Sustainable Lighting Upgrades – Opportunities for Improvement

Lighting System Upgrades: The Switch to LED

As companies steer their operations toward more efficient operating models and strive to hit corporate sustainability targets, every opportunity for cost and energy reduction needs to be examined. A frequent target for operating cost reduction is facility lighting system upgrades.

Lighting systems within a facility, and exterior to a facility, are often a very visible reminder to plant management of the overall sustainability efforts of the facility personnel. Everyone is affected by the lighting systems of a facility; therefore, it is critical that the lighting systems be effective, efficient, and well thought out. And though cost is certainly a consideration, it is important to balance costs with the need to ensure each location in a facility is properly lit for optimal functionality. With the continued improvements in LED lighting, most facilities are switching to LED lighting; however, if this transition is not done correctly, the result can be a poorly functioning system that is unhelpful to employees and management – and ultimately a waste of money.

A Common Pitfall—and a Shift in Thinking

A common mistake—and likely the worst mistake—in lighting improvement projects is the “one-for-one” replacement project. In this type of project, fixtures are replaced one-for-one from high pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH) or fluorescent (FL) with an equivalent LED fixture. While this approach can result in money savings due to the lower power requirements of the LED fixtures, often the illumination levels are not properly matched. These ill-matched solutions often result in over-lit facilities which can “wow” people but not serve the lighting solution well.

A better approach is to consider the lighting upgrade project as an opportunity to improve the facility lighting, not just replace fixtures. While replacing HPS or MH with LEDs will almost certainly reduce operation costs, some replacements of T8 FL fixtures do not produce significant energy savings. By understanding what is being replaced and why there is a need for replacement, facility managers can move away from the replacement mentality and view the project as a facility improvement.

So how does someone accomplish this shift in thinking? It starts with understanding what parts of the facility need illuminated, how much illumination is needed, when it is needed, and how it can and should be controlled.

The Right Questions to Ask

There are multiple questions to consider when determining the optimal approach to a lighting system upgrade:

As a facility, has a lighting survey been completed to determine where illumination is needed, and how much?

Have existing illumination levels be quantified with a light meter to determine the goals of the lighting system upgrade? 

Have IES guidelines, Life Safety Codes, insurance requirements, etc. been reviewed?

Have the exterior lighting installations been reviewed to look for actual requirements, including dark sky conformance?

Are there opportunities for daylight harvesting, often the least expensive lighting solution?

Have improved color temperature lighting affects been factored into fixture replacement?

What is the best improvement for lighting controls?

The answers to these questions can have profound impacts on the design of the improved lighting system. A lighting survey helps pinpoint actual, rather than perceived, needs, and examining the current illumination levels provides much needed guidance on the goals for the upgrade. Examining existing codes and guidelines ensures that any approach is meeting industry standards, and considering the environmental factors of daytime and nighttime use ensures that the facility will not only be optimally useful during one or the other. Each of these questions demonstrates the need to move beyond one-for-one replacement thinking and consider a lighting project as an important facility upgrade, ultimately providing the best results.

In most cases, these questions lead facility managers to make the change to LED light fixtures, as they offer many improvements over older lighting systems. This change can be cost-effective, as often the dollars per lumen of output for LEDs are a lower cost than MH or HPS. LEDs also come in almost countless lighting distribution patterns, giving more design options. For example, LED replacements offer significant light quality improvements over the orange HPS lights that are notorious for their power light quality. LEDs also have much lower power requirements, often with universal voltage supply, allowing for easier power distribution and freeing up space in electrical panels.

In addition to all of these improvements, LED lighting systems are void of some of the control limitations on older lighting systems, such as re-strike times. No longer is it “better” to just leave a fixture “on” to prevent re-strike delays, as LED fixtures can be switched on/off frequently with virtually no delays. Occupancy sensors, illumination level sensors, network controls, timing systems, and more can all be seamlessly integrated into newer LED lighting systems.

Rely on Matrix for Your Lighting Upgrade Needs

Upgrading a lighting system involves many considerations, making what may seem like a simple one-for-one replacement job into a more complicated facility upgrade. Matrix Technologies can examine your existing lighting system, help you ask the right questions, and determine the optimal lighting solution for your facilities. As an outside resource, we can bring a fresh set of eyes to your facility, pull on our experience from other projects, and apply our expertise to finding the optimal solution for you.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation, engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our sustainability and multidiscipline engineering, contact Doug Medley, PE, Project Technical Manager 2, Capital Project Planning.

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