October 26, 2016 | by Scott Moody, Big Ass Solutions

Upgrading to LEDs? Here’s what you need to know.

Here’s what you need to know

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Rapid growth in LED technology has brought good news for energy managers in industrial facilities, as they have more options than ever before in planning facility retrofits. Finding high-quality fixtures that reduce energy consumption and cut maintenance costs is easier today than it was several years ago.

However, this relatively young market often leaves project managers sifting through proposals from unfamiliar companies for projects they haven’t specified before. In an effort to save money, a manager can easily waste valuable time trying to apply old ideas about lighting projects to new technology.

A LED retrofit is a long-term investment that pays off in multiple ways. The most well-known is their energy efficiency – LEDs use about half the energy of metal halide lamps, which are still common in many industrial and warehouse facilities, and about 10 – 15% less energy than fluorescents, on average. Additionally, with the inclusion of ambient light and occupancy sensors—which aren’t ideal for older-style lights—LEDs can save an additional 50% of energy or more.

Plus, high-quality fixtures are rated for 150,000 hours, or 17 years of round-the-clock use, and designed to require little to no maintenance in that time. A retrofit, done well, should last for more than a decade, and its cost-benefit is partially calculated on the reduction in manpower and equipment compared to traditional lighting. That’s why an upfront site visit, layout recommendation, installation and customer service plan are more significant than they would be for metal halides or fluorescent fixtures, which require maintenance at least every two to three years.

To maximize the project’s return on investment, project managers should calculate the cost of ownership over time, rather than just the up-front cost of fixtures and installation.

When to Pull the Trigger
The first step in calculating return-on-investment is to examine the existing lighting. LED technology is not the right fit for every facility and budget – at least not yet. Project managers should be wary of any company or salesperson that claims otherwise.

The next decade will likely bring new capabilities and less costly technology. Facilities lit with modern fluorescents that are well-placed would be wise to switch to LED fixtures in phases, beginning with the areas where LEDs have the biggest impact, like high-volume production lines, warehouse aisles, cold storage and cranes. LEDs are unparalleled as task lights due to their direct light distribution pattern, which reduces shadowing, and natural color temperature and color-rendering index. Certain areas in any facility can suffer significant productivity losses when lighting goes out and stopping production during normal shifts is not an option.

The best results from a full LED retrofit will be seen in facilities still using metal halides or other high-intensity discharge lamps, as LEDs have the potential to cut lighting-related energy expenses in half and decrease overall energy use by up to 50%.

The Site Visit
No two facilities are the same and each requires a custom lighting solution, which is why any retrofit should start with a site visit. There is no universal standard or equivalency formula that ensures quality coverage when switching out metal halides, fluorescents and LED fixtures. Each type of fixture distributes light differently, so a 1-to-1 fixture swap rarely produces the ideal coverage. An in-person inspection should include representatives from the seller who are well trained in the varying light distribution patterns of each type of fixture.

Light levels are impacted by a variety of factors including placement, ceiling height, obstructions, wall colors, and the amount of dirt and dust present. The same plan won’t work for a cold storage facility in Houston that works for a manufacturing plant in Kansas, for example, even in a building with the same square footage.

If companies offer over-the-phone or over-the-internet quotes based on the idea of equivalencies, they are offering rough estimates, not guarantees. On the other end of the spectrum, specialty firms also charge exorbitant fees for engineer-designed layouts. Ideal project management includes a no- or low-cost site visit in the scope of work, and a specialized layout that is part of a larger project management cost.

For more helpful tips, read the complete whitepaper “Upgrading to LEDs? Here’s What You Need to Know” by Big Ass Solutions by clicking the button above.