About Lighting Retrofits

A lighting retrofit is the practice of replacing components in a lighting system with counterparts that uses less energy than the original. The reduced energy consumption results in a decreases electrical utility bill, which generates operational cost savings for the owner. Over a length of time, a well-executed lighting retrofit will recover the initial cost of the retrofit and continue to save energy compared against the original ‘base case’ system. The annual utility savings as a percentage of the retrofit cost is referred to as the Return on Investment (ROI). The point at which the utility savings accrued is equal to the initial cost of the retrofit is commonly referred to as ‘pay-back’, and is an often-used metric in retrofit projects.

While energy savings is a major factor in the decision to complete a lighting retrofit, there are many other benefits to be gained by updating he is lighting system in an existing building. These include access to improved quality lighting, improved environmental and safety outcomes, enhanced occupant comfort and lighting system controllability. These various features and benefits have real-world outcomes, impacting the way people perceive merchandise in a retail setting, the level of comfort a client experiences when visiting a medical clinic, and productivity of an employee working in a large office. Many of the feature improvements can translate into tangible and quantifiable benefits such as improved retail sales through a better presentation, higher customer reviews by providing an improved customer experience or increased employee productivity by allowing staff to optimize their work-space lighting to match their needs. While difficult to estimate with the predictability of energy consumption, human-centric benefits of a lighting retrofit far out-weigh the energy savings offered by a retrofit project in many situations.

The benefits of a lighting retrofit are tremendous, encompassing much more than just a reduced utility bill. Environmental benefits include reduced electrical consumption, resulting in reduced demand on coal-fired, natural gas and nuclear power plants. The result is a reduction in CO2 and greenhouse gas pollution and the conservation of precious natural resources. Furthermore, many newer lighting technologies often present longer-lasting devices with less hazardous materials when compared to older counterparts. For example, LED lighting systems are mercury free, eliminating a harmful substance from buildings that had long been present in traditional fluorescent tubes. Additionally, modern LED lighting technologies are rated for tens or hundreds of thousands of service. This results longer lasting products, and fewer component replacements, which results in less material being sent to recyclers and landfills.

As society continues to demand improvements in sustainability and efficiency, lighting retrofits have become a fixture in the facility management and building sciences toolkits. Compared with many other building-system efficiency upgrades, lighting retrofits often offer the greatest return on investment with a low initial cost, and wide ranging and highly visible benefits for users. As we continue to progress towards a more sustainable society, LED lighting and lighting retrofits will continue to play a critical roll in improving the efficiency, quality, and functionality of Canada’s built environment.