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Industry Spotlight: Lighting Solutions for Healthcare Facilities

By applying energy efficiency upgrades throughout their facilities, business and organizations can slash their top operational costs. These upgrades can vary from LED lighting and lighting controls to water heating equipment and refrigeration motors and HVAC equipment. Certain organizations, such as healthcare facilities, can uniquely benefit from energy-efficiency upgrades, not only from a profits perspective, but also from a patient and visitor comfort perspective, and being recognized as eco-friendly.

Healthcare buildings rely on high-performance lighting and other equipment to operate resulting massive energy consumption. Based on data from the Department of Energy (DOE), on average, hospitals use 2.5x the amount of energy as other commercial buildings—lighting consuming nearly 40 percent of annual energy usage. Because these facilities operate 24/7, their energy bill reflects their excessive energy consumption. Healthcare organizations spend over $6.5 billion on energy every year, and that amount only continues to grow with an increasing demand to meet patients’ needs.

Money lost as a result of large utility costs is often made up from budget cuts to other areas, which could mean cuts to quality of life, cuts to safety, or even cuts to staffing. Organizations can avoid such cuts through the implementation of energy efficient upgrades. In addition to dollar savings, energy efficiency improves the appearance of the space, occupant safety, patient comfort, and is good for the environment.

Some of energy efficiency’s biggest benefits to healthcare facilities:

Cost Savings and Increased Profitability

Improvements to energy efficiency can reduce the cost of energy by as much as 75%. Although the initial investment is larger, LEDs can also reduce maintenance costs, as bulbs can last up to 25 years (a lifespan twice that of CFLs). Fusing the cost savings of lower energy bills and reduced maintenance, coupled with improved patient satisfaction and improved sales, simple efficiency improvements like upgrading to LEDs have the potential to dramatically magnify a facility’s bottom line.

The potential for savings can vary, but most facilities can see significant gains through energy efficiency with minimal investment. Some examples include:

Geiseinger Health System

Based in Danville, PA, retrofitted 24,000 light fixtures and installed occupancy sensors across their facilities—accounting for 50% in energy savings. The company also received $156,000 in incentives from a local utility. The project yielded energy savings of $460,000 annually, paying for itself in less than four years. Read more.

Gundersen Health Systems

Based out of La Crosse, Wisconsin hired Energy Performance Lighting to replace their outdated lighting. Regarding the interior, we installed LED tubes and lamps, and replaced high-pressure sodium (HPS) exterior pole fixtures with new LED fixtures. The project yielded energy savings of $105,185 annually and reduced greenhouse gas emissions over 2 million lbs. per year. Read more.

Creates a Welcoming Environment

Waiting rooms outfitted with old, gloomy light fixtures feel uninviting and grim to potential patients. LEDs can enhance and brighten the space, making it feel more welcoming, and relieve feelings of anxiousness for patients and visitors. With the ability to customize their correlated color temperature (CCT) and brightness, LED lights provide healthcare organizations with the ability to control illumination, not only in the waiting room, or a patient’s room, but throughout the entire building, delivering the desired appearance without sacrificing the quality of care.

Gratifying Patient Experiences

Combining LED fixtures with an intelligent building system—such as an IoT-enabled infrastructure—can further improve energy-related savings through integrated recognition and operation of all building systems. Moreover, the “smart” building systems allow for customized patient preferences for room lighting and temperature, hallway noise management, and indoor navigation for visitors. In patients experiencing a loss of control as a result of a debilitating disease or illness, these technologic amenities can return feelings of composure.

Enhanced Comfort

As lighting technologies evolve, so does our understanding of how light affects us. Research shows lighting has a significant impact on the well-being of staff, patients, and even visitors. Bright light is shown to reduce drowsiness, cause us to feel energetic and lively, and promote feelings of happiness. Insufficient or dull lighting is associated with eyestrain—which can cause headaches and lead to accidents—is associated with higher levels of stress and fatigue, can trigger seizures, and even lead to a mild form of depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Through the application of optimal lighting, healthcare facilities can alleviate these ailments, which will improve the well-being of patients, staff, and visitors.

Improved Operational Processes

Circling back to IoT, hospitals can improve operational productivity through the implementation of intelligent building technologies. Healthcare organizations can employ real time location systems (RTLS) to monitor the location of care-related equipment to prevent essential equipment from stockpiling, and reduce the amount of time needed to locate necessary hardware during immediate care situations. Even hospital staff, from doctors, to nurses, to patients and security can be tracked to quicken response times.

Radiant Exteriors

By upgrading exterior lights to LEDs, hospitals and healthcare facilities can shine as brightly on the outside as on the inside. In an industry where time is of the essence, proper exterior illumination can help guide emergency vehicles and patients to the proper entrance. Replacing inadequate parking lot and parking structure lighting with LEDs can make parking areas brighter and safer for facility staff, patients, and visitors alike.

In Conclusion

There are many more ways in which energy-efficient and smart building technologies can help healthcare facilities achieve their overall goals of patient care, cost reduction, and more sustainable operation. Using these technologies, the general standard of care can be improved and a health facility transformed from a cost center into a self-catering instrument.

