Lighting Retrofits: Learn from Others' Mistakes

By Dan Hounsell, Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Lighting Retrofits: Rethink Knowledge of Ballasts, LampsPt. 3: Lighting Retrofits: Managers Must Ensure Products Function Post-InstallationPt. 4: Codes, Standards Influence Lighting Retrofits

As with most large projects, lighting retrofits succeed only if several key components come together.

First, maintenance and engineering managers must secure financing to support the project, whether from in-house sources or through incentives, such as rebates and tax deductions. Financing is a huge "if", certainly, but no project gets off the ground without it.

Second, managers have to understand the lighting needs of their facilities. Each building — whether a school, hospital, or office high-rise — has unique operations and conditions that directly and heavily impact the scope and content of the retrofit.

Finally, there is the technology. Financing and an understanding of the facilities undergoing the retrofit will take managers only so far. They also must learn about advances in lighting technology and, more importantly, the way new-generation products and technology can help them achieve the project's goals.

Managers will be better able to complete a successful lighting retrofit by understanding the mistakes product specifiers commonly make, the products that can help them avoid retrofit mistakes, and the codes and standards that most directly affect specification decisions.

In trying to address end users' needs, manufacturers are offering products that offer a host of benefits, but managers also must do their homework.

"Many managers don't understand all of the available technology because of so many changes in the last two to three years," says Bob Freshman, marketing manager with Leviton, who adds that the retrofit's payoff often is worth the effort to plan and execute it. "Lighting efficiency improvements offer faster returns on investment than any other building system."

Lessons to Learn

Fortunately for managers planning or considering a lighting retrofit, they can learn from — and, ideally, avoid — the mistakes others have made. Maybe the most important first step is understanding the costs and benefits of each lighting system component.

"Most retrofits are based on return on investment," Freshman says. "So you have to understand what you gain from each level of technology versus the cost." For example, the least expensive level of lighting-control technology, occupancy sensors, offer relatively simple installation and maintenance, along with significant energy savings. The next level up on the cost scale is relay control panels, Freshman says, which specifiers can link to the building-automation system to produce smart controls. Daylight harvesting and dimming generally top the list in terms of cost.

"Mistakes made in specifying lighting controls are not just limited to retrofit projects, but can be associated with any project in general terms," says Jeff Park, manager of sustainable market development with WattStopper. "Misapplication of technology and incorrect installation are leading causes of user dissatisfaction, which in turn, often leads to occupants disabling or removing the controls."

In some cases, managers err by focusing too narrowly on a particular aspect of the project.

"From an occupancy sensor stand-point, the biggest mistake specifiers make is selecting a particular sensor based just on area of coverage," says Ben Hahn, product value stream leader with Sensor Switch. "This leads to poor performance and occupant dissatisfaction. Other factors, such as the type and size of motion that needs to be detected, are just as important as the total area of coverage of a sensor."

Ken Beale, director of marketing services with Hubbell Lighting Inc., says managers also need to understand the correct application for individual controls versus system controls.

"While there are occasions where individual wall-box products may be the best solutions, they are much less efficient and much more of an issue for maintenance, with multiple suppliers," Beale says.

Specifying lamps and ballasts for retrofits also can present challenges for managers. Susan Isenhower Anderson of Osram Sylvania says a common misstep is "not considering the impact of legislation and (U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE) rulemakings on what products will be available in the future. Today, the biggest mistake would be to stay with T12 ballast systems. The 2000 DOE fluorescent-ballast rulemaking and the (National Energy Policy Act of 2005, or EPAct) legislation eliminated T12 magnetic ballasts, basically leaving only electronic T12 ballasts available in the marketplace, with even magnetic replacement ballasts eliminated as of July 1, 2010."

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  posted on 7/1/2010   Article Use Policy

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