energy Cost Estimator.

Retrofitting Case Studies

Looking at what others have done may also give some insight into finding solutions for your particular situation. Case studies are a great way to gain just that insight. The California Lighting Technology Center located at The University of California has some great Lighting Case Studies that go in depth with many different types of lighting applications. Check them out HERE.

-Written by Dane Gustafson

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2 thoughts on “What is a Lighting Retrofit?

  1. Pingback: LED Retrofit Troffer Kits! | Wholesale Contractor Supply

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