The first step in implementing energy efficient upgrades in your facility is to complete an assessment. Energy Performance Lighting performs investment-grade lighting evaluations for hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and other health care facilities. To see how your lighting compares, give our certified lighting efficiency professionals a call at (608) 661-5555 or schedule an assessment online and a representative will reach out within one business day to learn more about your facility needs and discuss potenital options.

Advantage of LEDs on Higher Ed Campuses

There are lots of factors that determine student success in college: good study habits, passionate instructors, valuable campus resources; these all contribute to having a positive college experience. Believe it or not, there’s another aspect of college life that is often overlooked, yet it still influences student success, and touches the lives of every student on campus: lighting.

Lighting has an abundance of applications for Universities and College Campuses – students participate in evening classes, late night lab sessions and projects, and evening social activities – so it’s important to create a well-lit, safe environment for your student body.

“A well-designed outdoor lighting system can offer environmental and financial benefits,” says John Casadonte, the product marketing manager at Cree, Inc. “Colleges and Universities typically have large outdoor spaces or pathways that require significant lighting, and parking structures are often illuminated continuously, providing major opportunities for efficiency and lower costs.” A safer environment, coupled with the desire for younger generations to learn the value of sustainable energy and reducing their carbon footprint, has created a strong desire for LED lighting at college-level institutions.

Fortunately, advancements in lighting technology, ranging from more-efficient components to increasingly sophisticated controls, along with the eagerness of energy providers to boost efficiency, offer attractive opportunities for making the most of your campus’s lighting system.

Practical Applications for Campus LED Lighting

LED lighting is practical for university and college campuses since it works so well for various installations, including: walkways, buildings, parking lots and structures, gymnasiums and admin offices. Along with providing better light quality, color rendering, and reduced energy consumption, LED light bulbs commonly last longer than 10 years, keeping maintenance costs at a minimum.

Common Areas and Walkways

Safety during evening activities and night time transitions between dorms, educational and recreational buildings is essential. On average, walkways and common areas require 12 hours (or more) of lighting per evening.

An investment in LED lights provides a great ROI as LEDs are 50% more efficient than fluorescent lights and most LEDs have a useful life of at least 50,000 hours (compared to 24,000 hours for high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, 15,000 hours for fluorescent lamps, and 1,000 hours for incandescents).

Parking Lots and Garage Structures

Denver Airport Parking Garage Before and After

(Image courtesy of: Business Wire)

From an energy saving perspective, student and faculty parking areas are great for examining the benefits of an LED lighting system. Similar to campus walkways and common outdoor areas, parking lot light fixtures can operate continuously for upwards of 12 hours every day – and can be one of your largest energy expenses – common wattages for HID parking lot lights range from 400w to 1,000w, costing up to $525 per lamp, per year, to operate in electricity alone! In addition to potential lamp lifetime concerns, parking lot and parking structure lights often require the use of a lift or bucket truck to replace a lamp or ballast. Many campuses do not own a bucket truck or lift, and as a result, are required to hire a contractor for fixture maintenance, which can cost up to $1,200 in labor and materials to maintain just a single parking light fixture over 3 years!

Tilting away from an energy efficiency and cost-savings perspective, brighter light with better light quality helps to elevate student and faculty mood by making them feel safer. The improved lighting also provides the opportunity to take notice of, and avoid, slippery areas, irregular surfaces, curbs, wheel stops, and other features that may results in slips or trip-and-fall accidents. Reduced falls and reduced crime reduce your risk of lawsuits that occur due to crime victimization and fall injuries. Poor light quality (and poor lighting in general) is a common reason that property owners are forced to pay damages in these lawsuits.

The improved lighting also makes the parking lot or structure appear more attractive and upscale.

Campus Building Exteriors

Safety around campus doorways and windows is important. Wall pack fixtures and building flood lights can be very effective solutions when combined with LED lighting. In fact, many campuses have already started replacing lights with LED technology; John Casadonte, Cree, Inc. states, “while current technology for outdoor light fixtures—such as halogen or HID (high-intensity discharge)—offers the potential for high light output, they can be more costly than LED alternatives.” Casadonte goes on to note that some outdoor light fixtures deliver better light control and more uniform, white light than metal halide and may provide nearly maintenance-free lighting for up to 100,000 hours.

In addition, those outdoor areas previous discussed (common areas, walkways, parking lots, garage structures and campus building exteriors) tend to be lit for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the year. With such a high demand, there is a huge potential for savings if the right technology is utilized.

Gymnasiums and Natatoriums

Since these facilities can stay open up to 20 hours on average, the energy and maintenance savings achieved through high-bay LED fixtures yields an attractive ROI. The solid-state nature of modern LEDs, and the option to remotely mount drivers or power supplies, helps to keep maintenance requirements simple in high-humidity natatoriums. And the ability to withstand severe impacts with minimal-to-no-damage makes LED high-bays are great choice to use in gymnasiums.

