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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 Your Business Needs Energy Efficient 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 Your Business Needs Lighting Retrofits:

1)    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.

2)    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.

3)    Maintenance and Labor CostsMost 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.

4)    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.

5)    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.

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.

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?

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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