Saving Made Easy with Commerical Retrofit Kits
Traditional commercial lighting systems – primarily three- and four-lamp parabolic or lensed troffers with T12 and T8 lamps – nearing the end of their natural lives present a great opportunity for engineers to help commercial facilities install more modern, energy-efficient lighting systems. Until recently, specifiers had four basic strategies to consider when retrofitting lighting:
- relamp and reballast
- delamp and reballast using a reflector kit
- one-for-one fixture replacement
- complete redesign
All had advantages, but none offered a truly optimal solution.
Recently however, next-generation retrofit kits have emerged as a fifth option for retrofit lighting. Available in fluorescent and LED, these kits enable installation of component parts into the housing of an existing fixture, while maintaining its integrity and delivering the appearance and efficiency of a modern fixture.
Installation of retrofit kits involves only minimal disruption to an organization’s productivity because they install from below the ceiling plane. Cleaner and faster than replacing an entire fixture housing and wiring, retrofit kits offer the option to complete installation overnight, which can eliminate any disruption.
Additionally, these retrofit kits are more cost-effective than a one-for-one replacement or an entirely new lighting design. Upgrading lighting systems to increase energy savings and achieve the performance and appearance of entirely new fixtures is now in reach – at a reasonable cost.
Maximizing ROI with Retrofit Kits
- Project payback. This should usually usually occur within 2-3 years of installation, although reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) over the expected life of the project will likely outweigh simple payback calculations.
- Minimal business disruption. Look for retrofit kit products that can be installed quickly from below the ceiling plane, without having to disturb ceiling tiles and without having to enter the plenum. Packaging and delivery should minimize mess and waste disposal – recyclable packaging is best.
- Visual enhancement. Older parabolics and lensed troffers can be upgraded to newer “volumetric” performance that improves vertical lighting distribution, reduces glare and contrast, and makes the space feel brighter and more pleasant.
- Universal versatility. Many facilities have existing fixtures that were installed over many years and may be different models from different manufacturers. A good retrofit lighting assembly should work seamlessly within the framework of existing fixtures to create a consistent look.
- Ceiling system compatibility. Ensure the selected retrofit products will fit within the current ceiling system. Assess whether the facility is metric or standard and confirm that the lighting retrofit manufacturer offers custom solutions to fit within the metric grid if necessary.
- UL label. Avoid issues with inspectors or insurance adjusters by ensuring the entire retrofit kit – not just its components – is UL-classified.
- Air-handling compatibility. Many existing, older lighting fixtures are being used in some air-handling capacity such as air-supply or heat removal. When using a retrofit kit option, ensure the product is compatible with these air-handling applications and is UL-classified for that use.
- Electrical contractor support. A high-quality lighting retrofit solution that is packaged effectively should save time and labor, and support supply chain efficiencies, allowing the electrical contractor to maximize profits. Retrofit lighting should be packaged with the installer in mind, arriving on as few pallets as possible with all components necessary for installation in one place.
A new generation retrofits the historic Rose Building
Built in 1900, the historic Rose Building in Cleveland has served as the headquarters of health insurance leader Medical Mutual of Ohio since 1948. While the building is honorably listed on the National Register of Historic Places, its old lighting system was not delivering ideal light quality or energy efficiency.
Challenges of a new lighting system in the building included
- maintaining acceptable light levels
- increasing light efficiency while achieving better light quality
- reducing the “cave effect” from existing parabolics
- saving energy
- reducing maintenance
- installing a new lighting system without disrupting daily operations
Don Green, Medical Mutual of Ohio director of building and general services, was confident in a retrofit kit solution from the start. “Early on, we decided to use the retrofit kit. It fit our needs because it is truly a turnkey approach,” said Green. “We were able to maintain the integrity of the current fixtures without any major construction. Yet we still achieved the efficiency of new ballasts and T8 lamps.”
Additionally, the kits offered a cost-effective solution. “We saved on labor because there was no need to rewire. The fast installation process also met our needs for minimal disruption to daily operations,” added Green. “Employees would leave work for the day, and would come in the next morning to a newly installed lighting solution.”
The use of retrofit kits resulted in significant energy-savings. ECO Engineering calculated that previous fixtures in the building used 1.9 million kilowatt-hours, while the new retrofit kit fixtures only use 906, 000 kilowatt hours annually. Because of related energy savings and a reduced air-conditioning load from cooler lighting, ECO Engineering projects the Rose Building’s total annual energy use will decrease from 2.5 million-kilowatt hours to 1.2 million kilowatt-hours.
Initiated in October 2011, Medical Mutual’s lighting retrofit was completed in March 2012 using the RT Relight Series from Lithonia Lighting. For more information about the product, visit www.lithonia.com/Relight.
Written by Kurt Vogel. Vogel has more than 22 years of experience in the lighting industry, most recently driving the development of Lithonia Lighting’s first indoor, ambient LED relight product, RTLED Relight. For the past 4 years, he has been helping commercial building owners, engineers, lighting designers, architects and other industry influencers realize the benefits of conventional and LED retrofit lighting. Vogel’s extensive knowledge of renovation lighting and its unique requirements keep him consulting, training and speaking with clients across the country.
Photos courtesy Lithonia Lighting/Acuity Brands