D.O.E.—Princeton University Case Study

A great example of the implementation of LEDs on a college campus can be found in this evaluation of exterior LED lighting retrofits at Princeton University—carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy. View the case study here.

Princeton University applied LED lighting to exterior walkways, parking lots, and parking garages; some including the application of lighting controls. The previous HID lighting system on campus used a total of 298,267 kWh of electricity per year. Once the LED lighting retrofits were installed, the system used 102,822 kWh of electricity per year, resulting in an annual savings of 195,443 kWh. Once lighting controls were factored into the equation, the savings were calculated as high as 246,995 kWh saved annually

In Conclusion

When it comes to return on investment, campus lighting may rank among the most-promising of areas. When considering available options, you should take care to select products that are based on proven technologies.

The fact remains that the application of LED lighting retrofits at colleges and universities can easily be justified as economical alternatives based on the energy and maintenance savings. In addition, the younger generations are acutely aware of the need for environmentally-friendly solutions, an LED lighting system can enhance the image of any educational institution.

If you’re looking for a way to improve the environment for your students and teachers, a lighting upgrade may be the solution. For more information, or to schedule on audit, contact the Lighting Certified specialists at Energy Performance Lighting by email or phone at (608) 661-5555, or you can click here to schedule a lighting service. Complete our simple assessment form and an EPL team member will contact you within 24 hours to discuss solutions for your building(s).

Using Shared Savings to Create Sustainable Schools Today

Saving on avoided costs can add up!

School districts across the country are tasked with the challenge of trying to save every dollar they can. Facility managers already know that pushing resources to their limits is absolutely necessary in creating sustainable operations, as the funding for maintenance, capital improvement projects, and educational resources is still lacking.

With so many obstacles, how can school leaders position their facilities and school staff for long-term success and sustainability? Prioritizing energy upgrades and taking advantage of shared energy savings programs is a great place to start since those projects often pay for themselves.

School Sustainability Hurdles

Public schools in the U.S. are already facing an $8-billion shortfall for annual operations and maintenance—more than the cost of textbooks and computers combined—and according to a report by the 21st Century School Fund in partnership with the National Council on School Facilities, the U.S. is projected to underinvest in school buildings by a gap of $46-billion annually. View their infographic to learn more.

Districts have become more creative with how they save money, but it’s still a challenge to manage old infrastructure while attempting to maintain low utility costs. Funding to replace aging equipment, like lighting and HVAC systems, is not always available and students and staff require sufficient spaces that are conductive to learning. For many schools, deferring maintenance becomes the knee-jerk response.

The cost-savings achieved by expanding on energy efficiency enables schools to fund critical facility upgrades, like roof replacement, resolving asbestos and mold issues, security camera installation, classroom remodels, and other critical facility needs.

What is a Shared Energy Savings Program?

A shared energy savings program is a revolving loan fund offered by utility providers (and some private companies) to finance energy-efficient improvements to your facilities.

Your utility provider provides up-front financing and the majority of shared savings programs give your organization the option to repay all or part of the loan through the energy savings generated—often with no up-front investment required.

The energy savings achieved through a shared savings program, and the resulting energy savings, benefit everyone by shifting funds (otherwise spent on utility bills) back into building improvement projects.

Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Shared Savings Programs

Improving energy efficiency can help schools to address the challenges they face, such as increasing energy costs and compromised classroom conditions. Improving your school’s energy efficiency, by eliminating waste and reducing operating costs, frees up a larger portion of your budget to use on educational programs and building improvements, both of which can enhance the quality of your educational services which, in-turn, improves your student’s academic performance.

Life-Cycle Cost of Delaying a Project

We’ve established clear benefits to being energy efficient, but what about the funding for these energy efficiency upgrades? Immediate access to the necessary funding is not available for many schools. However, leaving underperforming equipment to fail prior to upgrading or replacing it is costly and counterproductive.

There are four possible approaches a school can take when dealing with these types of upgrades: use available allowances to install immediately, wait for future capital budget allowances, use financing for the installation of upgrades immediately, or do nothing. The following graph shows the comparative costs of these four options.

Taking no action is your worst option

The option with the lowest cost is to make improvements with capital budget allowances that are currently available (funding available today). Although this scenario is ideal, it’s often unrealistic as many school districts have limited budgets.

The next option is to wait for future capital budget allowances (or delayed funding). The total cost of waiting for future capital budget funding before replacing inefficient equipment is greater than the cost of financing the upgrades immediately, which, in many scenarios, begins paying for itself as the energy saved offsets the cost of financing the replacement equipment.

Using that same logic, doing nothing (taking no action) should be your last choice, as it’s the most-costly by a wide margin, as schools continue paying costly energy bills and defer required maintenance.

Shared energy programs enable schools to pay for upgrades over time by using the future savings generated by those same upgrades thus bridging the financial gap to make energy efficient upgrades a reality today.

Sustainability that Pays for Itself

Shared savings programs, and other energy performance contracts, give schools the power to cover the expenses of energy efficiency over time by utilizing the savings created via those same upgrades—known as energy conservation measures—essentially turning the savings-generated into avoided costs.

