As multifamily buildings begin the process of addressing LL 88 compliance, which requires the upgrading of existing common area lighting to LED, what at first may seem like a straight forward process is in fact far more complex.  Moving from the theoretical to the actual involves in depth knowledge of specific LED products, including which products qualify for Con Ed funding and which products do not. Additionally, once a product is identified, a further selection must be made in terms of the color temperatures and the lumen output. A successful navigation of the product selection process is a key ingredient to a successful end result of any LED upgrade.

It is important to note that there are quality LED products available for any upgrade that will not only provide the efficiencies to meet LL 88 requirements, but meet high aesthetic standards as well. The selection of LED products for your upgrade does not need to be a “trade off” – high levels of efficiencies in exchange for not so great aesthetics. Quality LED lighting is now utilized in museums, art galleries as well as department stores. These are examples of users where the quality of light is essential. These are users that would not even consider upgrading to LED unless the end result was an improvement over their existing lighting. So if there are LED solutions that meet the demanding lighting standards for these users, be assured that there is a quality LED solution for any multifamily lighting upgrade.

Some examples of suggested LED upgrade solutions follow:

Lobbies – Maintaining the aesthetic lighting quality in the lobby area must be seen as essential to any successful retro-fit in a multifamily building. Existing lighting in lobbies will generally include A19s incandescent lamps, flame tip or torpedo shaped incandescent candelabra lamps for chandeliers and sconces, recessed lighting with halogen MR 16s or MR 20s and CFLs in wall or ceiling fixtures. These lighting products generally produce a very warm light. In replacing the existing lighting with LED, it is important to select the correct color temperature – 2,700K to 3,000K – to duplicate the aesthetic of the warm light. It is also important not to rely on “rules of thumb” or assumptions from other retro-fits. Be sure to install samples of the proposed LED replacement products in each location to make sure that the aesthetics work and to allow for adjustments either in the color temperature or the lumen output. In terms of energy savings, replacing incandescent A19s, MR16s, MR20s and candelabra lamps with LED will result in energy savings in the 80% range. Replacing CLFs with LED will result in savings in the 50% range.

Corridors – Most corridors or apartment elevator foyers fall into the same category as lobbies in terms of aesthetics. Generally the lighting products are similar to lobbies. Again it is important to install samples of the proposed LED replacement lighting to ensure that the color temperature and the lumens meet aesthetic requirements.

Fire Stairs – Fire stair 24/7 lighting can be a large component of common area lighting expense. Minimizing energy consumption combined with meeting fire egress code requirements are the primary issues that need to be addressed in connection with a LED upgrade. Fire stair lighting is on 24/7 and can be a significant portion of the monthly common area electric bill. More importantly are the fire safety code issues that must be met, including 90 minutes of battery back-up lighting in the event of power outages. For most buildings, fire stairs lighting and battery backup emergency lighting are two separate installations located on each landing. The batteries that are the power source for the emergency lighting fixture are required to provide 90 minutes of emergency lighting in the event of a power outage. These batteries have a limited useful life. Upgrading to LED in the fire stairs offers an opportunity to replace both the battery back-up emergency lighting as well as the general lighting in one LED fixture. In order to address the limited battery life issue, consider a LED fixture that comes with a ten year warranty – which includes the battery – such as the TerraLUX SL Series. These fixtures also come with a bi-level occupancy sensor to further reduce energy consumption (13 Watts full power and 7 Watts in the dim mode)  all covered by their ten year warranty.

Basement Areas – Most basements including laundries, storage and machinery rooms have fluorescent lighting – T12, T8 or T5 lamps. All of these lamps can be replaced with LED tubes, with an energy savings of approximately 50%. Note that Universal Lighting now provides tubes that are rated  for  140,000  hours  –  a 15 year useful life  –  which doubles the life of comparable LED tubes.  As multifamily retro-fits currently qualify for Con Ed funding, it is important to note that in replacing fluorescent products with LED tubes, the ballasts must be replaced and/or upgraded to electronic ballasts. Bypassing ballasts with LED tube installations is no longer permitted in connection with qualifying for the Con Ed funding program.

Con Ed funding can be an important part of the economics of any LED retro-fit. In order to qualify, under no circumstances start your LED retro-fit before you have submitted your application. You will then need to wait until you receive the Con Ed authorization to proceed with your project, which usually follows their on-site inspection to confirm existing lighting conditions.

In terms of developing your retro-fit, consider working with a Con Ed Partner, who will not only be able to access Con Ed funding for your project, but will be familiar with the latest LED product availability. Your Con Ed Partner should also have access to Con Ed software to model the “before” and “after” scenarios of your project.  Accurate “before” and “after” modeling will provide the calculations that you will need to make informed decisions.  Go to for additional New York Real Estate Journal articles on LED.

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