If your building has not already upgraded to LED lighting, this article may be useful in terms of developing your own plan for a LED retro-fit. Local Law 88 and Local Law 134 require all buildings 25,000 sf or larger to upgrade to energy efficient LED lighting. Since this mandated upgrade is not an “if”, but a “when”, here are a few guidelines to help make your own upgrade a success.
First, see your LED upgrade as a quality project with a long and useful life – not just a quick lamp change. Because LED products use less energy than traditional lighting, the before / after utility bill differential – over time – is how we recommend you fund your project as well as generate the “return” on your project investment – once the original upfront costs have been covered. The key to the success of this approach is tied to the initial LED product selection and installation.
To illustrate the utility bill differential, which will “fund” your retrofit, here are some examples of traditional lighting and LED comparisons of electric consumption levels as well useful product lives:
60 Watt A19 Lamp – 2000 hour useful life. / LED Replacement: 9 Watt LED Lamp with a 25,000 hour useful life – 5 Year Warranty.
40 Watt Candelabra Lamp – 5000 hour useful life / LED Replacement: 5 Watt LED Candle with a 25,000 hour useful life – 5 Year Warranty.
32 Watt 4’ T8 Fluorescent Tube – 20,000 hour useful life / LED Replacement: 12 Watt LED Tube with a 70,000 hour useful life – 5 year warranty
On average, it will take two to three years following completion of your LED retrofit for the accumulated “differential” from your lower utility bills to cover the cost of your up-front LED investment. After the initial installation cost has been “paid down”, the continuing lower utility bills will then “generate” the “investment return” on your retrofit investment. So as an economic starting point, you will need to structure your LED retrofit to have a minimum of a five year useful life to make these economics work. Longer warranty periods, even if they involve higher product costs, will improve your investment return. As five year manufacturers’ warranties – or longer – are readily available for literally all quality LED products, our suggested requirement for five year warranties for LED products utilized in your project should be “baked in” to your plan to ensure a successful retrofit.
Beware of the countless discounted low cost LED products available on the internet that may become an irresistible temptation. Remember that these low cost products are “low cost” for a reason. They do not meet the quality standards for longer term warranties and are out there waiting to sabotage some retrofit project. Focus on the required minimum five year useful product life that is the economic underpinning of your LED retrofit.
Another important benefit from a LED upgrade – which could motivate sooner rather than later compliance – is less maintenance. The longer life of LED products translates to less building staff time dedicated to failed lamp changes. This benefit may be harder to quantify but doesn’t diminish its value or importance. As can be seen from the comparison of LED products to traditional lighting products, not only do LED products use less energy, they have much longer useful lives as compared to traditional lighting products. Longer useful product lives translate to reduced staff time dedicated to lamp changes. But the benefit doesn’t stop there. With a continuing program of lamp changes, there is the replacement lamp stock that must be maintained – including taking inventory as well as a purchasing program for replacement lamps. Taken a step further, the replacement lamp purchases must match the existing lighting configuration to maintain the lighting design integrity – easier said than done. For those buildings that have installed architecturally designed LED lighting, it is far easier to maintain the integrity of the design over the long term because of the long life the LED products.
In terms of initiating your own LED retrofit project, it is our recommendation to start with a model. For this model or projection, you will need an accurate measure of your existing lighting costs, including annual electric consumption, purchase costs for lamp replacement products as well as maintenance costs for lamp replacements. This is the “before” – your benchmark to measure the cost-effectiveness of any proposed LED retrofit plan. For the “after”, you will need the specifics of the LED products selected to determine your “installed” cost as well as related ongoing expenses in order to develop your payback calculations as well as your “return” on project investment. In general, we would recommend that you work with a consultant with the capacity to model lighting projects to get a realistic handle on your costs. If your consultant has the capacity to provide a turnkey installation, including sourcing product as well as installation, all the better.
One final word of practical advice. Make sure that you install a sample of each LED product that you plan to incorporate in your retrofit. These samples should be installed in the same locations where the final installation will take place. There is a broad range of quality lighting products with different lumens and color. Make sure your final selection is the optimal choice for its installed location.