These programs operate on the understanding that schools will utilize the avoided expenses to satisfy the cost of the installed upgrades. The following graphic is an example of a school that is initially paying an amount “A”, which equals $200,000 per year in utility bills. The school in this example predicts that by installing energy saving upgrades it can reduce its utility bills by $80,000 per year, resulting in a post-upgrade bill “B” of $120,000 per year. The difference is the “avoided annual cost,” money that would have been spent on energy bills but can now be used to finance further energy conservation methods.

Utility cost vs avoided cost

Over time, these yearly avoided costs aggregate, allowing the school to pay for the initial overhaul and then implement additional upgrades that save even more energy (see graphic below). Essentially, these programs allow the upgrades to pay for themselves. After satisfying the initial cost of financing, the outcome is a permanent decrease in operating expenses. Even before full reimbursement, the school, its student, staff, and teachers can enjoy the environmental and health benefits of new hardware.

Avoided costs accumulate over time

How to Get Started

Step 1: Contact

Reach out to your utility provider (Alliant Energy, MG&E, We Energies, etc.) for more information, and speak to the account manager, or energy services representative, that oversees your organization to determine your eligibility.

Step 2: Analyze Savings

You can review the energy-saving benefits of the improvements you are considering with your account manager, or instead chose to work with other experts (i.e. designers, contractors, consultants, engineers, Focus on Energy, etc.) to determine the value of savings for your project. If you elect to use an outside expert, it's recommended that you get the opinion of your account manager on your savings estimates.

Step 3: Analyze Costs

Financing options that match your project's estimated savings will be provided by your account manager, in an effort to structure financing payments that fit the pattern of energy savings created by your project. You can then choose which financing options is the best fit for you.

Step 4: Making a Decision

Based on the cost and savings estimates, you decide whether to proceed with the project or not. There may be additional analysis required, or you may choose to proceed with the project itself.

Step 5: Shared Savings

If you choose to follow-through with using Shared Savings funds to finance your project, your utility provider may then seek to obtain financial information from your organization. After fufilling a review, and establishing your company's creditworthiness, a loan agreement is prepared.

Step 6: Loan Agreement

Your account manager will gather the necessary information and prepare a draft financing agreement that you can review. If accepted, your utility provider, or financing company, will finalize the documents for you to sign.

Step 7: Signatures

You can instruct your project's contractor to begin the work only after all the signatures needed have been obtained on the loan agreement.

Step 8: Funds Released

Your utility or financing company will disburse progress payments until all the required funds have been released.

Step 9: Repayment

Your utility company will begin billing you for repayment of the Shared Savings loan; typically repayments can be satisfied using the reduced energy costs supplied by your energy-efficient upgrades.

Shared Savings Programs FAQ

How can the funds be used?

Funds received from the program can be applied to the direct costs of your qualifying project. Typically, this includes the equipment, materials, and labor for a complete project. In some cases, indirect, or soft costs, related to the project may qualify to be included in the project scope.

How are savings shared?

It’s up to you. You can choose to allocate all of most of the project energy savings created in the early years toward paying off the loan, or you might choose to pocket a larger portion of the savings up-front (however, this may prolong the time needed to repay the loan). Regardless, you decide how quickly savings are applied toward loan satisfaction versus other financial choices.

Are shared savings the same as a rebate?

No. Shared savings programs are not an up-front cash incentive, and do not have the same immediate financial reward for energy conservation projects as rebates provide. Since the savings program’s loan must be repaid, the financial reward stems from the subsequent excess energy savings.

Why use a shared energy savings program?

The main benefit to these programs: they help save energy. But other indirect benefits can also prove to be substantial, such as: reduced maintenance costs, increased comfort, productivity, and morale, increased property value, and environmental benefits. As mentioned above, a shared energy savings program can also aid in preserving your capital dollars and credit lines for other projects.

Guide to Energy Efficient Lighting Incentives and Rebates

The staff at Energy Performance Lighting can provide a laundry list of benefits for an energy efficient lighting system, but when contemplating a lighting retrofit project, typically the first thing that comes to mind is project cost. Expenses for lighting retrofits can vary wildly depending on the size and scope of work for the project; however, on top of appreciating the huge energy savings you’ll experience after making the switch, you’ll be happy to learn that there’s even more money you can save by taking advantage of energy efficient lighting rebates and energy efficient grants.

Many of the products used by EPL are eligible for rebates from utility companies, including basic LED lighting rebates and government rebates for commercial LED lighting. The best part is that it’s just as good as it sounds – your utility company wants to give you money to save electricity, and we want to help you as much as we can in that process.

Rebates for Upgrading to Energy Efficient Lighting

Curious if your project qualifies for a rebate? There are many factors that can depend on. The first step is to talk with your local electric utility company to see what they can offer for your lighting retrofit or other energy efficient project. The rebates they provide can influence your purchasing decisions, so it’s important to know early in the process what kind of savings are available to you. One added bonus, is utilities’ incentive programs are somewhat insulated from politics and are less likely to change with an election.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency is an online resource with comprehensive information on incentives and policies that support energy efficient upgrades in the United States.

