Experts: LED Retrofits are a Big Job–Plan Carefully

March 31, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

LEDThe benefits of LED retrofits are widely known: The light is better quality, the equipment lasts longer, operations are less expensive and the environment impact far less severe. LEDs are a good thing.

But to deploy enough to make a difference generally is a big project. Consultant Jody Cloud, the author of “Say Yes to LED Lighting,” said that an organization planning a retrofit needs to make sure that the company they are retaining meets all the criteria – references, full insurance and others – that generally used to ensure that a company is legitimate.

This always is true, of course. It is especially important in the case of LEDs because the area is so hot that there may be more inexperienced, unqualified or even dishonest firms than in other fields. “There are so many new people in the LED business…that some are in it to skim cream and don’t know what they are doing,” Cloud said.

Care must be taken to ensure that the LEDs are appropriate as well. Cloud said that LEDs display two certifications: one is for the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) and the other the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). DLC is a qualify certification, while UL attests to a product’s safety. The UL certification should carry a number enabling the LED to be tracked. The DLC standing of a product can be checked online, Cloud said.

There are number of practical issues that must be attended to as well. Planning is key: For instance, if the retrofit is in an outside parking lot, care must be taken to ensure that the work doesn’t hinder parking too greatly or interfere with peak exit and entry times. “You can’t always [parking lot retrofits] at night,” Cloud said. “You have to come up with a plan and say something like, ‘Okay, we block off this portion for three days and open back up and then block out this part.’ It’s all done with planning.”

In many cases, interior retrofits are done when workers are not present which, of course, generally is at night or during weekends. In some facilities – such as finance or medical offices – there are security requirements that may require guards to be present. All of these issues must be discussed before the work commences.

Though big organizations are likely to pay consultants to engineer and plan the details of their lighting upgrades, it certainly pays to keep tabs on requirements. LED Journal earlier this year posted a Q&A about new requirements that have taken effect for 41 states and the District of Columbia.

The piece was written by Charlie Szoradi, the Chairman and CEO of Independent LED Lighting. The idea, Szoradi writes, is that switching to LEDs is the “low hanging fruit” of energy reduction. The result is that changes are significant:

If you improve a space that requires changing 10 percent or more of the light fixtures then you may need to change ALL of the fixtures within the space to meet the new standards. Most importantly, the ubiquitous 3-lamp fluorescent tube fixtures with T8 tubes are no longer acceptable. You have to use more energy efficient fixtures to meet the new watts-per-square-foot requirements. 

The Eaton Lighting Division posted a blog late last year that suggested things that an organization should think about when they are researching and planning their upgrades. Of course, an assessment of their current status creates a baseline. That assessment goes hand in glove with a number of important questions:

Are you satisfied with your current light levels? Do you want to increase or decrease the amount of light in the space? Don’t assume you’ll have to replace every fixture, especially in a commercial environment with a dropped ceiling. By eliminating fixtures, you’ll enjoy even more energy savings.

The piece – based on interviews with Eaton LED market specialists Mario Romer and Steve Guarracino – counseled enterprises to check to see if rebates are available. There also may be tax breaks for green technologies. A final point is along the lines of Cloud’s suggestion to plan work carefully: They suggest thinking through scheduling if work must stop for the retrofit.

The advantages of LEDs are undeniable. All those advantages shouldn’t lead enterprises to gloss over the challenges of a retrofit. The good news, however, is that careful planning can make the process go smoothly.

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One comment on “Experts: LED Retrofits are a Big Job–Plan Carefully

  1. DLC is a qualify certification

    UL attests to a product’s safety

    I understand the UL certification but what does qualify certification mean in DLC?

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