Is Your Building a Candidate for a Lighting Retrofit?

October 12, 2017 | Julie Hudson

Julie Hudson, Energy Business Development Manager at Van Meter Inc.

Instead of replacing your lighting system, a lighting retrofit switches some of the components within the system to make it more energy efficient and longer lasting. But how do you know whether your building would benefit from a lighting retrofit instead of a full system replacement?

 A good place to start is by asking yourself these six questions. If you answer “yes” to them, then a lighting retrofit may be a good option for your building.

Q: Is the building more than 10 years old?

The age of the building—and its systems—may make it a good candidate for a lighting retrofit. More than half of U.S. commercial buildings were built before 1980, and many of them rely on outdated lighting technology.

Over the last several years, federal legislation has been phasing out older lighting options—or making them difficult to find (and more expensive once you do find them). T12 fluorescent lamps are a good example. Although manufacturing and importing of most T12 lamps was barred in the United States as of July 14, 2012, the lamps are still in use and available, but they cost much more than they used to. Lighting retrofits can help buildings of any type move away from outdated lighting technology, which ultimately reduces operating and maintenance costs.

Q: Do you like your existing fixtures?

Even if you upgrade to energy-efficient LEDs, fixtures don’t have to be replaced in most cases. The lighting retrofits can be completed without breaking the ceiling plane, so network cabling, ductwork and potential asbestos don’t have to be disturbed. A retrofit kit can be installed into an existing fixture by removing the doorframe assembly, disconnecting the ballast, de-lamping the fixture and placing the kit into the open space.

Q: Would it be helpful to free up money currently being spent with the local utility each month?

Spending a certain amount of money each month to the local utility can be painful as you think about other ways the cash could be used. A lighting retrofit can help reduce your energy costs, which reduces utility bills and frees up money that can be used for other projects or purposes.

Q: Do you want better control over your lighting system?

Many of today’s lighting retrofits involve an upgrade to LEDs because of their lower energy use and operating costs. These lamps can also provide dimming options that may not be available with your current lighting system.

Dimming controls can help reduce lighting energy usage even more by allowing lighting levels to be lowered when natural light is available or a space is empty.

Q: Are there financial incentives available?

Right now, rebates and incentives are available from the government and local utilities. There are some signs, however, that these financial motivators may not be around forever. As an example, one major utility in Iowa recently decreased its rebate amount for tubular LEDs (TLEDs).

There’s no guarantee that lighting rebates and incentives will be around in the future; capturing these incentive dollars while they’re available can help lighting retrofit projects become more feasible.

Q: Do you want to reduce lighting maintenance costs and time?

It’s true that an LED lighting retrofit can provide longer lamp life, significant energy savings and reduced replacement requirements. But it’s important to know that the systems—just like any lighting system—will reach the end of their useful life one day. LEDs fail differently than other lamps (they dim gradually instead of suddenly turning off), so they don’t go out without warning, giving you time to plan for a lamp replacement.

Getting Started with a Lighting Retrofit

The best way to get a good result with your lighting retrofit is to work with a partner that knows which types of solutions work in certain situations, can steer you in the right direction, will make sure you claim the rebates and incentives you quality for and has a strong warranty supporting its lighting products.

Julie Hudson is energy business development manager at Van Meter Inc., located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For more information, please visit or contact Julie directly via email at