Some of the lighting certifications that often qualify for rebates are Design Light Consortium (DLC) and Energy Star products. Purchasing products with those certifications should be seen as a great first step, and can help you get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which is a good way to access even more lighting rebate programs in the future.

Energy Star, which is a government program managed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, also offers a Rebate Finder that allows you to search for incentives by zip code and product type. As an additional resource, the U.S. Department of Energy maintains a list of tax credits, rebates, and other savings available for a variety of green technologies, including an extensive list for LED lighting projects.

If the rebate process has you confused, don’t worry. The Energy Performance Lighting team of certified lighting efficiency professionals is available to provide advice on your rebate over the phone from 8AM-4PM CST, Monday-Friday at 1-608-661-5555. Or, feel free to tell us about your lighting project via email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

In the meantime, feel free to review more information about the different types of energy efficient lighting rebates currently available on the market.

What is a Prescriptive Lighting Rebate?

Prescriptive rebates help businesses reduce their payback period by offering a predetermined dollar amount for a specific type of fixture that you’re planning to install from the utility company. The great thing about a prescriptive lighting rebate is that it has wider availability. This type of rebate is very explicit, straightforward, and is easy to apply for. On top of fixture incentives, some prescriptive lighting programs will offer labor incentives as well. When use together, these rebates can save your organization a ton of money, boosting the project’s ROI. Some refer to prescriptive lighting rebates as “instant rebates,” however, incentives are paid out based on the parameters relating to the item sold, and are typically not claimed instantly.

What is a Custom Lighting Rebate?

Custom lighting rebate programs offer incentives for lighting projects which do not meet the requirements of existing instant or prescriptive rebate programs. In essence, you are proposing your own specific rebate to an electric company. This can be especially true for large projects with many various types of light fixtures and that doesn’t fit any current rebate on the market.

In the scenario, you will want to submit a proposal and have an auditor from the electric utility visit your facility to assess the energy savings. Once you have your energy efficient lighting system installed, the auditor will return for a final inspection before approving the funds earned in the rebate. The good thing about custom lighting rebates is that they offer more profitable incentives on the same application, but the bad thing is that there is typically a lot of complexities to sort through to get the larger incentives for your project.

Reasons to Invest in Energy Efficient Lighting

Energy efficiency is one of the best investments any business can make because it’s the easiest way to affect your bottom-line without the trouble of having to increase top-line operation costs. Slashing energy use by 20% is equivalent to boosting your bottom line by 5%. According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), for every dollar invested in energy efficient measures yields up to $4 in benefits over the life of the project.

Lighting retrofits can reduce your environmental impact as technological advances continue to improve the energy efficiency of many building systems by as much as 30%-60%. This results in lower utility bills and a reduced carbon footprint—often without sacrificing quality or comfort. Using less energy reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide, air-borne mercury, and other harmful pollutants released from power plants which burn less fossil fuels to meet the lower energy demand.

Keep pace with your competition—if your peers are going green, why aren’t you? More than 100 leading industrial firms, from 3M to Whirlpool, have committed to reduce their energy intensity by 25% over the next decade, because they know it’s the best way to save money, reduce risk, and maintain their competitive edge, even in the most challenging economic environments.

Energy efficient lighting can also increase the productivity of your employees. People prefer working in energy-efficient buildings because they’re designed to provide fresh air, daylight, and a great sense of control over their environment. A Cornell University study shows productivity increases by 3%-5% and sick days decrease by 20%-25% when the proper lighting programs are implemented. Even the smallest improvements in employee health and productivity can have a substantial financial impact, potentially much larger than the operational energy savings from lighting retrofits.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, we’re able to see that there are multiple types of rebates and incentives available for lighting retrofit projects. Finding the right rebate for your project is critical to ensuring a proper ROI. To learn more about what a lighting retrofit project might look for your company, please reach out to us at Energy Performance Lighting by phone at 1-608-661-5555, visiting our website, or click here to email us. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you save money with energy efficient lighting!

5 Reasons To Update Your Facility's Lighting

Updated lighting systems have many benefits for the building owner, the building users, and the electric utility. The main benefits include: reduced electricity demand, energy savings, and lower operating costs. However, there are also less quantifiable benefits, such as: improved lighting quality, productivity boosts, and a lower carbon footprint, which may be even more important.

Five Reasons to Update Your Company's Lighting:

Energy Savings

The most obvious and immediate benefit to retrofitting an outdated lighting system is to reduce lighting costs and related expenses. By upgrading lighting components to more efficient and advanced technologies, LED lighting retrofits can cut down on energy consumption, and lower energy bills, while maintaining light levels and quality. Upgraded lighting tech can also offer employees greater control over the lighting of their workspace, which may provide additional energy savings, and increase employee satisfaction.

Lighting Quality

Lighting retrofits can improve lighting quality by targeting areas with pre-existing problems and using specific design considerations to overcome common lighting issues. Using newer technologies can potentially add increased reliability to your lighting system, causing fewer short-term lighting-quality issues. In addition to added reliability, newer tech often provides better lighting characteristics, such as greater light output, improved color, reduced flicker, less glare, etc.

