If you’re not a lighting professional, the language used to describe energy efficient lighting upgrades isn’t the most user-friendly. Being unfamiliar with the terms can make the choice of what type of lighting project to employ for your facility seem daunting. Relight, retrofit, 1-for-1 replacement, deeper retrofits – what is the difference and where do you begin?
When faced with so many choices, a facilities manager may choose a solution simply based on price alone rather than one that is better suited for their business. Sadly, in these cases when cost trumps need, facility owners may invest less for a lighting system but pay more per unit. Or perhaps, pay for undesirables like having an unskilled retrofitter install your lighting.
What Is A Lighting Retrofit?
In the context of an energy saving lighting project, the term retrofit typically means a straight replacement of components in an existing lighting system. In other words, a 1-for-1 replacement of luminaires.
With a retrofit, the priority is about saving energy. Improvements in the lighting quality of the facility are secondary benefits. Generally, since the existing lighting is functional and well suited for the space, the existing lighting system is not changed too dramatically. These retrofits strive to harvest the “low hanging fruit” targeting the shortest payback time, greatest short-term ROI and quickest payback. These projects are driven mostly by cost and may be a good fit for your facility if you are looking to make quick, cost effective changes with benefits that you can reap immediately.
What Is Relighting?
A relighting project treats the facility as a blank slate defining an entirely new lighting system. In these instances, the existing lighting is no longer meeting the needs of the illuminated environment. A solution is defined as one that meets new requirements in the most energy efficient and financially compelling way possible. The energy efficiency is of utmost importance, even over cost.
These projects go beyond a component replacement and likely include a complete luminaire replacement, modifications to the fixture layout and a new approach to aesthetics and lighting design. Relighting projects may deploy the same or similar technology as a retrofit but will go deeper into the project, beyond the low hanging fruit.
These types of relighting projects will focus on interior and exterior lighting and are referred to as “deep retrofits” by utility companies.
What to Choose: RELIGHTING or RETROFIT?
When relighting seems the best fit:
If you own, manage or have a long-term lease, then relighting may be the best solution for you. Additional considerations include the level of customization you wish to employ and the quality of the illuminated environment you wish to obtain.
Relighting may also be the best fit if you want to customize to the user, are very dependent on a quality illuminated environment, or are one of many in a larger portfolio. These types of situations stand to lose the most with a bad relighting project and to gain the most from a great one. When they think of their bottom line, they are more likely to be able to make a decision based on longer horizons and improved life cycle costs over a longer period of time.
When Retrofitting seems the best fit:
In most cases, a retrofit is best suited for facilities where basic lighting systems are already in place, there are less demanding lighting requirements and the organization will only occupy the space for a short period of time. You may also want to consider retrofitting if you are looking for fast and simple paybacks and/or a high return on investment. However, bear in mind, deeper savings opportunities may be lost.
In either case, the facilities professional should do a thorough job of educating all involved parties. They should investigate all options and evaluate all suppliers. This way they are more likely to avoid common pitfalls and wind up with a successful project.
Author: Danielle Stewart – To start learning more about lighting retrofits and relighting projects, head over to Precision Paragon’s website, where you can quickly and easily calculate the costs of a lighting project or learn more about the differences in energy efficient lighting technologies.
For a closer look at the numbers behind these projects and the source of this article see Raymond A. Pustinger’s: RELIGHT VS. RETROFIT: HOW DOES THE INDUSTRY QUANTIFY VALUE? As featured in August’s LM&M Magazine.