The phrase “lighting retrofit” is currently undefined by today’s go-to knowledge sources like Wikipedia and general search engine results. We freely use the term throughout our website, assuming that our readers know what we’re talking about. However, there’s a good chance that you’re here – now – reading this post because you do not know what we’re talking about. First, allow me to apologize. You know what they say about ‘ass-u-me ing’.
Now let’s help clear things up!
A retrofit, in general, is a project meant to add new technology or features to older systems. It can apply to numerous industries from construction to computer engineering.
So when we say “Lighting Retrofit”, what we mean is that the goal of the project is to replace the old, inefficient lighting products with newer, more energy-efficient solutions. We generally will not touch the main wiring already in place, unless of course there’s an electrical problem that needs to be addressed. In the commercial sector, many businesses have opted for the “cheaper” option when it comes to lighting resources. It makes sense – the cost of lighting is part of your overhead and spending too much on it can ultimately hurt your bottom line. So traditional incandescent or tungsten-halogen lighting has (up until now) been the big player in commercial lighting.
However, the prices of CFL, LED, and modern HID technology have significantly decreased within the past several years. It’s now more efficient to have an electrical or lighting contractor come in to replace your old lighting than to do nothing at all and continue using the old bulbs.
Along with the addition of newer light bulbs, a retrofit can also include the addition of other forms of new technology. Automation, occupancy control sensors, and dimmer switches are all making their way into old buildings to help modernize them. The ability to control energy usage at different times of the day based on the amount of daylight or movement is growing to become the next big wave of green-energy retrofits.
We will also replace the ballasts in the lighting fixtures themselves. Typically, older systems used magnetic ballasts which are really great at producing excess heat. If you were to put a thermometer into the fixture area in the ceiling (called a lay-in), it could easily reach about 120°F. Now consider how many fixtures your building has throughout the ceiling(s). That’s a lot of extra heat! Replacing these magnetic ballasts with newer electronic ballasts reduces that unnecessary heat output, resulting in a 30% temperature drop in each fixture, and consequently cooling the whole indoor environment.
A lighting retrofit falls under a broader category of “Green Retrofit”. Imagine being able to control the temperature of your entire automotive shop, restaurant, school, or office the way you can with new smart controls for the home like Nest and the Honeywell Prestige Comfort System. Here are some changes that can be done which fall under the “Green Retrofit” category:
- Install new, modern insulation, primarily in the roof/ceiling/attic and secondary walls and floors
- Retrofit the heating equipment in older houses, results in house-hold savings of 30 – 80% due to cut in energy-use and a reduction of CO2-outlets by 30 – 100%.
- Add thermostats in all rooms to control sections of the house as needed
- New windows
- Plug any air leaks
- Tune up heating and cooling (HVAC) systems
- Choose appliances with low energy consumption. In the United States, this is certified by the Energy Star.
- Reduce water use by installing aerators and low-flow shower heads
- Switch to sustainable energy sources, including solar, heating-pellets and bio-gas
- Use low-VOC products to improve indoor air quality
- Plant native plants and other appropriate landscaping measures (especially in desert landscapes like New Mexico!).