Reduced Maintenance and Labor

Most energy-efficient lighting retrofits also curtail maintenance costs. Improvements in lighting technology has led to the increased lifetimes of lighting components, which result in fewer failures, and lengthens the time between required maintenance. Moreover, lighting retrofit programs typically involve significant equipment replacements—often, many lighting systems are being replaced after 10 years or more of neglect—and offer an opportunity to begin new maintenance procedures which can also help to reduce maintenance costs in the long term, while providing a sense of renewal in the building’s appearance, and sense of brightness.

Cleaner Air

A considerable amount of electricity is produced in generation plants via the combustion process, adding literal tons of pollutants to the atmosphere, which contribute to global warming, acid rain, and other environmental problems. By consuming less electricity, facilities can help reduce the demand and harmful emissions, such as CO2 and SO2, associated with “off-site” power generation.

Improved Productivity

Modern day workers spend more time on the job than their predecessors; if they’re not working productively, they aren’t benefiting their employer. It can be difficult to document and assign a monetary value to the relationship between an energy-efficient lighting system and worker productivity; however, there is little doubt that workers would be more productive if the glare was removed from computer screens, the electric light provided better color rending, or if flicker were eliminated.

Significance of Lighting Retrofits

Investing in a lighting retrofit system makes good economic sense for any commercial building, as an increasing number of businesses are under constant pressure to increase productivity and reduce costs. By replacing aged lighting components with advanced energy-efficient components, a building’s lighting energy costs can be reduced by as much as 60%, while maintaining, or even enhancing the quality of the visual environment.

In fact, according to the Electric Power Research Institute’s Lighting Retrofit Manual, “most lighting retrofits pay for themselves through energy savings in less than seven years; in some cases, simple payback can occur in under three years.”

Lighting represents approximately 30-35% of electricity consumption in the commercial sector, but highly-efficient lighting retrofits can cost-effectively save anywhere from 30-60% of this energy. When worker productivity and occupant satisfaction are factored into the economic analysis, lighting improvements have shown to produce immediate benefits.

When a Lighting Upgrade Makes Sense

Upgrading the lighting system for your building makes sense any time lighting energy can be saved cost-effectively. One (or more) of the following conditions typically results in LED lighting retrofits:

Excessive Illuminance

A majority of spaces in the building are overlit. Buildings that are over—or under—lit are consistent candidates for LED lighting retrofits. Most buildings constructed before the 1980s are likely to have excessive illuminance.

Inefficient Technology

Over the past two decades, lighting technology and equipment has remarkably improved in terms of efficiency, product life, and lighting quality. However, older inefficient equipment is still commonly used, and its replacement is a primary strategy behind lighting retrofits.

Poor Maintenance

Dust and dirt can accumulate on lamps or fixtures with poor or infrequent maintenance, which can interfere with light delivery and reduce efficiency. Poor maintenance can also result in the use of lamps that are beyond their rated lives. According to the IES, “old lamps use the same power as new ones but produce significantly less light.”

Long Hours of Operation

When a lighting system is operated almost continuously, any small improvement in lighting efficiency can save a considerable amount of energy. The long hours of lighting operation typical of hospitals, police stations, correctional facilities, etc. make most upgraded lighting systems easy to justify.

High Electricity/Demand Charges

It can be easy to justify an investment in efficient lighting when energy rates are high. While the cost of installing an energy efficient lighting system remains constant, the energy cost savings over time are much greater, making lighting retrofits that would otherwise be marginal, much more-likely to be cost-effective.

Suboptimal Lighting Conditions (Deferred Capital Re-Investment)

Although not on the topic of energy savings via lighting, it’s also important to focus on the connection between retrofits, a high-quality visual environment, and the increased well-being and productivity of the occupants. As a building’s lighting systems are renovated, lighting energy use may stay constant or even fall, as the use of efficient lighting technologies increases. Incentives or other benefits of a new lighting system may minimize deferred capital gains.

Smart Lighting—The Next Big Thing?

The most forward-thinking businesses around the planet are already optimizing their operations and cutting costs through lighting upgrade technologies.

You’ve likely already heard of the IoT (Internet of Things) movement—a system of interrelated computer devices, machines, objects, animals, or people that have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction—but beyond the consumer IoT is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). According to Navigant Research, the global market revenue for IIoT lighting is expected to swell to $4.5 billion in 2026, thanks to the widespread implementation of intelligent lighting products in industrial and commercial facilities around the globe.

With lighting upgrades, and now the ‘Smart Building’ movement, poised for exponential growth in the next few years, when will you consider getting your building’s lighting upgraded?

In Conclusion

Energy Performance Lighting stays educated on lighting, because lighting is all we do. Our technicians stay up-to-date and informed on the latest energy efficient technology and smart lighting products on the market. The family at EPL is always happy to work with you and help you with any questions you may have. If you’re looking for a way to improve your facility environment, reduce your energy consumption, and boost worker productivity, a lighting upgrade may be the solution.

For more information, contact the certified lighting efficiency professionals at Energy Performance Lighting by sending us a message, giving us a call at (608) 661-5555, or schedule a free lighting assessment by clicking here and an EPL team member will reach out to your within one business day.

Prevent 17 Common Lighting Mistakes

Don’t underestimate the importance of an energy audit. It’s the basis for everything from evaluating the project’s financial worth to manufacturing and ordering parts. Energy-efficient lighting retrofits offer an extraordinary chance to cut operating costs and improve lighting quality. But, along with the opportunity for improvement comes the opportunity for mistakes. Some of the most inherent dangers in lighting projects are outlined here. If you follow the guidelines here and avoid these 17 slip-ups, you’ll be pleased with your lighting retrofit project.

1. Choosing the Wrong Team

Energy efficiency is more than the pursuit of energy savings. People are your most important and productive asset, so work-environment quality is critical. A gain in energy savings can be offset by a loss in productivity if quality isn’t part of the evaluation. A good partner is just as much an experienced consultant as a provider of equipment and installation services. Beware of “instant experience” in energy efficiency. If you choose a quality partner, you’ll go a long way toward avoiding the 16 other costly mistakes.

2. Conflicting Chain of Command

Retrofits involve decisions with multiple objectives, and typically impact various departments. The best projects come from exchange of information among members of a project team taking direction from a project manager with the authority to negotiate from start to finish. If the final decision is made by the purchasing department without an understanding of your objectives, the system you want won’t be the system you’ll get.

3. Neglecting Frontline People

Sure, savings are important, but tenants and occupants will work in the new environment for years to come; if they don’t like it, someone’s going to hear about it. The best way to avoid complaints is to involve your associates from the start. Solicit ideas from experts and others who have completed similar projects. Keep maintenance personnel in consideration, think about replacement of wearable parts down the road, and be sure to include ease of maintenance in all specifications.

4. Calling in Experts Too Late

Before committing to a project, call in the experts. View your energy-services vendor as a partner, not just a supplier. Be sure your partner can stand behind every statement and warranty. When it comes to project management, you should expect these things from a true energy-services partner:

  • Establishment of goals for savings and facility comfort and quality
  • Identification of project requirements
  • A comprehensive audit (see No. 5)
  • Proposal development and opportunity to redesign
  • Testing and evaluation
  • Implementation

Be sure you clearly outline to all prospective vendors that this is what you want, and be sure you get it.

5. Underestimating the Importance of an Audit

A retrofit isn’t like a new construction project – there’s no set of blueprints to start from, and usually no pressing construction schedule to keep. It’s the building audit or survey that establishes the foundation for all work to be performed. The audit is the basis for everything from evaluating the project’s financial worth to manufacturing and ordering parts.

Where can things go wrong? There’s the potential for mistakes in identifying existing equipment, its location, and the recommended replacement. There’s the potential to transpose numbers and make errors in tabulation of inventory and scheduling. At LIME Energy, factory-trained technicians use hand-held computers to identify fixtures and equipment by building, floor, room, and suite. Special codes spell out everything, including restricted access, time limitations, special working conditions, and other vital information used by project personnel. This becomes the blueprint for equipment selection, installation, verification, and billing.

6. Using the Wrong Approach

Manufacturers want you to buy their products – even if they portray them as “generic” as part of an overall installed solution. The trick is to get lighting, HVAC, motors, drives, and other energy-using equipment to work together. When you use a systems approach, you can achieve maximum savings and improve quality.

First, establish your objectives for light level, temperature, airflow, and hours of operation, and don’t assume that anything you have must stay the same. For example, most overhead lighting creates unacceptable glare on computer screens, and most desk work can be done with task lighting; a redesign of the entire lighting system may save much more energy than simply changing the existing equipment to the most efficient.

The only way you know you’re making the best choices for energy efficiency is to look at the entire building as a system.

7. Buying Based on Price

Energy-saving retrofit projects bought on price alone are usually a false economy. The few pennies saved upfront can cost thousands in lost savings, increased maintenance costs, and losses in worker productivity. Since the energy savings are paying for the project, why not choose higher quality and avoid risky situations, even if it means adding a few months to the payback?

Ask a qualified contractor to quote the steps of analyzing, designing, and installing a retrofit project, and you’ll know the fair market value for these services. Beware of the company that undercuts the going market price; it’s easy for vendors to cut price if they know how. They can:

  • Use untrained labor.
  • Substitute lower-grade material or use less material.
  • Bid unreliable or untested technology.
  • Supply discontinued products from vendors.
  • Use a commodity design instead of a custom product.
  • Cut corners on installation.
  • Skip permits.
  • Fail to pay suppliers.
  • Ignore UL requirements.

To an untrained observer, these tactics may go unnoticed, so establish criteria for product quality, and the quality of the installation work and crews, and communicate this to potential vendors before sending out for quotations.

8. No “What-If” Planning

A retrofit project impacts almost everyone, so consider the “what ifs.” It’s easy to identify and plan for anything if you take advantage of the expertise that a qualified company like Energy Performance Lighting offers.

Take light-level readings and measure space temperatures before and after throughout your facility without telling anyone. That way, you’re prepared for the occasional troublemaker who insists that he or she can’t work because of unacceptable changes to the way things were before. Nothing resolves a dispute better than facts.

Prepare a project book that documents your work before and after. Senior management can’t help but be proud of you; "the new corporate hero who saved them lots of money."

9. Not Testing Thoroughly

The greatest part of a lighting retrofit is that it lends itself to verification. Take readings before and after in the same locations, and gather information over time. Use the same metering equipment and account for cleaning, age, and sunlight location when making comparisons. Gathering information will enable you to verify the potential of a retrofit project every time.

10. Botching Up Installation

After a proposed design has been evaluated, you must develop an installation plan of action. Lacking coordination, installation can become a nightmare. Everyone needs to be informed and ready to cooperate. Communication should be in writing; otherwise, you’ll find yourself arguing with an associate or vendor about who ordered the wrong part or model. (You’ll also argue about who’s going to pay for the mistakes.)

Make sure your contractor has successfully worked in an environment similar to yours. Just as important, your vendor should be willing to provide an installation checklist that spells out every step, from security access and clean-up to special equipment needs.

11. Falling for “Bargain” Products

Ask for a warranty. Then, read between the lines. Does the warranty cover what it would take to replace a product in the event of a failure? Be sure to get a performance warranty that covers material, design, and installation.

Next, check your vendor’s financial net worth. There’s no value in a warranty if the company offering it has no assets. Taking the time to carefully evaluate technologies and vendors will pay handsome dividends in savings and improved building comfort and operations. Regardless of the price, it’s no bargain if it doesn’t work.

12. Failing to Scrutinize Proposals

Go back and look carefully at the proposals you’ve received. Check facts and figures; then, double check.

Most of the information you’ll need to make a decision is contained within the audit report: one more reason you can’t underestimate the value of the comprehensive audit and the complete, clear design proposal.

Another important point: Choosing a company without adequate financial resources can be dangerous. Invariably, there are always some adjustments to be made on a retrofit project. Your energy-services project provider must be able to absorb those costs and deliver as promised. An inability to pay suppliers, limited credit lines, or cash-flow problems can lead to delays and liens. If there are major problems, the customer becomes the natural focus for legal recourse.

13. Celebrating Too Soon

Sometimes, a retrofit test can fool you. The light-level readings you obtain today may not stay within an acceptable range over time. Depending on the lamp selected, different lumen maintenance curves apply. Over time, lamps will lose their brightness, shown on the lamp lumen depreciation curve. Also, dirt and dust accumulation must be factored into the equation. Always evaluate your proposals based on light-level readings that will be maintained over time.

14. Holding Back Too Long

There are two main reasons why companies hold back. One reason is corporate inertia. After all, the building is usually comfortable, and the lights still work; no one is complaining. With constant on-the-job pressures, who has the time for anything but today’s most urgent crisis? The other reason for delay is to wait for a new rate schedule, rebate, or technology.

But, the truth is, the savings you gain from a properly planned lighting retrofit almost always outweigh other considerations. Take advantage of energy savings now. Delaying a decision in anticipation of any future possibility means you’ll miss out on immediate savings.

15. Using “Average” Electricity Rates to Calculate Savings

While your average electricity rates can provide a quick feel for a project’s potential, actual electricity bills should be used to determine your savings. A common mistake is overlooking the rate structure that applies to your business. Check with your utility to make sure the savings assumptions in the proposal are based on the correct rate structure.

16. Falling in Love with the Hardware

Sometimes, in the excitement of evaluating new technology, we lose sight of original objectives. For example, sophisticated control features can be appealing, but are often difficult to justify in terms of cost. You don’t want to pay for features you won’t use, or that are unnecessary.

It’s one thing to understand how technology works – what’s more important is how it’s applied.

17. Overlooking Opportunities

It’s a big mistake to believe that installing new equipment to save energy is “not in the budget.” That’s like saying you can’t afford to save money. The mere act of paying your electricity bill means there’s cash waiting to work for you.

To begin with, financial programs are available that will create positive cash flow from the start. In turn, a properly designed program virtually guarantees that your monthly savings will exceed your monthly payment. If you’re a real estate developer or a building owner, make your space more competitive by upgrading to improved air-conditioning with better controls and better-looking light fixtures with appropriate light levels. An attractive, efficient building is one more step toward higher tenant retention. Mistakes happen. Keep in mind that an energy-efficiency retrofit is more than the sum of component parts. These retrofit projects, by their very nature, require an educated buyer to sort through competing claims and ensure that quality and service are part of the evaluation process.

In Conclusion

If you're wondering if a lighting upgrade makes sense for your business, but don't want to risk making a mistake along the way, the friendly Lighting Certified specialists at Energy Performance Lighting are always willing to help. Give us a call at 1-608-661-5555 or send us an email. Hope to hear from you soon!

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